For a few hours at least, it seemed that Turkey had brokered a grain deal between Russia and Ukraine that would allow shipments via the port of Odesa to ease the global food crisis. The UN reports that about 47 million people face an acute food shortage worldwide. Then, Russia launched cruise missiles at the port infrastructure of Odesa less than 24 hours later.
Currently, there are millions of tons of Ukrainian grain are waiting to be shipped to the world’s hardest hit areas of famine, mainly in the Horn of Africa, which has been hit by terrible droughts. Another 500,000 tons of Ukrainian grain were taken by the Russians in areas that they seized in the invasion.
Turkey and the UN Broker A Landmark Deal:
After months of negotiations, Turkey and the UN were able to broker a deal that would allow 20 million tons of grain to be shipped via Odesa through the Bosporus Straits to the world’s most needy places. It would also allow Ukrainian grain that is currently being harvested to be stored in silos, about 75 percent of which is exported.
After the deal was signed, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday, “Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea. A beacon of hope; a beacon of possibility; a beacon of relief, in a world that needs it more than ever.”
“Promoting the welfare of humanity has been the driving force of these talks,” he added. “The question has not been what is good for one side or the other. The focus has been on what matters most for the people of our world. And let there be no doubt — this is an agreement for the world.”
It is estimated that about 5 million tons of grain a month can move through Odesa. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “millions of people will be relieved of this danger of hunger” as a result of the deal.
“In the coming days, we will see the start of ship traffic, and many countries will have a breath of fresh air,” Erdogan said.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was in Instanbul and vowed that Russia would not interfere with the grain shipments. But the Russians’ pledge didn’t last long.
Odesa Port Infrastructure Targeted in Cruise Missile Attack:
Early on Saturday, Russia launched four cruise missiles in an attack at the port of Odesa. The attack came less than a day after the agreement was signed. Ukraine’s Operational Command South posted on the Telegram channel messaging app about the attack.
“The enemy attacked the Odesa sea trade port with Kalibr cruise missiles; 2 missiles were shot down by air defense forces; 2 hit the infrastructure of the port,” the report said.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry condemned Saturday’s airstrike as a “spit in the face” of Turkey and the United Nations, which worked for three months to get the agreement done.
“It took less than 24 hours for Russia to launch a missile attack on Odesa’s port, breaking its promises and undermining its commitments before the U.N. and Turkey under the Istanbul agreement,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said. “In case of non-fulfillment, Russia will bear full responsibility for a global food crisis.”
US Ambassador Labels The Airstrike As Outrageous:
The US Ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, blasted the Russian airstrike on the Odesa port infrastructure calling the attack “outrageous.”
“Russia strikes the port city of Odesa less than 24 hours after signing an agreement to allow shipments of agricultural exports,” she posted on her Twitter account.
“The Kremlin continues to weaponize food,” she added. “Russia must be held to account.”
Meanwhile, in Washington, the US is preparing to send another $270 million dollars worth of military equipment to Ukraine. That aid package is said to include four more HIMARS missile launchers and drones.
The US is still mulling over training and supplying more advanced US aircraft to the Ukrainians. Such a move would possibly supply the Ukrainian Air Force with F-16s and the aging A-10 ground attack aircraft that the Air Force is intent on retiring.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.