Russian officials have insisted that an air strike on Odesa – less than a day after Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement on resuming grain shipments from the port – had hit only military targets.
Moscow has been widely condemned for the attack, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky saying it had “destroyed the very possibility” of dialogue with Russia.
But Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said at a daily briefing on Sunday that the air strike had targeted only Ukrainian military facilities.
“In the seaport in the city of Odesa, on the territory of a shipyard, sea-based, high-precision, long-range missiles destroyed a docked Ukrainian warship and a warehouse with Harpoon anti-ship missiles supplied by the US to the Kyiv regime,” he said.
The Ukrainian military said Moscow had attacked Odesa’s port with four cruise missiles on Saturday, two of which had been shot down by air defences.
Command spokeswoman Nataliya Humenyuk said no grain storage facilities were hit in Odesa, but Turkey’s defence minister said Ukrainian authorities had told him one missile struck a grain silo and another landed nearby. However, neither affected loading at Odesa’s docks.
It is not clear how the air strikes will affect the plan to resume shipping Ukrainian grain by sea in safe corridors out of three Ukrainian Black Sea ports: Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.
Ukraine and Russia signed identical deals on Friday with the UN and Turkey in Istanbul backing the plan, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed as “a beacon of hope” for a world in which food prices are rising rapidly.
The head of Mr Zelensky’s office, Andriy Yermak, said on Twitter on Saturday that the Odesa strike, coming so soon after the endorsement of the Black Sea deal, illustrates “the Russian diplomatic dichotomy”.
Mr Guterres’s office said the UN chief “unequivocally condemns” the strikes.
A statement said: “All parties made clear commitments on the global stage to ensure the safe movement of Ukrainian grain and related products to global markets. These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and ease the suffering of millions of people.”
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said: “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 UN and Turkey under the Istanbul agreement.
“In case of non-fulfilment, Russia will bear full responsibility for a global food crisis.”
He 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 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who made great efforts to reach agreement”.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Ukrainian authorities reported that Russian shelling continued to kill and injure civilians in Ukraine’s south and east.
The governor of the eastern Donetsk region, one of two which make up Ukraine’s industrial heartland of the Donbas and a key focus of Russia’s offensive, said two civilians had been killed and two more had been injured over the previous 24 hours.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence on Sunday morning reported in its daily intelligence update that Russia was making “minimal progress” in its ongoing Donbas offensive, which it said remained small-scale and focused on the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk.
The Ukrainian General Staff confirmed in its regular update that Russia is “conducting military operations to create conditions” for an assault on Bakhmut, while firing on surrounding settlements and battling Ukrainian defenders for control of a nearby thermal plant.
In Ukraine’s south, regional officials said at least five civilians were wounded by Russian shells in the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv on Saturday night and Sunday morning.
“Also, as a result of the scattering of munitions and their fragments, fires occurred in open areas in the city,” said Vitaly Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv region.