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Russian-Ukrainian War News: Live Updates

Credit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

ODESA, Ukraine – A series of explosions rocked the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa on Saturday, hitting one of the country’s most important ports less than 24 hours after an agreement was signed to securing the transit of millions of tons of grain through the Black Sea routes.

The strikes risk undermining the agreement to facilitate the shipment of grain from Ukraine, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, before the deal can even be implemented. The deal was seen as key to bolstering global supplies after a sharp drop in Ukrainian grain exports raised fears of food shortages in poorer countries.

Ukraine’s Southern Military Command said on Saturday that Russian forces fired four Kalibr cruise missiles at Odessa. “Two rockets were shot down by the air defense forces, two port infrastructures hit,” he wrote in a statement posted on his Facebook page.

The condemnation of Ukraine was swift. Oleg Nikolenko, the country’s foreign ministry spokesman, said on Facebook that with the strikes, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin “spit in the face” of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. after the two “exerted enormous efforts to reach this agreement”.

The shockwave from the missiles hitting the port could be felt miles away, although it’s unclear exactly where they hit. The huge port stretches for miles along the Black Sea coast of Odessa with towering silver grain silos clustered in several different locations.

It was unclear what the strikes were targeting and whether any grain infrastructure had been affected. Russia may not technically have breached the deal because it has not pledged to avoid attacking parts of Ukrainian ports that are not directly used for grain exports, according to a senior official. the UN.

But the damage appeared extensive and Mykola Solskyi, the country’s agriculture minister, said the strikes would affect Ukraine’s efforts to export grain.

“If you attack one port, you attack everything,” he said in a phone interview. “You use a lot of the same infrastructure for oil, for grain. It impacts everything – no matter what you hit.

Mr Solskyi added that some of the destroyed infrastructure was “important for the processing of all imports”, but said Ukraine would proceed as if the grain agreement would continue to be in force.

“We understand that we still have a war with Russia,” he said. “Our deal was with the United Nations and Turkey, not with Russia.”

The strike on Odessa is part of a broader shift in the center of gravity of the fighting in recent weeks from eastern Ukraine to the south of the country. Russian and Ukrainian forces both launched strikes with long-range weapons in the south on Saturday night, apparently targeting supply lines and anti-aircraft weapons behind front lines on both sides.

Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, said Russian strikes caused 10 explosions in Odessa and strikes on the port caused a fire.

“This is how Russia fulfills its responsibility to ensure the safety of Ukrainian grain exports,” he wrote on his public channel on the social media app Telegram. “Now not only the West but China and other countries that Putin was counting on to relieve sanctions pressure know that you cannot trust Putin at all, not one bit,” he added. .

On Friday, Biden administration officials expressed skepticism that Russia would follow through on its commitments to allow safe passage of ships through the Black Sea.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell Fontelles condemned the strikes on Saturday, say on twitter that “hitting a crucial grain export target one day after the signing of the Istanbul Accords is particularly reprehensible and again demonstrates Russia’s utter disregard for international law and commitments”.

Since the start of the war on February 24, the port of Odessa, where the missiles hit, has been frozen in time. Steel crates remain stacked on the loading docks, ready to be shipped, and multicolored cranes lie motionless like huge sleeping birds.

In the port of Odessa, as well as in the five other major ports in the region, 68 ships are blocked, along with some of their crew members, said Dmytro Barinov, deputy director of the Ukrainian Seaports Authority. The port authority provided the sailors with food and allowed them access to the port’s bomb shelters when the air raid siren sounded, he said.

In return, they continue to maintain the ships.

“You can’t leave a ship alone,” Mr Barinov said. “You have to maintain it.