Kiev accused Moscow of “blackmailing the world with hunger” after Russia launched its fiercest attack yet on the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, destroying 60,000 tons of grain and key infrastructure.
Odessa’s mayor said Tuesday night was “one of the most terrifying” for the Black Sea city since the start of President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of the country last February.
For the second night in a row, Russia shelled the southern coast, destroying food terminals and tens of thousands of tons of grain that was to be shipped through a United Nations-brokered grain corridor, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Agriculture.
The attack came after Moscow withdrew from a year-long agreement allowing safe passage of Ukrainian goods through the Black Sea, which was brokered by the UN and Turkey to minimize the impact of the war on global food security.
“Russian terrorists absolutely deliberately attacked the infrastructure of the grain deal,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on the Telegram messaging app.
“Every Russian missile is an attack, not only against Ukraine, but against everyone who wants a normal and safe life in the world.”
Ukraine’s agriculture minister Mykola Solskyi said damage to Odessa and the neighboring ports of Chornomorsk would take at least a year to repair.
“This is a terrorist act not against Ukraine, but against the entire world, whose food security is once again under threat,” he said in a written statement that warned that if Ukraine cannot export food, the world’s poorest “will be in danger”. on the brink of survival.
“Humanity is hostage to a terrorist country that blackmails the whole world with hunger.”
Russia has said it would halt its participation in the deal because promises to facilitate its own shipments of food and fertilizer had not been fulfilled.
Ukraine’s air force said it shot down 37 of the 63 shells Russia launched at targets across the country on Tuesday.
Ukraine’s southern military command said Russia had used supersonic missiles, including the Kh-22 that was designed to shoot down aircraft carriers, to attack Odessa port infrastructure.
Ukraine’s attorney general’s office said 10 civilians, including a 9-year-old boy, were injured in the attack. Grain terminals were damaged, as well as an industrial facility, warehouses, shopping malls, residential and administrative buildings, and automobiles.
Flames and smoke were seen billowing from vandalized warehouses in video released by the Emergencies Ministry, which also showed a residential block with broken windows.
Serhiy Bratchuck, a spokesman for the Odessa military administration, called it “hellish.”
Odessa Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov said the bombing was “one of the most terrifying nights” his city had experienced in the past 16 months.
“[Russia] attacked Odessa with various types of missiles and Shahed [drones].
“We cannot remember such a scale of attack since the beginning of the full-scale invasion,” he wrote on his official Telegram channel.
speaking to the independentNatalia Humeniuk, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s southern command, said the target was clearly port infrastructure.
“This may be related to the grain deal and Russia’s attempt to draw attention to its deals or to convince partner countries that Ukraine cannot provide port security,” he added.
The three ports in the Odessa region were the only ones operating in Ukraine during the war under the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows vital global food supplies to leave Ukraine through a Russian blockade. of the country’s ports.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Russia’s exit from the deal worsened the outlook for global food security and risks increasing food inflation, particularly for low-income countries.
An IMF spokesman said the global lender would continue to carefully monitor ongoing developments in the region and their impact on global food insecurity.
“The disruption of the initiative affects food supplies to countries that are highly dependent on shipments from Ukraine, particularly in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia,” the fund said. “It worsens the prospects for food security and risks increasing global food inflation, especially for low-income countries.”
Most of Ukraine was under intermittent airstrike alerts from midnight on Wednesday, and Russia targeted other locations, including kyiv, which struck with drones.
Tuesday’s missile attack on Odessa also came after President Putin vowed to avenge Monday’s attack on Russia’s prized Kerch bridge between the Russian mainland and the occupied Crimean peninsula, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014.
Moscow blamed Kiev for the blast that killed two parents and injured a teenager, a charge Ukraine has denied.
Russia had to evacuate more than 2,000 people from parts of Crimea on Wednesday after a fire broke out at a military training camp in the Kirovske district, according to the Russian-installed governor.
Telegram channels linked to Russian security services and Ukrainian media said an ammunition depot caught fire at the base after a nighttime Ukrainian airstrike.