Ukraine lashed out at the Kremlin on Saturday, saying it would be responsible for any food crisis if a deal to export Ukrainian grain from Odessa collapsed after Russian missiles hit the Black Sea port.
“The Russian missile (the strike) is the spit (of Russian President) Vladimir Putin in the face of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep (Tayyip) Erdogan, who have made tremendous efforts to reach the deal,” he said Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko.
“If the agreement reached is not fulfilled, Russia will bear full responsibility for aggravating the global food crisis,” he added.
The landmark deal, signed by Moscow and Kyiv on Friday, is believed to be crucial in containing global food prices and would allow certain exports to be shipped from Black Sea ports, including the Odessa hub.
“The enemy has attacked the sea trading port of Odessa with Kalibr cruise missiles,” Ukraine’s Operational Command South wrote on the news app Telegram.
Two missiles hit infrastructure at the port, while two others were shot down by air defense forces, sources said.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry called on the United Nations and Turkey, which brokered Friday’s deal, to ensure Russia honors its commitments and allows free passage in the grain corridor.
The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
A blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet since Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion of its neighbor has trapped tens of millions of tons of grain and stranded many ships.
This has exacerbated bottlenecks in global supply chains and, combined with Western sanctions against Russia, fueled food and energy price inflation.
Friday’s export deal aims to avert starvation among tens of millions of people in poorer countries by injecting more wheat, sunflower oil, fertilizers and other products into world markets, including for humanitarian purposes, sometimes at lower prices.
Senior United Nations officials who briefed reporters on Friday said the deal is expected to be fully operational in a matter of weeks, restoring grain shipments from the three reopened ports to pre-war levels of 5 million tons per month.
Under the deal, Ukrainian officials would guide ships through safe channels through mined waters to three ports, including Odessa, where they would be loaded with grain.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing its own food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for cutting access to its Black Sea ports.
Three dead in Russian missile attack, local governor says
The attack in Odessa came as at least three people were killed after 13 Russian missiles hit a military airfield and railway infrastructure in central Ukraine’s Kirovohrad region, according to the local governor.
Andriy Raikovych said on TV that two security guards were killed at a substation.
A Ukrainian soldier was also killed and nine others injured, he said.
Mr Raikovych said the strikes had disrupted the power grid and a district of the regional capital of Kropyvnytskyi, some 300 km south-east of Kyiv, was left without power as a result.