Be informed. Be challenged. Be inspired.

Russia strikes Ukraine grain ports after pulling out of export deal

Kyiv, Ukraine

Russia struck Ukrainian ports on Tuesday, a day after pulling out of a UN-backed deal to let Kyiv export grain, and Moscow claimed gains on the ground in an area where Ukrainian officials said Russian forces were going back on the offensive.

Russia said it hit fuel storage in Odesa and a plant making seaborne drones there, as part of “mass revenge strikes” in retaliation for attacks by Ukraine that knocked out its road bridge to the occupied Crimean Peninsula.

A view shows a building damaged during a Russian missile and drone strikes, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine, on 18th July, 2023

A view shows a building damaged during a Russian missile and drone strikes, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine, on 18th July, 2023. PICTURE: Press Service of the the Operational Command South of the Ukrainian Armed Forces/Handout via REUTERS

Shortly after the bridge was hit on Monday, Moscow withdrew from a year-old UN-brokered grain export deal, a move the United Nations said risked creating hunger around the world.

Falling debris and blast waves damaged several homes and unspecified port infrastructure in one of Ukraine’s main ports, Odesa, according to Ukraine’s southern operational military command. Local authorities in Mykolaiv, another port, described a serious fire there.

United States Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power attends a joint press conference with the Head of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine Serhii Kruk during a visit to Ukraine, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 17th July, 2023.

United States Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power attends a joint press conference with the Head of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine Serhii Kruk during a visit to Ukraine, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 17th July, 2023. PICTURE: Reuters/Alina Smutko/File photo


US aid chief Samantha Power on Tuesday pledged $US250 million in new funding to help Ukrainian farmers reeling from blocked Black Sea grain shipments since Russia’s invasion last year.

Moscow on Monday pulled out of a UN-brokered deal allowing the safe passage of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea in a move UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called “a blow to people in need everywhere”. 

Speaking in the port of Odesa, Power said the investment, via a USAID initiative focused on Ukraine’s agriculture sector, would aim to boost agricultural infrastructure and expand other export routes.

She also called on other governments and the private sector to match the US investment with another $US250 million to help farmers “under attack” from Russia’s policies and boost Ukraine’s economy in the long term.

“We have a collective interest in ensuring that Ukrainian farmers stay in business,” Power said during a briefing with Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov during a visit to the Ukrainian port city of Odesa on Tuesday. 

A day earlier, Power visited the State Emergency Services headquarters in the capital Kyiv, where she announced more than $US500 million in humanitarian assistance.

She also handed over an additional $US2.3 million worth of equipment to help the emergency services agency repair the damage inflicted by Russian forces on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed and millions have fled their homes since Russia’s full scale invasion on 24th February, 2022, leading to Europe’s biggest land war since World War II.

– IRYNA NAZARCHUK, Odesa, Ukraine/Reuters

The Russian attacks on ports provide “further proof that the country-terrorist wants to endanger the lives of 400 million people in various countries that depend on Ukrainian food exports”, said Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential staff.

Ukraine’s air force said six Kalibr missiles and 31 out of 36 drones were shot down. Moscow, for its part, said it had foiled a Ukrainian drone strike on Crimea, with no major damage on the ground, and reopened a single lane of road traffic on the Crimea bridge.

Six weeks since Ukraine launched a counter-offensive in the east and south, Russia is mounting a ground offensive of its own in the northeast.

Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had advanced two kilometres in the vicinity of Kupiansk, a frontline railway hub recaptured by Ukraine in an offensive last year. Kyiv acknowledged a “complicated” situation in the area. Reuters could not independently verify the situation.

Since Ukraine began its counter-offensive last month, Kyiv has recaptured some villages in the south and territory around the ruined city of Bakhmut in the east, but has yet to attempt a major breakthrough across heavily defended Russian lines.

The top US general said Ukraine’s counteroffensive was far from a failure, but predicted a long haul.

“I think there’s a lot of fighting left to go and I’ll stay with what we said before: This is going to be long. It’s going be hard. It’s going to be bloody,” General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Washington.

Food risks
The Black Sea grain export deal brokered a year ago by Turkey and the United Nations was one of the only diplomatic successes of the war, lifting a de facto Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports and heading off a global food emergency.

Ukraine and Russia are both among the world’s biggest exporters of grain and other foodstuffs. If Ukrainian grain is again blocked from the market, prices could soar around the world, hitting the poorest countries hardest.

Russia’s move was condemned by several G20 members at a finance and economic policymakers meeting on Tuesday, though host India said it had been unable to reach a consensus due to objections from China and Russia. 

Moscow spurned calls from Ukraine to allow shipping to resume without Russian participation, with the Kremlin openly saying ships entering the area without its guarantees would be in danger.

“We’re talking about an area that’s close to a war zone,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Without the appropriate security guarantees, certain risks arise there. So if something is formalised without Russia, these risks should be taken into account.”

Russia says it could return to the grain deal, but only if its demands are met for rules to be eased for its own exports of food and fertiliser. Western countries call that an attempt to use leverage over food supplies to force a weakening in financial sanctions, which already allow Russia to sell food.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called for the grain deal to continue without Russia, effectively seeking Turkey’s backing to negate the Russian blockade. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, the deal’s sponsor, says he thinks Moscow can be persuaded to return.

Any attempt to reopen Ukrainian grain shipments without Russia’s participation would depend on insurance companies agreeing to provide coverage. Industry sources have told Reuters they are considering the implications.

Slow counter-offensive
Russia’s claim on Tuesday to have advanced around Kupiansk was a rare sign of Moscow attempting go back on the offensive since Kyiv launched its counter-offensive last month.

Oleksander Syrskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, described the situation in that area as “complicated but under control”. Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesperson for Ukraine’s eastern grouping of forces, said the Russian military had amassed more than 100,000 troops and more than 900 tanks in the area.

Both sides have endured bitter losses in Europe’s bloodiest combat since World War II, yet front lines have moved only incrementally since last November, despite a massive Russian winter offensive followed by Ukraine’s counter-assault.

Ukraine’s counter-offensive has made limited gains near Bakhmut and along two major axes in the south, but its assault force equipped with billions of dollars worth of new Western weapons and ammunition has yet to confront the main Russian defensive line.

Kyiv says it is deliberately advancing slowly to avoid high casualties on fortified defensive lines strewn with landmines, and is focused for now on degrading Russia’s logistics and command. Moscow says the Ukrainian counter-offensive has failed.

– With reporting by Reuters bureaux


sight plus logo

Sight+ is a new benefits program we’ve launched to reward people who have supported us with annual donations of $26 or more. To find out more about Sight+ and how you can support the work of Sight, head to our Sight+ page.



We’re interested to find out more about you, our readers, as we improve and expand our coverage and so we’re asking all of our readers to take this survey (it’ll only take a couple of minutes).

To take part in the survey, simply follow this link…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.