Less than 24 hours after Russia and Ukraine signed a deal to reopen Black Sea ports to resume grain exports, a series of missiles were fired at the port of Odesa.
“The enemy attacked the Odesa sea trade port with Kalibr cruise missiles,” said Ukraine‘s military, adding two were shot down while another two hit “the infrastructure of the port”.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry said the strikes were a “spit in the face” of Turkey and the United Nations which had less than a day earlier brokered the agreement in Istanbul.
Footage of the attacks shared on social media showed at least one waterside building on fire close to a container ship with thick black smoke billowing from the flames.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Saturday that the country “strongly condemns” the attacks on the port, adding Russia has “breached it’s grain-deal commitments” and “undermines the work of the UN, Turkey and Ukraine to get critical food to world markets”.
Mr Blinken also said that Russia will bear the responsibility for deepening the global food crisis.
The US ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, tweeted: “Outrageous. Russia strikes the port city of Odesa less than 24 hours after signing an agreement to allow shipments of agricultural exports. The Kremlin continues to weaponise food. Russia must be held to account.”
UN secretary general Antonia Guterres – who also signed the deal to open exports from the ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhne at a ceremony in Istanbul – “unequivocally” condemned the strikes according to a UN spokesperson.
“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,” the statement added.
Estonia’s prime minister Kaja Kallas, tweeted: “That’s all you need to know about deals with Russia.”
The strikes follow a blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea fleet which has cut off supplies to grain and other food products around the world and sent global prices soaring.
When he signed the deal Mr Guterres said it would benefit developing countries “on the edge of bankruptcy and the most vulnerable people on the edge of famine”.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the deal will ease global food inflation, as the war has affected “the whole of humanity”.
Here is a breakdown of the landmark deal:
• Objective – the deal aims to help avert famine by injecting more wheat, sunflower oil, fertilizer and other products into world markets
• Time frame – the deal is valid for 120 days and the United Nations expects it to be renewed unless the war has ended by then
• Safe passage – the deal ensures safe passage in and out of Odesa and two other Ukrainian ports in what the official called a “de facto ceasefire” for the ships and facilities covered
• Joint co-ordination centre (JCC) – The JCC in Istanbul will monitor all ship movements and inspections, and decide whether a vessel detracts from agreed channels in the Black Sea
• Inspections – In response to Russian concerns about ships delivering weapons to Ukraine, all returning ships will be inspected at a Turkish port
• Insurance – To allay concerns of ship insurers, the United Nations spent more than two months negotiating with the sector to ensure the plan was commercially viable
The deal and the strikes come as Russia is “about to run out of steam” in Ukraine, according to the head of MI6.
Richard Moore said President Vladimir Putin‘s soldiers will “have to pause” as they find it hard to find more troops and equipment to send to the frontline in eastern Ukraine in the coming weeks.
This will enable the Ukrainian military to “strike back” in what the UK spymaster said is a “winnable war”.