Russian strikes attacked the Ukrainian port of Odesa for the third night in a row, officials claimed Thursday, as Crimean authorities said a teenager was killed in Kyiv’s latest offensive on the peninsula.
At least 20 people were injured in strikes on Odesa and the southern port city of Mykolaiv, according to local officials, who posted photographs of burning buildings with partially ruined façade.
According to a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s southern military command, a “administrative building” in Odesa’s city center was destroyed and others were damaged, with specifics still being worked out.
The previous series of nocturnal raids on Odesa destroyed 60,000 tonnes of grain destined for export, Kyiv claimed on Wednesday, accusing Moscow of “deliberately” targeting the supplies.
Following Moscow’s incursion of Ukraine last year, warships blocked Black Sea ports until the July 2022 gain deal, negotiated by the UN and Turkey.
The Kremlin announced its withdrawal from the agreement on Monday, following months of complaining that the provisions allowing Russian food and fertilizer exports had not been honored.
Over the last year, the agreement facilitated the shipment of more than 32 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain, providing help to nations facing acute food shortages such as Afghanistan, Sudan, and Yemen.
Wheat prices soared on the European stock exchange on Wednesday.
Also Wednesday Moscow said it would consider cargo ships travelling to Ukraine through the Black Sea potential military targets.
A senior United States security official later told AFP that Russia was considering attacking civilian ships on the Black Sea and putting the blame on Kyiv.
National Security Council spokesman Adam Hodge cited Russia’s release of a video showing its forces detecting and destroying an “alleged Ukrainian sea mine”.
“Our information indicates that Russia laid additional sea mines in the approaches to Ukrainian ports,” he said.
“We believe that this is a coordinated effort to justify any attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea and lay blame on Ukraine for these attacks.”
– Attack in Crimea –
A drone strike fired by Ukraine in Crimea damaged four “administrative buildings” and killed a teenage girl, the region’s newly installed governor stated early Thursday.
The bombing looked to be Kyiv’s latest assault on a vital supply route for Russian forces fighting in Ukraine.
It came a day after officials were forced to evacuate thousands of residents due to a fire at a military base in Crimea.
Officials have not stated what caused the fire, although some Russian media outlets reported hearing detonations in the vicinity and seeing columns of black smoke in the sky.
Earlier this week Ukraine used waterborne drones to attack the Kerch bridge, the only bridge connecting Russia to annexed Crimea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to retaliate for the attack, which killed two civilians and left their child wounded.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move not recognised by the international community.
Kyiv has repeatedly said it plans to take back the peninsula.
– ‘Robbing the world’ –
Russian President Vladimir Putin “is robbing the world of any hope of Ukrainian grain” with the daily strikes in Odesa, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote on Twitter.
Ukraine said it was prepared to continue grain shipments despite the termination of the agreement and urged other countries to assist.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s European neighbors pushed the EU to extend a grain import restriction until the end of the year, fearing that diverted Ukrainian supply will undercut local farmers.
Brussels decided in June to enable Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania to limit grain imports from Ukraine until September.
Fighting is centered in eastern Ukraine, where Kyiv’s counteroffensive has so far failed to breach Russia’s defensive lines despite widespread assistance from its allies.
The Russian army claimed to have advanced one kilometer (less than one mile) along the frontline in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s northeastern province.
Ukraine is set to receive further military assistance in the battle, with the US unveiling a fresh $1.3 billion aid package that includes air defense systems, anti-tank missiles, drones, and other equipment.