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Port of Odesa Bombed Again in Sustained Effort to Snarl Ukraine’s Grain Exports

Financial Times writer Roman Olearchyk reported today that, “Russian forces pummeled the Black Sea port city of Odesa in the early hours of Monday as they continued their months-long campaign of air strikes aimed at hobbling Ukraine’s grain exports.”

The FT article noted that, “Oleg Kiper, governor of the southern Odesa region which is home to multiple ports that have been blockaded and bombed as part of an effort to choke Ukraine’s exports of grain and other commodities including steel, said: ‘Russian terrorists attacked Odesa region with strike drones and two types of missiles.'”

Olearchyk explained that, “The latest strikes on Odesa came after three cargo ships docked this weekend at the nearby Chornomorsk and Pivdeny ports. Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, said the vessels were ‘using a temporary corridor established by the Ukrainian Navy to export 127,000 tonnes of agroproducts and iron ore to China, Egypt and Spain.’

“The corridor, which Ukraine has protected with long-range air defences and missiles provided by western allies, hugs the coast of the Odesa region and Ukraine’s southern neighbours, Romania and Bulgaria, both members of the Nato military alliance.”

Also today, Reuters writer Anna Pruchnicka reported that,

An overnight Russian air strike on the southern Ukrainian region of Odesa caused ‘significant damage’ to port infrastructure and destroyed some grain storage facilities, Ukrainian officials said on Monday.

“The Russian attack on Odesa was the latest in a series of missile and drone strikes which Kyiv says are intended to prevent Ukraine, a major grain producer and exporter, shipping its agricultural products to the world,” the Reuters article said.

And New York Times writers Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Andrés R. Martínez reported today that, “Russia struck Odesa with missiles and drones on Monday in Moscow’s first large attack on the Ukrainian city’s port since the country started testing a new route to ship grain out of the Black Sea.”

The Times article stated that, “Russian forces have repeatedly attacked Odesa since July, when Moscow terminated a deal that allowed Ukraine to export its wheat and other crops across the Black Sea to Turkish waters. Ukraine last week loaded a cargo ship with wheat at a port just south of Odesa, and it sailed without incident to Romanian waters, in the first test of a new coastal route.

“Turbulent Waters: How the Black Sea Became a Hot Spot in the War,” by Marc Santora and Steven Erlanger. The New York Times (August 9, 2023).

“Moscow had warned that it would consider any ship approaching a Ukrainian port to potentially be carrying military cargo. Late last week, three more cargo ships arrived in or near Ukrainian ports, where they were to be loaded with wheat and other food crops for export, according to Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov.

Fighting in the Black Sea has escalated in recent weeks, making it a significant theater in a war that began when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine 19 months ago.”

With respect to Ukrainian counter-attacks, Constant Méheut reported in Sunday’s New York Times that, “The Russian-installed authorities in occupied Crimea said Ukrainian forces targeted the peninsula with another air attack on Saturday, the second in two days as Kyiv increasingly takes aim at the region in an effort to disrupt Moscow’s military operations.”

“Saturday’s attack came a day after Ukrainian forces launched a missile strike that damaged the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters. Russia’s Defense Ministry said that a serviceman was missing after that attack.”

Matthew Mpoke Bigg, writing in today’s New York Times, reported that, “With Ukraine’s Black Sea ports under fire, its shipping had since July been limited to exports on the Danube River through much smaller ports — which have also come under attack in recent weeks — and aboard much smaller vessels. Ukraine has also exported some grain since the full-scale invasion began via road and rail into the European Union, though this too has become fraught with difficulty amid opposition from governments in Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.”

“But last week Kyiv successfully tested a new sea route, as two cargo vessels loaded with wheat sailed along the coast from Romania and then crossed back over the maritime border of Romania. As Romania is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, vessels in its waters are considered much less likely to be attacked. The second vessel carrying Ukrainian wheat reached Turkey via the Black Sea on Sunday, maritime traffic monitoring sites showed.”

And Reuters writer Pavel Polityuk reported today that, “Ukrainian grain exports over Sept. 1-24 totalled 1.57 million metric tons, down sharply from the 3.21 million tons in the corresponding period last year, agriculture ministry data showed on Monday.”

The article pointed out that, “The ministry data showed that Ukraine has exported a total of 6.2 million tons of grain so far in the 2023/24 July-June season, versus 7.5 million tons in the same period of the previous season.

“The volume included almost 3 million tons of wheat, 2.5 million tons of corn and 599,000 tons of barley.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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