Ukraine strives to resume grain exports despite Russian strike in Odessa


By Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder

KYIV, July 24 (Reuters) – Ukraine continued efforts on Sunday to boost grain exports from its Black Sea ports under a deal to ease global food shortages, but warned that deliveries would suffer if a Russian missile strike on Odessa was a sign of more to come.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy denounced Saturday’s attack as “barbarism” that showed Moscow could not be trusted to implement a deal reached just a day earlier with Turkish and United Nations mediation.

The Ukrainian army, quoted by the public television channel Suspilne, said that the Russian missiles did not hit the grain storage area at the port or cause significant damage. Kyiv said preparations to resume grain shipments were underway.

“We are continuing technical preparations for the launch of exports of agricultural products from our ports,” Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said in a Facebook post.

According to the Ukrainian army, two Kalibr missiles fired from Russian warships hit the area of ​​a port pumping station and two others were shot down by air defense forces.

Russia said on Sunday its forces hit a Ukrainian warship and an arms store in Odessa with its high-precision missiles.

The agreement signed Friday by Moscow and Kyiv was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that would help curb soaring global food prices by restoring Ukrainian grain shipments to pre-war levels of 5 million tonnes per month.

But Zelenskiy’s economic adviser warned on Sunday that the strike in Odessa signals it could be out of reach.

“Yesterday’s strike indicates that it will definitely not work like that,” Oleh Ustenko told Ukrainian television.

He said Ukraine could export 60 million tonnes of grain in the next nine months, but it would take up to 24 months if operations at its ports were disrupted.


As the war entered its sixth month on Sunday, there was no sign of letting up in the fighting.

The Ukrainian military reported Russian shelling in the north, south and east, and again referred to Russian operations paving the way for an assault on Bakhmut in the eastern Donbass region.

The army said in a briefing on Sunday evening that the Russians were continuing their efforts to assert control of the area around the Vuhlehirsk power plant, located 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Donetsk. The note also listed several dozen settlements along the entire front line which it said had been bombed by Russia in the past 24 hours.

Four Russian Kalibr cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea and targeting the western Khmelnitsky region were shot down on Sunday, the Ukrainian Air Command reported.

While the main theater of combat has been the Donbass, the Ukrainian military said its forces moved within firing range of Russian targets in the occupied Kherson region in the eastern Black Sea, where Kyiv is staging a counter-offensive.

Reuters could not immediately verify reports from the battlefield.

Zelenskiy, in his late-night video address on Sunday, struck an optimistic tone ahead of the celebration of a new national holiday on July 28.

“Even the occupiers admit we’re going to win. We hear it all the time in their conversations. In what they say to their loved ones when they call them,” he said.


The strikes on Odessa have been condemned by the United Nations, European Union, United States, Britain, Germany and Italy.

According to Russian news agencies, the Russian Defense Ministry said a Ukrainian warship and anti-ship missiles supplied by the United States were destroyed.

Friday’s agreement aims to allow safe passage in and out of Ukrainian ports, blocked by the Russian Black Sea Fleet since the February 24 invasion of Moscow, as part of what a UN official called it a “de facto ceasefire” for covered ships and installations.

Ukraine and Russia are the world’s top wheat exporters and the blockade has trapped tens of millions of tonnes of grain, worsening bottlenecks in the global supply chain.

Along with Western sanctions on Russia, it has fueled inflation in food and energy prices, plunging some 47 million people into “acute hunger”, according to the World Food Programme.

Moscow denies any responsibility for the food crisis, accusing the sanctions of slowing its food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine of having mined the approaches to its ports.

Ukraine has mined the waters near its ports as part of its wartime defences, but under Friday’s agreement pilots will guide vessels along safe channels.

A joint coordination center made up of members of the four parties to the agreement will monitor ships crossing the Black Sea to the Turkish Bosphorus Strait and to global markets. All parties agreed on Friday that there would be no attacks against them.

Putin calls the war a “special military operation” aimed at demilitarizing Ukraine and rooting out dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and the West call it a baseless pretext for aggressive land grabbing.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder in Kyiv, Tom Balmforth, Elaine Monaghan and Reuters bureaus; Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Tomasz Janowski and Lawrence Hurley; Editing by William Mallard, Angus MacSwan, Alexandra Hudson and Daniel Wallis)

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