Ukraine Says Russian Missiles Hit Odesa Port, Key To Grain Export Deal


Russia bombed Ukraine’s port of Odesa, a strategic Black Sea terminal, on July 23, a day after a landmark deal was signed between the two warring nations to resume grain exports.

Two Russian Kalibr cruise missiles hit the port, but did not cause significant damage, Ukrainian officials said. Another two missiles were shot down, they added.

Ukrainian, Western, and UN officials immediately denounced Russia’s attack, accusing the Kremlin of continuing to threaten global food supplies and endangering the lives of millions of people around the world.

"This proves only one thing: no matter what Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement [the grain deal," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said following the attack.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

After months of talks, Russia and Ukraine finally signed separate agreements with Turkey and the United Nations on July 22, allowing millions of tons of desperately needed grain -- currently trapped in Ukraine by the war -- to be exported across the Black Sea and help alleviate the global food crisis.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn, and sunflower oil, but Russia’s invasion of the country and naval blockade of its ports have halted shipments.

That has caused global food prices to spike, leaving millions of people in impoverished countries at risk of hunger and sparking fears of social unrest.

Under the agreement signed in Istanbul, Ukrainian officials would guide ships through safe channels across mined waters into three ports, including Odesa, where they would be loaded with grain.

Kyiv said around 20 million tons of produce from last year's harvest and the current crop would be exported under the agreement. The exports could generate $10 billion in revenue for cash-strapped Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink called the attack “outrageous” and a sign the Kremlin “continues to weaponize food.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called the strike a “cowardly” attack and said its shows that “the Russian leadership's signature counts for little at the moment."

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Ankara, a key interlocutor in the grain talks, was “concerned” by the attack.

Natalya Humeniuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern military command, said one of the missiles hit a pumping station while the other caused a small fire that damaged houses around the port.

She said the grain storage area was not hit. No casualties have yet been reported.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said that “Russia would bear full responsibility for deepening the global food crisis” if the strikes caused the deal to collapse.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied responsibility for the food crisis, and has blamed Western sanctions for slowing Russia’s own food and fertilizer exports.

He has also blamed the food crisis on Ukraine’s decision to lay mines around its Black Sea ports.

Ukraine was forced to mine the area around its ports to prevent Russia from invading its territory by sea.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP