Zelenskyy Blasts Russia for Striking Odesa Port

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blasted Russia jeopardizing a deal that both Russia and Ukraine signed to allow Ukraine to ship millions of tons of grain out of its Black Sea ports.  The deal was signed by both nations Friday, but on Saturday, Russia launched a missile attack on the port of Odesa.

Zelenskyy said late Saturday in his daily address, “Today’s Russian missile attack on Odesa, 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 still say that some kind of dialogue … with Russia, some kind of agreements are needed, see what is happening. Today’s Russian Kalibr missiles have destroyed the very possibility for such statements.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed a similar sentiment in a statement, issued late Saturday.

“This attack casts serious doubt on the credibility of Russia’s commitment to yesterday’s deal and undermines the work of the UN, Turkey, and Ukraine to get critical food to world markets,” the top U.S. diplomat said.  “Russia bears responsibility for deepening the global food crisis and must stop its aggression and fully implement the deal to which it has agreed.”

“For 12 hours we dared to hope for relief of the global hunger crisis from shipments of Ukrainian grain,” David Miliband, CEO and president of the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement, also issued late Saturday.

“We have said it before; the war in Ukraine is a tragedy for Ukraine but also a global disaster for those in greatest need.  This latest twist is as cruel as it is dangerous.”

Turkey said Russia has denied any involvement in missile strikes Saturday on Odesa.

“In our contact with Russia, the Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack and that they were examining the issue very closely and in detail,” Defense Minister Hulusai Akar said in a statement. “The fact that such an incident took place right after the agreement we made yesterday really worried us.”

Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying the missiles had not caused significant damage, and a government minister said preparations continued to restart grain exports from the country’s Black Sea ports, according to Reuters. 

The strikes drew strong condemnation.

“Yesterday, all parties made clear commitments on the global stage to ensure the safe movement of Ukrainian grain and related products to global markets,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement delivered by spokesperson Farhan Haq.

“These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and ease the suffering of millions of people in need around the globe. Full implementation by the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Turkey is imperative.

U.S. Ambassador to Kyiv Bridget Brink called the strike “outrageous.”

“The Kremlin continues to weaponize food. Russia must be held to account,” she posted on Twitter.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called Russia’s actions “reprehensible.”

“Striking a target crucial for grain export a day after the signature of Istanbul agreements … demonstrates Russia’s total disregard for international law and commitments,” he said.

Zelenskyy said the strike on Odesa demonstrates that Moscow will find ways not to implement the grain deal.

“This proves only one thing: no matter what Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement it,” Zelenskyy said in a video posted on Telegram.

A Russian Defense Ministry statement Saturday outlining progress in the war made no mention of any strike on Odesa.

However, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova reposted the U.N. condemnation and said, “It is awful that UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres does not ‘unequivocally’ condemn also the Kyiv regime’s killing of children in Donbas.”

Ongoing fighting

Elsewhere in Ukraine, a Russian missile attack on an airfield and a railway facility in central Ukraine on Saturday killed three people and wounded at least 13, according to local officials.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said early Saturday that in the previous 48 hours, heavy fighting had been taking place as Ukrainian forces continued their offensive against Russian forces in Kherson oblast, west of the Dnipro River.

In the statement posted to Twitter, the ministry said, “Russia is likely attempting to slow the Ukrainian attack using artillery fire along the natural barrier of the Ingulets River, a tributary of the Dnipro. Simultaneously, the supply lines of the Russian force west of the Dnipro are increasingly at risk.” 

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