As Russia resumes its blockade of ships carrying food from Ukraine, its military bombarded Odesa and a nearby port late Tuesday and early Wednesday — specifically targeting the ability to export grain, Ukrainian officials said.

Hours later, that of Russia Ministry of Defense issued a warning dispatch operators and other nations suggesting that any attempt to bypass the blockade might be seen as an act of war.

From midnight, “all vessels en route to Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea will be considered as potential carriers of military cargo,” it said in a statement. “Accordingly, the flag countries of such ships will be considered involved in the Ukrainian conflict on the part of the Kyiv regime.” The ministry added that even parts of the Black Sea in international waters “have been declared temporarily dangerous for navigation”.

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of using food as leverage in the war, in an attempt to spread Ukraine’s pain to the rest of the globe.

“The night strike hit a significant part of the grain export infrastructure of the port of Chornomorsk”, just south of Odesa, Mykola Solskyi, Ukraine’s Minister of Agriculture. said in a statement, adding that experts estimated the damage would take at least a year to repair. In Chornomorsk, just south of Odessa, “60,000 tons of grain were also destroyed, which was supposed to be loaded on a large tonnage ship” and shipped two months ago, he added.

Moscow on Monday withdrew from a UN-negotiated deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea for the past year, helping ease global shortages and prices. The Russian navy prevented all other shipping from entering or leaving Ukrainian ports, and Russian authorities inspected grain ships to ensure they were not carrying military equipment.

“Every Russian missile is a blow not only to Ukraine, but to everyone in the world who wants a normal and safe life,” Mr Zelensky said on the Telegram messaging app on Wednesday.

Russian forces fired at least 30 cruise missiles and 32 attack drones at Ukraine overnight, mainly from ships on the Black Sea, The Air Force of Ukraine said, adding that Ukrainian forces captured 14 of the missiles and 23 of the drones. It was the second straight night of concentrated attacks on Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port, and other shipping centers.

“It was a hellish night,” Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa regional military administration, said in a video message posted on social media. He called the attack “very powerful, really massive” and said it may have been the biggest attack on the city since Russia’s full-scale invasion began.

On Tuesday, Moscow denied that the previous night’s bombardment was related to the recently suspended grain deal, calling it a “massive retaliatory strike” against facilities used to manufacture attack drones, particularly the naval drones used in Monday’s attack on the connecting bridge. Russia to the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula.

In the bombardment until Wednesday morning, blast waves from one intercepted missile damaged several buildings and injured civilians, according to the Ukrainian military. Port infrastructure, including a grain and oil terminal, tanks and loading equipment, was damaged, the military said, and tobacco and fireworks warehouses were also hit. The Odessa city government said 10 people needed medical help, including a 9-year-old boy.

Drones fired by anti-aircraft gunners lit up the night sky like deadly fireworks as families huddled in hallways and bathrooms. At resort hotels that flank the harbor, guests were rushed through kitchens and past sun loungers to shelters.

One missile sailed past the cranes and warehouses in the shipyard and crashed into the burial site of Iryna Pustovarova’s father. After the sun rose, she went to check a cemetery, but had to wait for bomb disposal technicians to make sure there were no unexploded ordnance. Even the dead, said the 19-year-old, tears streaming down her face, cannot rest in peace in Ukraine.

Russia also launched a wave of drones on Wednesday at Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, but all were destroyed by the city’s air defenses, said Serhiy Popko, the head of the city’s military administration.

In Crimea, a major fire at a military training ground prompted the evacuation of at least 2,000 residents and the closure of a highway, according to Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-appointed head of Crimea. It was not immediately clear whether the fire resulted from a Ukrainian attack.

Russia’s ability to strike critical infrastructure reflects the patchy nature of Ukraine’s air defenses, which are dense around Kyiv and some other locations, but sparse elsewhere.

“We can cover Odesa ports, Kyiv region, Dnipro, Lviv,” Yurii Ihnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, said in an appearance on Ukrainian television. “But we cannot block all the directions from which missiles are flying into Ukraine.”

Before the war, Ukraine and Russia were among the world’s largest exporters of grain, cooking oil and fertilizer, and were particularly important suppliers to parts of Africa and the Middle East. With the Russian blockade of Ukraine and Western sanctions against Russia, those exports fell early last year, worsening global shortages, sending prices soaring and raising fears of famine.

The grain deal struck in July 2022 allowed Ukrainian shipments to resume, and the United Nations says the country has exported nearly 33 million tons of grain by sea since then. Ukraine also boosted exports by train, truck and river barge.

The agreement also included steps to moderate Russian agricultural exports, but the Kremlin often complained that the measures were insufficient.

On Monday, Moscow followed through on repeated threats to withdraw from the deal. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision.

Chicago wheat futures, a global benchmark price, rose 9 percent on Wednesday after Russia’s statement, their biggest upward percentage move since the war broke out in February last year. But with global supplies more plentiful than last year, prices remain well below the levels reached when the war first began.

On Wednesday, the United States said it would send $1.3 billion in financial aid to Kiev to buy a raft of new military equipment and ammunition, including four more air defense missile systems called NASAMS, jointly produced by the United States and Norway; more 152mm artillery shells for Ukraine’s older Soviet shells; anti-tank missiles; attack drones and land clearing equipment.

More ammunition and demining are among the most pressing needs of the Ukrainian military in its counteroffensive, which has so far gained little ground.

But far from the battlefields, there were signs of vulnerability for Moscow.

The Kremlin has announced that President Vladimir V. Putin will not personally attend a diplomatic summit next month in South Africa, a decision that allows the host nation to avoid the difficult decision of whether to arrest the Russian leader, who is the subject of international attention. warrant on war crimes charges.

And, in speaking to Political event in PragueRichard Moore, the head of Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency, in a rare public appearance, said Mr. Putin “cut a deal to save his skin” and put down the rebellion last month by Wagner’s mercenary group and its leader, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin. .

“I think he probably feels a bit of pressure,” Mr Moore said of Mr Putin, speaking at the British ambassador’s residence in the Czech capital. “Prygozhin was his creature, completely created by Putin, and yet he turned against him.”

Marc Santora reported from Odessa, Ukraine, Matthew Mpoke Bigg from London and Joe Rennison from New York. Reporting was contributed by John Ismay from Washington and John Eligon from Johannesburg.

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