Russia on Saturday signaled it has no intention of honoring a deal to allow for the safe export of Ukrainian grain, firing missiles on the critical Black Sea port of Odessa, imperiling the hopes of developing nations that desperately need the grain to avoid worsening food shortages.
Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement—arranged by the United Nations and Turkey—in Istanbul on Friday to lift a Russian naval blockade in the Black Sea, allowing for millions of tons of stockpiled Ukrainian grain to be exported.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy said the attack just a day after the agreement “proves only one thing: no matter what Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement it,” while Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said the strike was a “spit in the face.”
Bridget Brink, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, called the attack “outrageous,” adding “the Kremlin continues to weaponize food.”
The EU said the strike was “reprehensible” and represented another instance of “Russia’s total disregard for international law & commitments.”
What To Watch For
Even with Friday’s deal, there is effectively no enforcement system to ensure the safe passage of grain. It could take weeks before one is put in place, according to the Washington Post.
No one was believed to be injured in the attack, which targeted the port but not the grain silos themselves.
Ukraine is usually one of the world’s leading grain exporters, but the blockade has prevented the country from shipping its product. The result has been a massive, growing surplus of grain remaining in Ukraine amid a global food shortage. Russia has reportedly taken control of more than one-fifth of Ukrainian cropland and the country has been accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of tons of Ukrainian grain products—critical to Ukraine’s economy.
25 million tons. That’s about how much grain has been trapped in Ukraine due to the blockade.
Russian missiles strike Odessa port day after grain deal, Ukraine says (Washington Post)