Russia struck Ukrainian ports with drones and missiles one day after withdrawing from the U.N.-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative that allowed food supplies to flow from Ukraine to other countries.
Russia referred to a barrage of attacks upon Ukrainian ports as “mass revenge strikes” in retaliation for an attack on the Kerch Bridge, the only direct access way from the annexed Crimean peninsula to Russia’s mainland.
Soon after the bridge was attacked Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov announced that the July 2022 Black Sea Grain initiative was effectively terminated until Russia’s demands to get its own food and fertilizer to the world are met.
The deal, negotiated in Istanbul between the United Nations, Russia and Ukraine and sponsored by Turkey, allowed Ukraine to ship grain to countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Its dissolution raises global fears of food insecurity, particularly in countries at risk of famine due to conflict, drought and economic struggles, including Somalia, Ethiopia and Afghanistan.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called Russia’s decision to pull out of the deal “a blow to people in need everywhere.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called for the grain deal to continue without Russia’s participation, effectively seeking Turkey’s backing to negate Russia’s blockade. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said he thinks Moscow can be persuaded to return.
Ukrainian authorities have reported that Odesa and Mykolaiv, Ukraine’s two major grain export ports, both of which utilize the Black Sea, were targeted in Russia’s wave of missile and drone strikes. Ukraine’s southern operational military command said falling debris and blast waves damaged several homes and port infrastructure. Local authorities described a serious fire in Mykolaiv.
The Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s ports are “further proof that the country-terrorist wants to endanger the lives of 400 million people in various countries that depend on Ukrainian food exports,” said Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential staff.
Ukraine’s air force said it had shot down six Kalibr missiles and 31 out of 36 drones. The Kremlin, meanwhile, said it had hampered a Ukrainian drone strike on Crimea, with no major damage on the ground, and had reopened a single lane of road traffic on the Crimea bridge.