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Russia hits Ukraine grain export route near Romania

By AFP - Aug 03,2023 - Last updated at Aug 03,2023

Parial view of a grain downloading terminal for barges in Constanta harbour, Romania, on Monday. Since the beginning of the war in neighbouring Ukraine, Constanta, the largest port for cereals in Europe, has been on a race to adapt to the growing influx of Ukrainian grain (AFP photo)

KYIV — Russian drones on Wednesday damaged infrastructure at an Ukrainian port on the Danube, as Moscow targeted facilities vital for grain shipments from Ukraine following the collapse of a key export arrangement.

Turkey, which along with the United Nations brokered the deal to allow Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, urged Russia after the port strike not to take steps that would escalate tensions.

Russia struck a grain elevator in the port of Izmail which sits just across the Danube River from Romania, damaging silos, warehouses and administrative buildings, Kyiv said.

Izmail is now the main export route for Ukrainian agricultural products via Romania, following Russia's withdrawal last month from the Black Sea grain agreement.

The deal had allowed around 33 million tonnes of grain to leave Ukrainian ports, easing fears of global food shortages after the start of the conflict.

Russia has been pounding the seaports in the Odesa region that were key for the grain exports granted safe passage under the deal.

"No steps should be taken that will escalate tensions in the Russia-Ukraine war," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a phone call.

Erdogan emphasised to Putin the significance of a grain deal that he called a "bridge for peace", the Turkish leader's office said.

 

'Unacceptable' 

 

Failure to reestablish the grain deal "will not benefit anyone" and nations in need will suffer the most, Erdogan said.

In the same call, Putin asked Erdogan to aid Russia export its grain to African countries vulnerable to food shortages.

“The mood for cooperation with Turkey and other interested states on this issue was expressed,” the Kremlin said in statement.

But Paris accused Moscow of “pursuing its own interest at the expense of the most vulnerable”, putting global food security at risk with the strikes on grain infrastructure. 

With the Black Sea route effectively blocked, the formerly obscure ports of Izmail and Reni on the Danube have become crucial to global food supplies. 

But the transit hubs are struggling to process all the arriving grain, causing massive bottlenecks, and have been targeted by Russia.

The overnight strike damaged nearly 40,000 tonnes of grain destined for Africa, China and Israel, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said that Russia’s repeated attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure along the river were “unacceptable”.

Ukraine needed “more air defence” to repel Russian attacks, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, said on Wednesday on Telegram.

In Kyiv, more than 10 Russian drones were downed during an overnight strike that left several floors of a glass high-rise damaged, the city’s military administration said.

“Groups of drones entered Kyiv simultaneously from several directions,” said Sergiy Popko, head of the administration.

Popko said Russia had used a barrage of Iranian-made drones, with debris hitting several areas.

 

Naval drills 

 

In the Golosiivsky district, “parts of a drone fell on a playground” and a fire broke out in a non-residential building, he said, adding that emergency services were on the scene.

Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko had said earlier that the attack on the capital had damaged several areas, including the busy Solomyansky district. 

The attacks came a day after Russia said it downed a wave of Ukrainian drones targeting Moscow and vessels in the Black Sea. 

A skyscraper in Moscow’s business district housing government offices was struck for the second time in a few days. 

Russia also said Wednesday it had launched naval drills on the Baltic Sea, involving 30 warships and boats, amid rising tensions with European countries over the Ukraine conflict.

During the drills, the navy will practise how to protect sea lanes, transport troops and military cargo, and defend the coastline, the defence ministry said.

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