Russian air strikes on Ukraine kill four, damage grain and port facilities

Russian air strikes on Ukraine kill four, damage grain and port facilities

By Anna Pruchnicka

(Reuters) -Russian air strikes and shelling killed six people in Ukraine and caused "significant damage" to infrastructure at the Black Sea port of Odesa and to grain storage facilities, Ukrainian officials said on Monday.

The air attacks were part of a campaign that has made it harder for major grain producer Ukraine to export its products since Moscow quit a deal in mid-July that had enabled Black Sea shipments and helped combat a global food crisis.

The strikes have intensified as Kyiv presses on with a counteroffensive in the south and east that has made slow gains but could be boosted by the delivery of U.S.-made Abrams tanks, announced on Monday by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

"Another massive attack on Odesa!", Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said on X. "The attack resulted in the destruction of grain storage facilities and significant damage to the seaport."

Oleh Kiper, the Odesa region governor, said the facilities that were hit had contained almost 1,000 tons of grain and that the bodies of two men were found under the rubble of a warehouse where grain was stored.

Ukraine's military said 19 Iranian-made Shahed drones and 11 cruise missiles were shot down overnight, most of them directed at Odesa region. The grain storage facilities that were destroyed were hit by two supersonic missiles, it said.

The energy ministry said damage to power grids cut off power to more than 1,000 consumers in the Odesa region, a reminder of air strikes that at times left millions of Ukrainians without heating and light in the freezing cold last winter.

ATTACKS ON KHERSON

A man aged 73 and a woman of 70 were killed in a separate air strike on the town of Beryslav in the southern Kherson region, officials said.

The administrative head in the city of Kherson - the region's main centre - later said that two city residents had died and two were injured in Russian shelling.

Russian forces abandoned Kherson city and the west bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson region late last year, but regularly shell different areas from positions on the east bank.

The Ukrainian Defence Ministry said the latest air attack was "a pathetic attempt" to retaliate for a strike on the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea navy on Friday.

Ukraine has been heavily reliant on Western weapons to defend itself against Russia and then to hit back in the counteroffensive that began in early June.

Announcing the latest arms delivery, Zelenskiy said Abrams tanks had already arrived in Ukraine and were being prepared for action.

"I am grateful to our allies for fulfilling the agreements! We are looking for new contracts and expanding our supply geography," said Zelenskiy, who visited the U.S. last week.

Ukraine's counterattack has included stepping up its attacks which Moscow says have hit targets in Russia and Crimea, the peninsula seized and annexed by Moscow in 2014.

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Monday its air defences had shot down drones over the northwestern part of the Black Sea, over Crimea, and over the Russian regions of Kursk and Belgorod. It mentioned no deaths.

Kyiv did not comment on the Russian reports, and Moscow offered no comment on the air strikes in Ukraine.

Kyiv says the air strikes against port and grain facilities are intended to prevent it exporting grain to the world, and global traders follow them closely for fear of further disruption to world markets.

Ukraine is increasingly shipping grain along the Danube River, by road and by train, and has established a "humanitarian corridor" hugging the Black Sea coast to ship grain for African and Asian markets. The first two vessels carrying grain to use the corridor left the Black Sea port of Chornomorsk last week.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly and Anna Pruchnicka; Editing by Michael Perry, Timothy Heritage and Mark Potter)