A deal struck Friday to allow Ukraine to resume shipping grain through its primary Black Sea ports has been thrown into question after Russian missiles hit a grain silo and other infrastructure at a major port in Odesa Saturday, according to U.S., Ukrainian and Turkish officials.
He called the attack an example of “Russian barbarism.”
The deal struck by Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations was expected to allow Ukraine to ramp up its wheat and corn exports. Ukraine has managed to resume exporting, sending grain and other ag commodities through a patchwork of ad hoc routes, but millions of tons of wheat and corn remain trapped in storage facilities at the major ports.
The missile attack is a major breach of the agreement, says U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“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,” Blinken 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.”
The United Nations said Saturday that Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the missile strikes.
Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the attack has not necessarily derailed the agreement, but stressed he reached out immediately to his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts after the missiles hit on Saturday.
“The fact that such an incident took place right after the deal we made yesterday regarding the grain shipment really worried us,” Akar said. “However, we continue to fulfill our responsibilities under the grain deal we brokered between Russia and Ukraine, and we also expressed in our meetings that we favor continuation of both parties’ cooperation in a calm and patient manner.”
Akar stressed that the damage from the missile attack would not prevent grain from being exported.
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The missile damage on Saturday to the Odesa port “was no setback on the loading capacity and capability of the docks, which is important, and that the activities can continue," he said.
Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry announced Friday after the deal that preparations were being made for a resumption of grain exports from major ports in Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi.
Nations in Africa and the Middle East that depend on grain imports from Ukraine have been hit hardest by the reduction in trade since the Russian invasion began in February. Estimates of grain stuck in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports are as high as 20 million metric tons. Ukraine has begun its winter wheat harvest, raising concerns of where that grain will go if exports do not ramp up and storage space is not made available.
Ukrainian grain exports, Guterres said in a statement, “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."
“The Kremlin continues to show disregard for the safety and security of millions of civilians as it perpetuates its assault on Ukraine,” Blinken said Saturday. “Russia is starving Ukraine of its economic vitality and the world of its food supply through the effective blockade of the Black Sea.”
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