Barely twelve hours after Moscow signed a deal with Ukraine to allow monitored grain exports from Ukraine's southern ports, Russia targeted its main port of Odesa -- through which grain shipments would take place -- with cruise missile strikes, media reports said.
"The enemy attacked the Odesa sea trade port with Kalibr cruise missiles," Ukraine's Operational Command South wrote on Telegram app, raising new doubts about the viability of the deal which was intended to release some 20 million tonnes of grain to ward of famine in large parts of the developing world, The Guardian reported.
In one of the largest attacks on the city since the war began, the air strikes rattled buildings in the city centre and sent up a plume of smoke that was visible across the city, it said.
On Odesa's seafront, beachgoers applauded as the city's air defences brought down two of four missiles, with the remaining two hitting the port. The attack on Odesa was one of a series of Russian strikes across Ukraine, with the city of Kropyvnytsky being hit by 13 missiles on Saturday morning.
The new attacks came hours after Moscow and Kyiv signed deals with the United Nations and Turkey that were intended to avert a global food crisis. The agreements clear the way for the shipment of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain and some Russian exports of grain and fertiliser held up by the war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that the agreements offer "a chance to prevent a global catastrophe a famine that could lead to political chaos in many countries of the world, in particular in the countries that help us", The Guardian reported.