Two Killed as Russia Strikes Port City Odesa for Third Night in a Row

July 20, 2023

Russia struck Ukraine’s major port city of Odesa overnight Wednesday with missiles and drones, killing two, for a third night in a row.

The strikes in Odesa and otter southern Ukrainian cities have destroyed some of the country’s grain export infrastructure, critical for feeding the world.

Odesa has been repeatedly targeted by Russia since it withdrew Tuesday from the 2022 U.N.-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative that 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. 

The attacks have intensified since Moscow vowed “retribution” for a deadly explosion on the Kerch Bridge, on Monday, the only direct access way from the Crimean peninsula to the Russian mainland. Ukrainian forces have claimed responsibility for that attack.

According to a Ukrainian Air Forces spokesperson, an administrative building in Odesa was hit by a Russian anti-ship Oniks missile, partially destroying it.

Odesa Governor Oleh Kiper said Ukrainian air defenses destroyed all of the 12 Iranian-made Shahed drones and two Kalibr missiles that targeted Odesa.

But he added that air defense systems were unable to shoot down some incoming missiles, in particular the X-22 and Oniks type, though he didn’t say how many of those missiles got through.

“Ukrainian air defense currently has no means of shooting [Oniks missiles] down as they fly at a speed of more than 3,000 km/hour and low over the water,” noted Anton Gerashchenko, Advisor to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs, on Twitter.

At least 19 people were injured overnight in Mykolaiv, another of Ukraine’s major Black Sea port cities, the region’s Governor Vitalii Kim said in a statement on Telegram.

Russia’s targeting of grain storage facilities has been condemned by the European Union.

“The fact that the Russian president has canceled the grain agreement and is now bombing the port of Odesa is not only another attack on Ukraine, but an attack on the people, on the poorest people in the world,” said German Foreign Affairs Minister Annalena Baerbock at an EU meeting in Brussels. “Hundreds of thousands of people, not to say millions, urgently need grain from Ukraine.”

On Wednesday, the White House warned further that Russia is preparing to target civilian shipping vessels in the Black Sea.

National Security Counsel spokesperson Adam Hodge said in a statement that Russia has laid additional sea mines in the approaches to Ukrainian ports.

PHOTO: Odesa administrative building

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