The first cargo ship to leave Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbor more than five months ago has run into bad weather in the Black Sea and is set to arrive later than scheduled in Istanbul, a Turkish official said Tuesday. The Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, which set sail from the Ukrainian port of Odesa on Monday, is now expected to reach Istanbul early Wednesday, according to Rear Admiral Ozcan Altunbulak, a coordinator at the joint center established to oversee the grain shipments. Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and U.N. officials are to inspect the ship after it anchors in Istanbul. The inspections are part of a U.N.- and Turkish-brokered deal to shift Ukrainian grain stockpiles to foreign markets and alleviate a mounting global food crisis. Altunbulak said “preparations and planning” are continuing for other ships expected to leave Ukraine’s ports, but he did not provide details. As part of the July 22 agreement on shipments, which include Russian grain and fertilizer, safe corridors through the mined waters outside Ukraine’s ports were established. The situation in the Black Sea remains tense, however, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged international partners to keep a close eye on Moscow’s compliance with the deal. Read:1st ship carrying Ukrainian grain leaves the port of Odesa More ships are expected to leave from Ukraine’s ports through the safe corridors. At Odesa, 16 more vessels, all blocked since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, were waiting their turn, with others to follow, Ukrainian authorities say. The more than 26,000 tons of corn on board the Razoni, destined for Lebanon, will make barely a dent in what the World Bank last week called “rising food insecurity” across the world. “Record high food prices have triggered a global crisis that will drive millions more into extreme poverty,” its latest food security update said, blaming the war in Ukraine, global supply chain problems and the COVID-19 pandemic. But the restart of shipments from Ukraine and Russia, which are major world suppliers of wheat, barley, corn and sunflower oil, raised hopes that the situation could improve. The fertile Black Sea region has long been known as the breadbasket of Europe. The shipping developments came against a backdrop of continued fighting, especially in southern and eastern Ukraine. Moscow's forces stuck to their familiar pattern of bombarding areas they don't hold, with Ukrainian officials reporting that the Russian shelling killed at least three civilians in eastern areas overnight. In the Donetsk region at the forefront of the Russian offensive, the bombardments targeted towns and villages, especially Bakhmut which has taken the brunt of recent shelling. Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenlo said that “the Russians are leveling Bakhmut with a massive barrage from the ground and from the air.” “The shelling of Bakhmut is continuing around the clock, leaving civilians little chance to survive,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks. The United States said it was sending an additional $550 million worth of military aid to Kyiv. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a tweet late Monday that the package included 75,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and more ammunition for the American-built HIMARS multiple rocket launchers, which have given Ukrainian forces an advantage on the battlefield.
Russia targeted Ukraine’s Black Sea regions of Odesa and Mykolaiv with air strikes Tuesday, hitting private buildings and port infrastructure along the country's southern coast, the Ukrainian military said. The Kremlin’s forces used air-launched missiles in the attack, Ukraine’s Operational Command South said in a Facebook post. In the Odesa region, a number of private buildings in villages on the coast were hit and caught fire, the report said. In the Mykolaiv region, port infrastructure was targeted. Hours after the renewed strikes on the south, a Moscow-installed official in the southern Kherson region said the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions will soon be “liberated” by the Russian forces, just like the Kherson region further east. “The Kherson region and the city of Kherson have been liberated forever,” Kirill Stremousov was quoted as saying by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. The developments came as Ukraine appeared to be preparing a counteroffensive in the south. Russia previously attacked Odesa’s port at the weekend. The British military said Tuesday there was no indication that a Ukrainian warship and a stockpile of anti-ship missiles were at the site, as Moscow claimed. The British Defense Ministry said Russia sees Ukraine’s use of anti-ship missiles as “a key threat” that is limiting its Black Sea Fleet. “This has significantly undermined the overall invasion plan, as Russia cannot realistically attempt an amphibious assault to seize Odesa,” the military said. “Russia will continue to prioritize efforts to degrade and destroy Ukraine’s anti-ship capability.” It added that “Russia’s targeting processes are highly likely routinely undermined by dated intelligence, poor planning, and a top-down approach to operations.” Russian shelling over the previous 24 hours killed at least three civilians and wounded eight more in Ukraine, the president’s office said Tuesday. In the eastern Donetsk region, where the fighting has been focused in recent weeks, the shelling continued along the entire front line, with the largest cities of the region, including Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Toretsk, being targeted by the Russian forces, a statement said. Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko accused Russian troops of using cluster munitions and repeated his call for civilians to evacuate. “There is not a single safe place left, everything is being shelled," Kyrylenko said in televised remarks. "But there are still evacuation routes for the civilian population.” The Institute for the Study of War, based in Washington, D.C., reported that the Russians are using mercenaries from the shadowy Wagner Group to capture the Vuhledar Power Plant on the northern outskirts of the Novoluhanske village. But the Russian forces have made “limited gains” there, according to Ukraine’s General Staff. The main Russian focus has been on capturing Bakhmut, which Moscow's forces need in order to press their offensive on the main Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Read: Russia hits Ukraine's Black Sea port despite grain deal “Russian forces made marginal gains south of Bakhmut but are unlikely to be able to effectively leverage these advances to take full control of Bakhmut itself,” the Institute for the Study of War said. Russian forces continued to launch strikes on civilian infrastructure in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city in the northeast, and the surrounding region. Kharkiv governor Oleh Syniehubov said the strikes on the city resumed around dawn Tuesday, damaging a car dealership. “The Russians deliberately target civilian infrastructure objects — hospitals, schools, movie theaters,” Syniehubov told Ukrainian television. “Everything is being fired at, even queues for humanitarian aid, so we’re urging people to avoid mass gatherings.” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that Moscow wants “the complete subjugation of Ukraine and its people.” “We must be prepared for this war — which Russia is conducting with absolute brutality, and is conducting in a way that no one else would — to last months,” Baerbock said during a visit to Prague.
Russian missiles hit Ukraine's Black Sea port of Odesa just hours after Moscow and Kyiv signed deals to allow grain exports to resume from there. Ukraine's Foreign Ministry denounced Saturday's airstrikes as “spit in the face” of Turkey and the United Nations, which brokered the agreements. Two Russian Kalibr cruise missiles hit the port's infrastructure and Ukrainian air defenses brought down two others, the Ukrainian military’s Southern Command said. Command spokeswoman Nataliya Humenyuk said no grain storage facilities were hit and she said there were no immediate reports of injuries. “It took less than 24 hours for Russia to launch a missile attack on Odesa’s port, breaking its promises and undermining its commitments before the U.N. and Turkey under the Istanbul agreement,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said. “In case of non-fulfillment, Russia will bear full responsibility for a global food crisis.” Nikolenko described the missile strike on the 150th day of Russia’s war in Ukraine as Russian President Vladimir Putin's “spit in the face of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who made great efforts to reach agreement.” Guterres' office said the U.N. chief “unequivocally condemns” the strikes. “Yesterday, all parties made clear commitments on the global stage to ensure the safe movement of Ukrainian grain and related products to global markets,” the Guterres statement said. “These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and ease the suffering of millions of people in need around the globe. Full implementation by the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Turkey is imperative.” During a Friday signing ceremony in Istanbul, Guterres hailed the deals to open Ukraine's ports in Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny to commercial food exports as "a beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever.” Read: ‘A beacon of hope’: Ukraine, Russia sign grain export deal The agreements sought to clear the way for the shipment of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain and some Russian exports of grain and fertilizer that have been blocked by the war. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but Russia’s invasion of the country and naval blockade of its ports halted shipments. Documents obtained by The Associated Press showed the deals called for the creation of a U.N.-led joint coordination center in Istanbul where officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey would oversee the scheduling and searches of cargo ships. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that the agreements offered “a chance to prevent a global catastrophe – a famine that could lead to political chaos in many countries of the world, in particular in the countries that help us.” The head of Zelenskyy's office, Andriy Yermak, said on Twitter that the Odesa strike coming so soon after the endorsement of the Black Sea ports deal illustrated "the Russian diplomatic dichotomy.” U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, denounced the Russian strike on the port of Odesa as “outrageous.” "The Kremlin continues to weaponize food," she tweeted. “Russia must be held to account.” Along with the strike on Odesa, Russia's military fired a barrage of missiles Saturday at an airfield and a railway facility in central Ukraine, killing at least three people, while Ukrainian forces launched rocket strikes on river crossings in a Russian-occupied southern region. The attacks on key infrastructure marked new attempts by the warring parties to tip the scales of the grinding conflict in their favor. In Ukraine's central Kirovohradska region, 13 Russian missiles struck an airfield and a railway facility. Gov. Andriy Raikovych said at least one serviceman and two guards were killed and another 16 people were wounded in the strikes near the city of Kirovohrad. In the southern Kherson region, which Russian troops seized early in the invasion, Ukrainian forces preparing for a potential counteroffensive fired rockets at Dnieper River crossings to try to disrupt supplies to the Russians. Still, Russian troops have largely held their ground in the Kherson region just north of the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Fighting raged unabated in eastern Ukraine's industrial heartland of the Donbas, where Russian forces tried to make new gains in the face of stiff Ukrainian resistance. Earlier this week, the Ukrainians bombarded the Antonivskyi Bridge across the Dnieper River using the U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russia-appointed regional administration in Kherson, said. Stremousov told Russian state news agency Tass that the only other crossing of the Dnieper, the dam of the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant, also came under attack from rockets launched with the weapons supplied by Washington but wasn't damaged. HIMARS, which can fire GPS-guided rockets at targets 80 kilometers (50 miles) away, out of reach of most Russian artillery systems, have significantly bolstered the Ukrainian strike capability. In addition, Ukrainian forces shelled an automobile bridge across the Inhulets River in the village of Darivka, Stremousov told Tass. He said the bridge just east of the regional capital of Kherson sustained seven hits but remained open. Stremousov said that unlike the Antonivskyi Bridge, the small bridge in Darivka has no strategic value. Since April, the Kremlin has concentrated on capturing the Donbas, a mostly Russian-speaking region of eastern Ukraine where pro-Russia separatists have proclaimed independence. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized Wednesday that Moscow plans to retain control of other areas in Ukraine that its forces have occupied during the war.