Granaries were destroyed by cruise missiles, and Odessa’s port was “significantly damaged,” according to Ukraine’s southern command, which said part of the attack was carried out by Russian warships. Rescue workers discovered at least two people dead in the rubble, regional governor Oleh Kiper said, describing them as workers at a grain warehouse.
The strikes and falling debris shattered windows and ignited several fires, including at a home and warehouse buildings, officials said. The Ukrainian command claimed its air defense intercepted the majority of the threats, including all 19 of the Iranian-designed drones involved.
The strike follows months of attacks by Russia to erode Ukraine’s grain industry, a crucial sector of its economy that is already stressed by tense regional politics. The attacks have increased as the summer harvest season ended and farmers turned to shipping the grain for sale around the world, where it is desperately needed by developing countries facing food shortages.
Disruptions in the Black Sea have forced Ukraine to explore overland routes, but Kyiv has faced resistance from some of its closest neighbors, including Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, over fears that relatively cheap Ukrainian grain would flood their markets, drive down prices and hurt local farmers.
Poland, an important defense partner, said it would stop providing new weapons to Kyiv as the grain feud flared, but Warsaw then said it would assist Ukraine in transporting the grain to poorer nations. Slovakia and Ukraine agreed to licensing grain deals aimed at breaking the impasse.
The diplomatic battle has been observed with apparent satisfaction in Moscow. “We realize that friction will also grow between Kyiv and other European capitals; it is inevitable,” Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said last week.
Over the summer, Russia unilaterally terminated a United Nations-sponsored agreement that had assured safe passage for cargo ships in the Black Sea.
The skies over the Black Sea have become increasingly congested with drones and missiles launched from both sides, and in some places, the waters are filled with mines.
Kyiv has escalated attacks on occupied Crimea, the peninsula illegally invaded and annexed by Russia in 2014, including a bold missile strike on Friday on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol.
Ukrainian operations have also targeted Russian airfields and a dry dock in Sevastopol. That attack, earlier this month, damaged a submarine and a landing ship.