Ukraine Live News: Russian attacks on Odessa raise doubts about grain deal

debt…Daniel Perehulak for The New York Times

ODESSA, Ukraine — A string of explosions rocked Ukraine’s southern city of Odessa on Saturday, hitting one of the country’s most important ports less than 24 hours after the deal was signed. Protect the transportation of millions of tons of grain through the Black Sea routes.

The strikes risk undermining the deal even before the deal goes into effect, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to facilitate Ukrainian grain shipments. The deal was seen as crucial to boosting global supplies after a sharp decline in Ukrainian grain exports raised fears of food shortages in poor countries.

Ukraine’s Southern Military Command said Saturday that Russian forces fired four Kalibr cruise missiles at Ukraine’s largest port, Odesa. “Two rockets were shot down by air defense forces, two hit port infrastructure facilities,” it wrote in a statement on its Facebook page.

Officials said it was the first time the port of Odessa had been targeted since the war began.

Condemnation from Ukraine was swift. The country’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on Facebook that the strikes “spit in the face” of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Both “made great efforts to reach this agreement.”

A deputy spokesman for the United Nations secretary-general condemned the strikes, saying in a statement that full implementation of the agreement was “imperative.”

There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin. The attack comes a day before the Russian foreign minister is due to begin a tour of Africa, where he is expected to try to shift the blame for food shortages to the West.

The blast wave of missiles hitting the harbor could be felt miles away, though it was unclear where they hit. Stretching for miles along the Black Sea coast of Odessa, this huge port is dotted with silver grain pits that rise in clusters.

It was unclear what the strikes were targeting and whether any grain infrastructure was affected. A senior U.N. official said Russia may not technically be in violation of the agreement because it has not promised to refrain from attacking parts of Ukraine’s ports that are not directly used for grain exports. If there were military targets nearby, Russia could have tried to exploit a loophole.

However, the damage appeared to be extensive, and the country’s agriculture minister, Mykola Solsky, said the strikes would affect Ukraine’s efforts to export grain.

“If you hit one port, you hit them all,” he said in a phone interview. “You’re using the same infrastructure for oil and grain. It affects everything — it doesn’t matter what you hit.

Mr. Zolsky said some of the destroyed infrastructure was “important for processing all imports,” but added that Ukraine’s grain deal would continue as if it were in effect.

“We understand that we still have a war with Russia,” he said. “Our agreement was with the United Nations and Turkey, not with Russia.”

Anton Zerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said Russian strikes had caused 10 explosions in Odesa, and attacks on the port had caused fires.

“This is how Russia fulfills its responsibility to guarantee the safe export of Ukrainian grain,” he wrote on his public channel on the Telegram social media application. “Now that Putin is counting on not only the West, but also China and other countries to take pressure off the sanctions, you can’t trust Putin, not an ounce,” he added.

On Friday, Biden administration officials expressed doubt that Russia would follow through on its pledges to allow safe passage of ships through the Black Sea.

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