A spokesman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday Russian missiles destroyed military infrastructure in Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa on Saturday, a site vital to the export of Ukrainian grain.
Maria Zakharova wrote on her Telegram account: “Kalibr missiles destroyed the military infrastructure in the port of Odessa with a high-precision strike.”
Russia had previously denied any involvement in the Saturday strike, which came a day after Russia and Ukraine signed agreements allowing Ukraine to ship millions of tons of grain from its Black Sea port.
It was not immediately clear what caused the reversal of facts by a Russian official.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has slammed Russia for endangering the deal.
Zelenskyy said in his daily address late on Saturday: “Today’s Russian missile attack on Odessa, on our port, is a cynical one and it was also a blow to the political positions of Russia itself. If anyone in the world could say that any kind of dialogue … with Russia, some kind of agreements are needed, see what happens. Today’s Russian Kalibr missiles have destroyed the possibility of such statements.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a similar statement in a statement released late Saturday.
“This attack casts serious doubts on the credibility of Russia’s commitment to yesterday’s deal and undermines the work of the United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine to get essential food products to world markets,” the top US diplomat said. “Russia bears responsibility for the worsening global food crisis and must stop its aggression and fully implement the deal it has agreed to.”
“For 12 hours we dared to hope for relief from the global hunger crisis through shipments of Ukrainian grain,” said David Miliband, CEO and president of the International Rescue Committee, in a statement also released late Saturday.
“We’ve said it before; The war in Ukraine is a tragedy for Ukraine, but also a global catastrophe for those most in need. This latest twist is as gruesome as it is dangerous.”
Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying the missiles had not caused any significant damage, and a government minister said preparations for resuming grain exports from the country’s Black Sea ports had continued, according to Reuters.
The strikes were harshly condemned.
“Yesterday, all parties at the global level made a clear commitment to ensure the safe transportation of Ukrainian grain and related products to global markets,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement by Spokesman Farhan Haq.
“These products are urgently needed to address the global food crisis and alleviate the suffering of millions of people in need around the world. Full implementation by the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Turkey is imperative.”
US Ambassador to Kyiv Bridget Brink called the strike “outrageous”.
“The Kremlin continues to arm food. Russia must be held accountable,” she said posted on Twitter.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called Russia’s actions “reprehensible”.
“Hiting a key grain export target a day after the Istanbul Accords were signed…shows Russia’s total disregard for international law and obligations,” he said.
Zelenskyy said the strike in Odessa shows that Moscow will find ways not to implement the grain agreement.
This only proves one thing: no matter what Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement it,” Zelenskyy said in a video posted to Telegram.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, three people were killed and at least 13 injured in a Russian missile attack on an airfield and railway facility in central Ukraine on Saturday, according to local officials.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said early Saturday that heavy fighting had erupted over the previous 48 hours as Ukrainian forces continued their offensive against Russian forces in Kherson Oblast west of the Dnipro River.
In the statement released on Twitter, the ministry said: “Russia is likely trying to slow down the Ukrainian attack with artillery fire along the natural barrier of the Ingulets River, a tributary of the Dnipro. At the same time, the supply lines of the Russian armed forces west of the Dnieper are increasingly threatened.”