Ukraine could export 60 million tonnes of grain in eight to nine months if its ports were not blocked, but Russia’s strike on the port of Odesa demonstrated that it will not be easy, according to an economic adviser to Ukraine’s president on Sunday.
According to adviser Oleh Ustenko, Ukraine could earn €9.7 billion ($10 billion) by selling 20 million tonnes of grain in silos and 40 million tonnes from its new harvest. He stated that the harvest totals 60 million tonnes, 20 million of which are for domestic consumption. —
“If the ports were opened right now and we said we needed to move 60 million tonnes of grain… Then we’d transport 60 million tonnes of grain in 89 months,” he said.
“However, with the way they’re opening now and what Russia’s doing in the Black Sea, yesterday’s strike shows that it’s not going to work that way,” he said.
Russian missiles hit the port of Odesa a day after Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement to reopen Black Sea ports and resume grain exports, mediated by the United Nations and Turkey. Moscow claims it struck military infrastructure.
The agreement is expected to alleviate global food shortages caused by the conflict.
He estimates that if Ukraine’s ports do not function properly, it will take 20 to 24 months to export those volumes.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the Odesa strikes as “blatant barbarism” that demonstrated Moscow could not be trusted to carry out Friday’s agreement, mediated by Turkey and the United Nations (UN).
However, a government minister stated that preparations to resume grain shipments were ongoing, and public broadcaster Suspilne reported that the missiles did not cause significant damage to the port.
Meanwhile, Russian forces have destroyed a Ukrainian warship and US-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles in the Ukrainian port of Odesa, according to Russian news agencies.
“Long-range precision-guided naval missiles destroyed a docked Ukrainian warship and a warehouse containing US-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles in Odesa seaport on the territory of a ship repair plant.”
According to the Ukrainian military, Russian missiles struck the southern port on Saturday, threatening a deal signed just one day earlier to unblock grain exports from Black Sea ports and alleviate global food shortages caused by the war.
The agreement signed by Moscow and Kiev was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that would help curb soaring global food prices, but as the war entered its sixth month on Sunday, there was no sign of a truce.
While the main battleground has been the eastern region of Donbas, Mr Zelenskiy said in a late-Saturday video that Ukrainian forces were moving “step by step” into the occupied eastern Black Sea region of Kherson.
On Sunday, Ukraine’s military reported Russian shelling in a number of locations in the north, south, and east, and referred to Russian operations laying the groundwork for an assault on Bakhmut in the Donbas.
The United Nations, the European Union (EU), the United States (US), Britain, Germany, and Italy all strongly condemned the Odesa strikes. On Friday, UN officials expressed optimism that the agreement would be operational within a few weeks.
The Ukrainian military released video of firefighters battling a fire on an unidentified boat moored alongside a tug boat. Reuters was unable to independently confirm the video’s authenticity or the date it was shot.
According to Turkey’s defense minister, Russian officials informed Ankara that Moscow had “nothing to do” with the strikes. Neither the Russian defense ministry’s statements nor the military’s evening summary mentioned the Odesa missile strikes. A request for comment was not returned by the ministry.
According to Ukraine’s military, two Russian Kalibr missiles struck the area of a pumping station at the port, while two others were shot down by air defense forces. According to Yuriy Ignat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian air force, the missiles were launched from warships in the Black Sea near Crimea.
According to Suspilne, Ukraine’s southern military command, the port’s grain storage area was in Odesa not hit.
“Unfortunately, there are casualties. “The infrastructure of the port was damaged,” said Odesa region governor Maksym Marchenko.
However, Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov stated on Facebook that “we continue technical preparations for the start of agricultural product exports from our ports.”
According to UN officials, the agreement will restore grain shipments from the three reopened ports to pre-war levels of 5 million tonnes per month.
The strikes appeared to violate the agreement reached on Friday, which would allow safe passage into and out of Ukrainian ports.
Zelensky vowed to do everything in his power to obtain air defense systems capable of shooting down missiles like the ones that hit Odesa.
Since Moscow’s February 24th invasion, Russia’s Black Sea fleet has blocked Ukrainian ports, trapping tens of millions of tonnes of grain and stranding many ships.
This has made global supply chain bottlenecks worse. It has fueled food and energy price inflation, in tandem with Western sanctions against Russia. Russia and Ukraine are major global wheat suppliers, and the World Food Programme reports that a global food crisis has pushed 47 million people into “acute hunger.”
Moscow denies responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for mining its port approaches.
The attack on Odesa, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “casts serious doubt on Russia’s commitment to yesterday’s deal.”
“Russia bears responsibility for the worsening of the global food crisis and must cease its aggression,” he said.
A spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the strikes were “unequivocally condemned,” and that full implementation of the agreement was critical.
“The Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusai Akar said in a statement. The fact that such an incident occurred so soon after our agreement yesterday worried us.”
Ukraine has mined waters near its ports as part of its war defenses, but under the agreement, ships will be guided along safe channels by pilots.
A joint coordination center staffed by members of the agreement’s four parties will monitor ships transiting the Black Sea to Turkey’s Bosporus Strait and on to global markets. On Friday, all parties agreed that there would be no attacks on these entities.
Putin describes the conflict as a “special military operation” aimed at demilitarizing Ukraine and eliminating dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and the West see this as a sham pretext for a rash land grab.
A congressional delegation from the United States met with Zelensky in Kyiv and pledged continued support.
Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was quoted by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty as saying that Washington and its allies hoped to provide more multiple rocket launch systems.