National: Russia takes aim at Black Sea port following suspension of Ukraine grain deal

Ukrainian forces shot down scores of exploding drones and six cruise missiles during a pre-dawn Russian attack on the port of Odesa on Tuesday, authorities in Kyiv said, a day after Moscow broke off a deal that had allowed Ukraine to ship vital grain supplies from the Black Sea city during the war.

The Russians first sought to wear down Ukraine’s air defenses with the drones and then targeted Odesa with six Kalibr cruise missiles, the Ukrainian military’s Southern Command said.

All six missiles and 25 drones were shot down by air defenses in the Odesa region and other areas in the south, though their debris and shock waves damaged some port facilities and a few residential buildings, injuring an elderly man at his home, officials said.

Russia said the grain decision was not connected to a strike Monday on a key bridge between Moscow-annexed Crimea and Russia that the Kremlin blamed on Kyiv’s forces using sea drones. Ukrainian officials stopped short of directly taking responsibility, as they have done in similar past strikes, but Ukraine’s top security agency appeared tacitly to admit to a role in the strike.

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Russia described Tuesday’s strikes along the Black Sea coast as “retribution” for that attack.

Click to play video: 'UN Security Council speakers condemn Russia’s termination of Black Sea Grain Initiative'

UN Security Council speakers condemn Russia’s termination of Black Sea Grain Initiative

The Russian Defense Ministry said it used sea-launched precision weapons on Ukrainian military facilities near Odesa and Mykolaiv, a coastal city about 50 kilometers (30 miles) to the northeast.

The Russian military destroyed facilities involved in preparing “terror attacks” against Russia that use sea drones, including a facility at a shipyard near Odesa that was producing them, the ministry said, while also hitting Ukrainian army fuel depots.

Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said the Odesa attack showed that the Kremlin is ready to endanger the lives of millions of people around the world who need Ukrainian grain exports. Hunger is a growing threat in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and high food prices have pushed more people into poverty.

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“The world must realize that the goal of the Russian Federation is hunger and killing people,” Yermak said. “They need waves of refugees. They want to weaken the West with this.”

The United Nations and Ukraine’s Western allies slammed Moscow for halting the Black Sea Grain Initiative, saying it put many lives in peril.

The Kremlin said the agreement would be suspended until Moscow’s demands to lift restrictions on exports of Russian food and fertilizer to the world are met.

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