Russian forces fired four Kaliber missiles at the Ukrainian port city of Odesa less than 24 hours after an agreement was made Friday to allow grain exports to resume. The US Secretary of State condemned the attack stating that it undermined Russia’s commitment to the deal. He described the attack as “outrageous.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesman was a little more colorful, describing the shelling as a “spit in the face” of hard-fought efforts to free 22 million tons of grain stuck in Ukrainian silos since Russia’s invasion in February of this year.
Ukrainian air defenses shot down two of the $6.5 million (each) Kaliber cruise missiles. The other two impacted in Odesa but did hit any grain silos, and no one on the ground was killed or injured. However, the mayor of Odessa has commented on a Facebook post that the historical center of Odessa should be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List to protect it from further attacks.
The grain deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, was designed to help lift a Black Sea blockade that has led to fears of widespread famine, especially in Africa and the Middle East. The deal (and Russia hasn’t been that great at keeping their word during this war) was supposed to provide security for Russia and Ukraine, with Russia agreeing not to “undertake any attacks against merchant vessels and other civilian vessels and port facilities” tied to the initiative.
The cornerstone of the agreement was Russia’s promise not to attack the city of Odesa, two other Black Sea ports used for grain shipments.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky weighed in on the matter, “This proves only one thing: No matter what Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement it,” This is an extremely important point, how are the Ukrainians supposed to sit down with the Russians and try to negotiate a good faith peace agreement when, time and time again, the Russians have broken their word. Once trust is gone, it’s gone, especially when the cost of breaking that trust is often measured in human lives.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stated Saturday that Ukrainian officials told him that the strikes had not hampered the “capacity and capability of the docks, which is important.” But then, Akar shared something genuinely troubling. He said:
“The Russians told us they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack, and they were examining the issue very closely and in detail. We are also disturbed by this.”
Disturbed is putting it mildly. Seriously, WTF? One day they promise in front of the world not to mess with Ukrainian ports, and the next day they fire $25 million worth of cruise missiles into them. Do they actually think anyone will believe them when they use the defense of “Hey, wasn’t us”? They have to realize that we have extremely powerful reconnaissance spy satellites in orbit, which are essentially the equivalent of a Ring doorbell camera for the entire globe. We know damn well who fired those missiles, yet still, they deny it. Who else in the region has Kalibre cruise missiles to shoot at somebody?
Not long after this blanket denial, the Russian Defence Minister then admitted to the strike, repudiating the accounts by hos own government claiming,
“High-precision, long-range missiles launched from the sea destroyed a docked Ukrainian warship and a stockpile of anti-ship missiles delivered by the United States to the Kyiv regime,” .
“A Ukrainian army repair and upgrade plant has also been put out of order.”
While it is easy to chalk up the attacks as another example of Russia not being able to keep its word ever on anything, given the general state of disorganization and confusion of the Russian army in Ukraine, it’s entirely possible the port was attacked by a unit that didn’t know that a deal had been reached to leave it alone.
UN officials report that any violations of the safe passage of grain agreement are meant to be resolved by a coordination center in Istanbul that will be jointly run by Turkey, Russia, and the United Nations. The only problem is that such a “coordination center” has yet to be set up.