Russia Denies Missile Strike on Odesa Violated One-Day-Old Black Sea Agreement

( – Dismissing Western and Ukrainian criticism, Russia said its weekend missile attack on Odesa was directed at military targets and did not violate a landmark agreement signed less than 24 hours earlier to unblock Ukrainian grain shipments, mostly from that very port.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of deepening a global food crisis by undermining the deal, which was mediated by the U.N. and Turkey in a bid to release millions of tons of grain for shipping to world markets.

“Russia breached its commitments by attacking the historic port from which grain and agricultural exports would again be transported under this arrangement,” Blinken said in a statement.

“Striking a target crucial for grain export a day after the signature of Istanbul agreements is particularly reprehensible and again demonstrates Russia’s total disregard for international law and commitments,” said European Commission foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres, who had attended Friday’s signing in Istanbul, “unequivocally” condemned the missile strike, while Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko also characterized Russia’s attack as a breach.


“It took less than 24 hours for Russia to launch a missile attack on Odesa’s port, breaking its promises and undermining its commitments before the U.N. and Turkey under the Istanbul agreement,” Nikolenko said, adding that Russia had “spit in the face” of the U.N. and Turkey.

But Russia claimed its Kalibr cruise missiles had struck only military targets – specifically a Ukrainian warship and a cache of U.S.-supplied missiles.

“[H]igh-precision sea-based long-range missiles destroyed a Ukrainian warship that was in the dock and a warehouse of Harpoon anti-ship missiles supplied by the United States to the Kyiv regime,” the Russian defense ministry said in a report.

It added that its missiles had also “put out of action” a facility used to repair and upgrade Ukrainian warships.

The Ukrainian military did not specify what infrastructure in the port had been hit by the cruise missiles, but did say that grain storage facilities had not been struck. It also said that while two Kalibrs hit the port, two others had been shot down by Ukraine’s air defenses.

The text of the Istanbul agreement reportedly includes a commitment by Russia and Ukraine “not to attack merchant and other civilian vessels and port facilities engaged in the transportation of grain.”

“We have not violated the Istanbul agreement,” pro-Kremlin Russian lawmaker Yevgeny Popov told the BBC. “We simply destroyed the military infrastructure of Ukraine – and we will do it again.”

Before Russia’s defense ministry confirmed the missile strike, Turkey’s defense minister Hulusi Akar told reporters that when Anakara had queried the strike his Russian counterparts denied involvement.

“The Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack and that they were inspecting the issue very closely and in detail,” Akar said.

‘Global destabilization, starvation and mass migration’

 Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, now in its 152nd day, has contributed to global food shortages already affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The head of the U.N. World Food Program warned earlier this summer that the spikes in food, fuel, and fertilizer prices resulting from the war were increasing the risk of “global destabilization, starvation and mass migration on an unprecedented scale.”

Ukraine and Russia, both major grain exporters, blame each other.

More than 20 million tons of Ukrainian wheat are reported to be held up in silos or on ships in Odesa, unable to leave – Ukraine says – because of threats posed by Russian warships in the Black Sea.

Moscow says the threat comes not from its naval blockade but from Ukrainian-laid sea mines. (Ukrainian has good reason to fear a Russian seaborne attack on its most important port.)

Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov charged on Sunday that 70 foreign ships from 16 countries had effectively been “held hostage” in Black Sea ports as a result of the mines.

Lavrov, speaking during a visit to Egypt, also said that Russia had for months guaranteed not to attack ships carrying food via “humanitarian corridors that we have created in the Black Sea,” but to no avail.

Adding to the food shortages and resulting price hikes, Moscow says sanctions imposed by the West on Russia are preventing the shipping of its own grain and fertilizer to world markets.

The U.S. and Europe say the sanctions, which were imposed in response to the invasion, do not apply to food and fertilizer. Still, Russia says banks and insurers are not prepared to risk sanctions by being involved in such transactions.

The agreement signed in Istanbul was designed to address both the Ukrainian and Russian food issues.

A note from the U.N. said Russia committed to “facilitate the unimpeded export” of food, sunflower oil, and fertilizers from Odesa and two other Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

Meanwhile the U.N. would “facilitate the unimpeded exports to world markets of Russian food and fertilizer,” based on the principle that sanctions don’t apply to those products.

A joint coordination center in Istanbul, staffed by military officers from Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey, will oversea and monitor the shipments, and ensure that vessels returning to Ukraine to reload grain are not carrying weapons destined for the Ukrainian forces.


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