HANNA ARKHIROVA (Associated Press)
KYIV, Ukraine (FloridaToday.news) — Russia launched an intense drone and missile strike Wednesday night, damaging critical port infrastructure in southern Ukraine, including grain and oil terminals, and injuring at least 12 people, officials said.
The shelling damaged large parts of export facilities in Odessa and nearby Chornomorsk and destroyed 60,000 tons of grain, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Agriculture.
It comes just days after President Vladimir Putin withdrew Russia from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a wartime deal that allowed Ukrainian exports to reach many countries facing the threat of famine.
It also followed Putin’s promise to retaliate against Kyiv for Monday’s attack on the key Kerch Bridge connecting Russia to the Crimean peninsula, which the Kremlin illegally annexed in 2014.
The Ministry of Agriculture, citing experts, calculated that it would take a year to restore the damaged facilities. The destroyed grain was supposed to be loaded onto a ship and sent along the grain corridor two months ago, the report says.
“Such attacks by Russian terrorists affect not only our country, but also global stability,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a briefing with the Irish Prime Minister in Kiev. He said that Ukraine needs more air defense systems to protect the port.
Zelenskiy said his government is trying to find a way to maintain a corridor for continued grain exports despite Russia’s decision to back out of a deal brokered by the UN and Turkey.
“The corridor must be safe. In fact, knowing Russia, it will not be safe if the UN does not start working very clearly and hard at the level of the Secretary General,” he said.
Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky warned that if Ukraine fails to export food, “the population of the poorest countries will be on the brink of survival! The price of grain will rise, and not all countries will be able to afford to buy agricultural products, which means that food prices will rise significantly: flour, cereals, meat.”
Wheat prices rose more than 2.5% on Tuesday and more than 3% on Wednesday amid terrorist attacks in Odessa, a key grain export hub, indicative of turmoil in global markets following Moscow’s withdrawal from the deal, which threatens to increase famine in parts of the globe. Wednesday’s trading price of $6.91 a bushel was still more than 85% below last year’s peak.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock tweeted that “Putin hasn’t just blown up the Black Sea Grain Initiative; now, for the second night in a row, he has been dropping a hail of bombs on the port city of Odessa.”
“In doing so, he deprives the world of any hope for Ukrainian grain. Each of his bombs also hits the poorest in the world,” she said.
Governor Oleg Kiper said that Onyx and Kh-22 missiles hit grain and oil terminals. Debris from the downed aircraft fell into apartment buildings, seaside resorts and warehouses, setting fires and injuring several people.
Video from warehouses elsewhere in Odessa shows firefighters putting out fires, with thick black smoke billowing from the explosion.
The attacks were part of what the Russian defense ministry called a “retaliation strike” after Monday’s attack on the Kerch Bridge, a key span used for military and civilian supplies. The attack, apparently carried out by maritime drones, damaged part of the roadway on the bridge, but rail traffic continued.
Ukraine’s top security agency appeared to tacitly acknowledge its role in the attack but refrained from directly claiming responsibility, repeating its response after the October 2022 bridge strike that took months to clear.
Meanwhile, Russian EMERCOM officials in Crimea said more than 2,200 people had been evacuated from four villages due to a fire at a military facility.
According to Sergei Aksenov, Moscow-appointed head of the peninsula, an important highway was closed due to the fire. He did not specify the cause of the fire at the facility in the Kirovsky district.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, authorities have reported that drones and missiles have been directed against more regions than in recent days.
“A difficult night of air raids for all of Ukraine,” Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, said on Telegram.
He said the Odessa attacks were particularly vicious for the second night in a row. The operational command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine “South” reported that at least 12 civilians were wounded in the region.
As a result of the terrorist attacks in Odessa, at least six people were injured, including a 9-year-old boy, who was covered in glass fragments and other debris. The remnants of a downed Kh-59 missile created a large crater in another part of the city, injuring three civilians and damaging several buildings.
Eight Iranian-made Shahed drones were also shot down in the Odessa region, where two warehouses with tobacco and fireworks were reportedly damaged.
According to Popko, Russia also attacked Kyiv with the help of Shahed drones to no avail. Air defense intercepted all drones aimed at the capital, and a preliminary investigation showed that no one was injured.
Over the past 24 hours, strikes have taken place elsewhere in Ukraine, killing one person and injuring 21 others.
The death occurred in the north-east of the Kharkov region, not far from the explosive region of Kupyansk, during the shelling of seven cities of the Donetsk region, including Avdeevka, Maryinka and Chasov Yar, 10 people were injured. Two people were injured as a result of shelling in the Mykolaiv region and one person was injured in the Kherson region.
Russian drone attacks in the Zhytomyr region have damaged some infrastructure and private homes, but no casualties have been reported, Governor Vitaliy Bunechko said.
Shelling was also recorded in the Poltava and Kirovograd regions.
Separately, the South African president announced that Putin would not attend next month’s economic summit in the country, which is facing legal quandary over the arrest of the Russian leader on a Ukraine-linked International Criminal Court warrant.
Although Moscow has rejected the warrant and Russia does not recognize the authority of the court, Putin has not traveled to any country that signed the court agreement since he was indicted in March by the International Criminal Court for war crimes related to kidnapping children from Ukraine.
The South African authorities have given strong hints that they are unlikely to execute a warrant for Putin’s arrest, but South Africa’s main opposition party has sued the government in an attempt to force it to arrest the Russian leader if he sets foot on South African soil.
Russia will be represented in place of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the office of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said. All other leaders are present, the report said.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.