‘Trying to make the world starve’: Russian drones destroy grain warehouses at Ukraine ports

11 months ago 14

Russian drones launched a four-hour attack on Ukraine’s Danube ports of Reni and Izmail, destroying grain warehouses and other facilities, as Moscow appeared to escalate its attempts to strangle Kyiv’s globally important agricultural exports.

The attacks, using Iranian supplied drones, follow Russia’s withdrawal this month from the Black Sea deal that allowed Ukraine to export its grain and threats by both Moscow and Kyiv to target civilian carriers visiting ports.

Ukrainian officials said 15 Shahed-136 drones were launched against warehouses on the Danube River overnight and six people had been wounded on Monday.

Damaged metal work on a sheetmetal structure above stacked Maersk and Hamburg shipping containers
A photo said to show damaged infrastructure at a Danube port. Photograph: Ukrainian Ground Forces/EPA

“Russia hit another Ukrainian grain storage overnight,” Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, wrote on Twitter, without identifying the location of the target.

“It [Russia] tries to extract concessions by holding 400 million people hostage. I urge all nations, particularly those in Africa and Asia who are most affected by rising food prices, to mount a united global response to food terrorism.”

Commenting on the attacks, the governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region, Oleh Kiper, told Ukrainian television: “Russia is trying to fully block the export of our grain and make the world starve.”

The drone attacks follow a rise in Russian strikes on infrastructure associated with Ukrainian grain exports in the last week. There have been daily attacks since Moscow withdrew from the Black Sea deal, including on the key port facilities in Odesa, which had been central to the agreement.

Video posted on social media showed large explosions in Reni port, which is about 3 miles (5km) from the border with Romania, a Nato member.

“Warehouses where grain crops were stored were destroyed, tanks for storing other types of cargo were damaged. There was a fire in one of the production premises, which was promptly extinguished,” local police said.

The grain deal, which required ships bound for Ukraine’s ports to be inspected before docking, had permitted the safe shipment of grain from southern Ukraine after Russia ships had blockaded the ports, triggering global food crisis.

Reni is situated by Lake Cahul, a few miles inland on the Danube, which has become the main shipping route for the export of grain from Ukraine since the collapse of the Black Sea deal on 17 July.

The Danube has grown in importance during the Ukraine conflict at best can only replace 50% of Odesa port’s capacity, not least because of the shallower waterway.

Moscow has increasingly tried to justify its departure from the Black Sea grain deal claiming it had found remnants of explosives onboard a bulk carrier crossing the Black Sea, which had made a stop at a Ukrainian river port earlier this year.

“On 22 July, in the hold of a foreign dry cargo ship en route from Turkey to the port of Rostov-on-Don to load grain crops, traces of explosives – dinitrotoluene and tetryl – were found,” the FSB said on Monday. It alleged the ship had visited the Ukrainian river port of Kiliya, on the Danube.

Apparently conscious of the profound impact of rising food prices in the developing world, Moscow has attempted to deflect blame, with Russia’s ambassador to Kenya, Dmitry Maksimychev, writing an editorial for two of Kenya’s largest newspapers blaming the US and EU for “weaponising food”.

The Russian attempts to hinder export via the Danube route would leave only EU-backed “solidarity lanes” for grain export, rail and road transit through Moldova.

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