Russia launched an overnight air attack on one of Ukraine’s major grain exporting ports, Ukrainian officials said, hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Tayyip Erdogan, were due to hold talks.
Ukraine’s air force urged residents of Izmail port, one of Ukraine’s two major grain-exporting ports on the Danube River in the Odesa region, to seek shelter after midnight on Monday. Some Ukraine media reported the sound of blasts in the area.
Putin and Erdogan were to meet on Monday in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi as Ankara and the United Nations seek to revive a Ukraine grain export deal that helped ease a global food crisis. Ankara called the talks vital for the deal.
Russia quit the deal in July — a year after it was brokered by the United Nations and Turkiye — complaining that its own food and fertilizer exports faced obstacles and that not enough Ukrainian grain was going to countries in need.
After quitting the Black Sea grain deal, Moscow has launched frequent attacks on the ports of the Danube River, which has since become Ukraine’s major route for exporting grain.
Monday’s attack — the scale of which was not immediately known — followed Russia’s strikes on Sunday on the other major Danube port of Reni, in which the port’s infrastructure was damaged and at least two people injured.
Moscow, meanwhile, hyped up its use of hypersonic, air-launched Kinzhal missiles in Ukraine by presenting with state awards the first crew that launched them.
"The Su-34 aircraft used the Kinzhal hypersonic missile during the special military operation", Russian TASS state news agency cited an unnamed military source as saying. “The first crew that successfully completed this task was presented with state awards.”
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation.” Kyiv and its allies say the 18-month-long Russian aggression is an unprovoked war to grab land.
Moscow has said very little so far about the Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile, but Ukraine’s military Kyiv says Russia uses them frequently.
TASS did not say when Russia used the Kinzhal missiles for the first time in Ukraine. The Russian defense ministry said in March that the missiles had been deployed to destroy Ukrainian targets, according to the ministry’s Telegram channel.
The Kinzhal is one of six “next generation” weapons unveiled by President Vladimir Putin in a speech in March 2018.