Ukrainian officials on Sunday accused Moscow of trying to “provoke a food crisis” after Russian military strikes against a key port in Ukraine’s Odesa region, a central hub for grain and other vital food exports.
The attacks on Ukraine’s Reni seaport saw Russia reportedly launch at least 25 Iranian-made loitering drones at the facility along Ukraine’s Black Sea coast.
Ukrainian officials said 22 of those drones were shot down. Two people were injured in the attack, which lasted more than three hours, officials said.
The Kremlin cast the attack as a legitimate military move and said the drones intended to take out “fuel storage facilities” in Odesa used by the Ukrainian military.
But Ukrainian leaders said Russia had a different motivation. Andriy Yermak, chief of staff for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said the attacks were part of a much larger Russian effort to “to provoke a food crisis and hunger in the world.”
Whatever the true motivations, the Russian assaults come at a crucial moment. Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet Monday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the possibility of resuming grain and other food shipments from Ukrainian ports.
Russia in July pulled out of the Black Sea grain agreement, a 2022 deal that allowed for the safe export of grain and other supplies from Ukrainian ports amid the Russia-Ukraine war. Turkey played a key role in brokering that deal, which helped stem major disruptions to the global food supply caused by the conflict.
Russia’s state-run TASS news agency made no mention of the grain deal, or the impact on global food supplies, in its account of the Russian strikes on Odesa.
“The Russian Aerospace Force made a group strike by unmanned aerial vehicles this night against fuel storages used for supplies to military vehicles of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the port of Reni, Odessa Region. The strike objective was achieved. All the designated targets were engaged,” the Russian Defense Ministry said Sunday in a statement, according to TASS.