Russia says strike on Ukrainian port hit military targets, Russian-Ukrainian crisis

Ukraine: Russian defense officials insisted on Sunday that an airstrike on the Ukrainian port of Odessa only hit military targets, but the attack tested a deal on recovery grain shipments that the two countries had signed for less than a day before the assault.

Long-range missiles destroyed a docked Ukrainian warship and a warehouse containing US-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said during a briefing daily press.

Speaking in his nightly televised address on Saturday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the attack on Odessa “destroyed the very possibility” of a dialogue with Russia.

As part of the grain shipment deal secured by The Associated Press, Kyiv and Moscow agreed not to target ships and port facilities involved in the initiative, including the ports of Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.

The Ukrainian military said the attack involved four cruise missiles, two of which were shot down by Ukrainian air defenses.

Command spokeswoman Nataliya Humenyuk said no grain storage facilities were affected. Turkey’s defense minister, however, said he had received information from Ukrainian authorities that one missile hit a grain silo while another landed nearby, although neither affected loading on the docks of Odessa.

It was not immediately clear how the airstrike would affect plans to resume shipping Ukrainian grain by sea in safe corridors out of ports.

Russia and Ukraine signed identical agreements with the United Nations and Turkey on Friday in Istanbul aimed at paving the way for the shipment of millions of tons of desperately needed Ukrainian grain, as well as the export of grain and of Russian fertilizers.

Senior UN officials expressed hope that the deal would end a months-long stalemate that threatened food security around the world.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Ukrainian authorities reported that Russian shelling continued to kill and injure civilians in southern and eastern Ukraine.

The governor of the eastern region of Donetsk, one of two that make up Ukraine’s industrial heartland of Donbass and a key part of the Russian offensive, said two civilians had been killed and two others injured in the past 24 hours .

The British military reported in its daily intelligence update on Sunday that Russia was making “minimal progress” in its Donbass offensive, which it said remained small-scale and focused on the town of Bakhmut in the region. east of Donetsk.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian army confirmed in its regular update that Russia was “carrying out military operations to create the conditions” for an assault on Bakhmut, while firing on the surrounding settlements and fighting the Ukrainian defenders for control of a nearby thermal power station.

In southern Ukraine, regional officials said at least five civilians were injured by Russian shells in the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

“In addition, as a result of the scattering of ammunition and its fragments, fires broke out in open areas of the city,” said Vitaly Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv region.

– A Washington-based think tank said Ukrainian forces are likely preparing to launch or have launched a counteroffensive in the Kherson region.

The Institute for War Studies quoted Kherson Oblast administration adviser Serhiy Khlan as saying Ukrainian forces seized unspecified settlements in the area, but he called on Ukrainian civilians to remain silent on the progress of the counter-offensive until the Ukrainian authorities issue official statements.

The ISW noted that open-source information on any Ukrainian troop progress “will likely be limited and lagging behind events.”

– Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials as his country seeks to break diplomatic isolation and sanctions from the West following its invasion of Ukraine.

Lavrov landed in Cairo on Saturday evening on the first leg of his Africa trip, which will also include stops in Ethiopia, Uganda and Congo, according to Russian state broadcaster RT.

Speaking at a news conference following bilateral talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shukri, on Sunday, Lavrov said he had ‘reaffirmed the commitment of Russian grain exporters to fulfill all their obligations’ following the UN-backed deal to unblock cereals. shipments.

– Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a speech in Romania that Western sanctions against Russia had failed and that the war in Ukraine would not end “until there are Russian-American peace negotiations “.

Orban said in a speech in Baile Tusnad, central Romania, on Saturday that “a new strategy is needed, which should focus on peace talks…instead of winning the war.”

“The situation is that today we are sitting in a car with flat tires on all four wheels,” he said. “It is quite obvious that the war cannot be won this way. The Ukrainians will never win a war against Russia with American training officers and weapons.

The far-right leader went on to say that if Donald Trump and Germany’s Angela Merkel had always been in charge in their countries, “then this war would never have broken out.”

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Christi C. Elwood