Russia claimed Sunday that its weekend missile assault on Odesa struck military targets, amid sharp criticism that the attack undermined a critical grain shipment deal signed just hours earlier.
According to the grain deal, Russia and Ukraine agreed not to target vessels and port facilities involved in the shipping arrangement, including the ports of Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny. A copy of the deal was obtained by the Associated Press.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking late Saturday in his nightly televised address, said the attack on the Ukrainian port city of Odesa “destroyed the very possibility” of dialogue with Russia.
“The invaders can no longer deceive anyone,” Zelenskyy said.
Russian defense officials contended that its attack was aimed at military targets.
Russian long-range missiles destroyed a Ukrainian warship and a warehouse containing Harpoon anti-ship missiles supplied to Ukraine by the U.S., Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said at a briefing.
The Ukrainian military said the attack involved four cruise missiles, two of which it said it shot down.
No grain storage facilities were hit, Ukrainian authorities said.
However, Turkey’s defense minister said he had reports from Ukrainian authorities that one missile struck a grain silo and another landed nearby, but neither affected loading operations at the docks.
How the missile attack on the Black Sea port might affect the shipping of Ukrainian grain in safe corridors out of the ports to sea remained unclear.
Russia and Ukraine signed agreements with the United Nations and Turkey on Friday in an effort to allow the shipment of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain and the export of Russian grain and fertilizer.
Ukraine is one of the biggest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil in the world. Shipments have been halted out of its ports by the 150-day-old Russian invasion and a naval blockade.
The grain deal was aimed at ending the standoff that was threatening food security worldwide.
“It took less than 24 hours for Russia to launch a missile attack on Odesa’s port, breaking its promises and undermining its commitments before the U.N. and Turkey under the Istanbul agreement,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said. “In case of non-fulfillment, Russia will bear full responsibility for a global food crisis.”
Nikolenko called the airstrike a “spit in the face” to Turkey and the United Nations.
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink criticized the airstrike on Odesa’s port as “outrageous.”
Speaking in Cairo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he had “reaffirmed the commitment of Russian grain exporters to fulfill all their obligations” to the shipping deal.
Lavrov was visiting Cairo to meet with Egyptian officials, part of Russia’s effort to break out of the diplomatic isolation and sanctions imposed by the West.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a speech in Romania on Saturday that Western sanctions against Russia have failed.
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The right-wing Hungarian leader said the war in Ukraine would not end “until there is a Russian-U.S. peace negotiation.”
“The situation is that today we are sitting in a car with flat tires on all four wheels,” Orban said. “It is quite obvious that the war cannot be won this way. Ukrainians will never win a war against Russia with American training officers and weapons.”
Also on Sunday, Ukrainian authorities said two civilians were killed and two others were wounded in Russian shelling in its south and east, part of the industrial Donbas region that has been targeted by Russia’s offensive.
The U.K. military said in an intelligence update that Russia’s offensive in Donbas was small scale and making only “minimal progress.”
Last week, the White House said the U.S. was sending an additional $270 million in security assistance to Ukraine, and that the package included medium-range rocket systems and tactical drones.
Total U.S. security assistance to Ukraine has reached $8.2 billion, paid for by the $40 billion in economic and security aid approved by Congress in May.
With News Wire Services