News Outrage over Russia’s strikes on Odessa as Ukraine tries to restart grain exports
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Outrage over Russia’s strikes on Odessa as Ukraine tries to restart grain exports

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Russia has told African leaders Moscow is not to blame for food shortages, despite its war on Ukraine threatening the movement of crucial supplies – and despite missile attacks just after striking a deal for the safe passage of grain.

President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced this weekend’s strikes on key port city Odesa as blatant “barbarism” that showed Moscow could not be trusted to implement a deal struck on Friday.

Public broadcaster Suspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying the missiles had not significantly damaged the port.

Russia said on Sunday its forces had hit a Ukrainian warship and a weapons store in Odesa with missiles.

The deal signed by Moscow and Kyiv was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that would help curb soaring global food prices by restoring grain shipments from Ukrainian ports to pre-war levels of five million tonnes a month.

But Mr Zelensky’s economic adviser said on Sunday the strike on Odesa showed deliveries could still get seriously disrupted.

“Yesterday’s strike indicates that it will definitely not work like that,” Oleh Ustenko told Ukranian television.

Ukraine has the capacity to export 60 million tonnes of grain over the next nine months, but this could take up to 24 months if its ports could not function properly, he said.

Russian news agencies quoted Russia’s defence ministry as saying that an Ukrainian warship and US-supplied anti-ship missiles were destroyed.

“A docked Ukrainian warship and a warehouse with US-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles were destroyed by long-range precision-guided naval missiles in Odesa seaport on the territory of a ship repair plant,” it said.

The strikes on Odesa drew condemnation from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy.

On Monday morning (Australian time), Russia’s Foreign Minister initiated a diplomatic offensive in Egypt where he made a speech to Arab League ambassadors.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Hassan Shoukry in Cairo, Egypt. Photo: Getty

Sergei Lavrov is touring African nations to counter claims Moscow is causing food shortages, a crisis further starving some of the world’s poorest people.

“Speculations by western and Ukrainian propaganda that Russia is allegedly ‘exporting hunger’ are absolutely groundless,” Mr Lavrov wrote in a letter published African newspapers.

He added that Russia appreciated Africans’ “balanced position” on the issue of Ukraine.

-with wires