KYIV: Blasts were heard in Kyiv today and Ukrainian authorities reported Russian missile strikes around the country, after Moscow blamed Kyiv for an attack on its Black Sea fleet and pulled out of a deal to allow Ukrainian grain shipments.
Russia and Ukraine are both among the world’s biggest food exporters, and a Russian blockade of Ukrainian grain shipments caused a global food crisis earlier this year. Following Russia’s announcement that it would halt cooperation with grain exports, Chicago wheat futures jumped more than 5% today.
“Another batch of Russian missiles hits Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. Instead of fighting on the battlefield, Russia fights civilians,” Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
“Don’t justify these attacks by calling them a ‘response’. Russia does this because it still has the missiles and the will to kill Ukrainians.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said missiles had hit energy infrastructure in Kyiv and other cities, causing electricity and water outages.
“Russia is not interested in peace talks, nor in global food security. Putin’s only goal is death and destruction.”
There was no immediate response from Moscow, which has accused Kyiv of attacking its Black Sea Fleet in a Crimean port with 16 drones on Saturday. Earlier this month, Russia launched the biggest air strikes since the start of the war on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, in what it said was a response to an attack on its bridge to Crimea.
Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied it was behind the attack on the Russian fleet, its typical policy for incidents in Crimea.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of “blackmailing the world with hunger” by pulling out of the food export deal negotiated by the United Nations and Turkey.
Among vessels held up was one carrying tens of thousands of tonnes of wheat, chartered by the UN World Food Programme for an emergency response in the Horn of Africa, Zelensky said in an overnight address.
Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said a total of 218 vessels were “effectively blocked”.
The grain deal required Russia and Ukraine to coordinate inspections and transit of ships through the Black Sea with the United Nations and Turkey acting as mediators.
No ships moved on Sunday. The United Nations said it had agreed with Turkey and Ukraine on a transit plan today for 16 ships to move Black Sea grain – 12 outbound and four inbound. There was no immediate response from Russia.
The United Nations said Russian officials had been told about the plan, along with the intention to inspect 40 outbound vessels today, and noted that “all participants coordinate with their respective military and other relevant authorities to ensure the safe passage of commercial vessels” under the deal.
US president Joe Biden on Saturday called Russia’s move “purely outrageous” and said it would increase starvation. US secretary of state Antony Blinken accused Moscow of weaponising food.
On Sunday, Russia’s ambassador to Washington, snapped back, saying the US response was “outrageous” and made false assertions about Moscow’s move.