Ukraine reported fresh flare-ups at its port facilities along the Danube River, hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin was to discuss reviving a grain export deal with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The latest incident involved a drone strike on the Danube River port of Izmail, located in Ukraine's southern Odesa region. The attack reportedly targeted warehouses and production buildings within the port area.
According to Oleg Kiper, who leads the military administration of the Odesa region, some drones that were intercepted and shot down caused fires in civilian buildings. No casualties were reported.
“17 drones were shot down by our air defense forces,” Kiper wrote on his Telegram channel on Monday. “But, unfortunately, there are also hits. In several settlements of Izmail district, warehouses and production buildings, agricultural machinery and equipment of industrial enterprises were damaged.”
The latest attack follows a series of Russian drone strikes on Sunday on another major Danube port, Reni, where infrastructure was damaged and at least two people were injured.
Ukraine's air force claimed to have downed 22 out of 25 Iranian-made "Shahed" drones, which were launched from the Russian territory and Crimea.
The Danube River plays a crucial role as a major export route for Ukrainian grain since July, following Russia's withdrawal from the UN-Türkiye-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative.
Since Russia exited the grain deal in mid-July, the Russian military has launched regular attacks on ports in the Odesa region, targeting both the Black Sea and Danube River facilities. Russian authorities previously stated their intention to consider merchant vessels heading to Ukrainian ports as military targets following the closure of the grain corridor on July 17.
The Black Sea grain deal was brokered between Ukraine and Russia by Türkiye and the UN on July 22, 2022. The deal allowed the resumption of Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea ports that were blocked since Russia launched what it called a “special military operation” on February 24, 2022.
Millions of tonnes of grain were trapped in the country’s silos, causing a surge in food prices, as well as fears of a global food crisis.
As part of the deal, Ukraine resumed grain exports through its ports in the Odesa region, while Moscow secured guarantees for its own grain and fertilizer exports.
According to BBC, over the past year, the deal has enabled Ukraine to export over 32 million tonnes of grain and other foods safely across the Black Sea despite the war.
The deal is particularly critical for countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which rely on Ukrainian wheat and corn imports. Ukraine and Russia are both significant food suppliers, accounting for 29 percent of wheat exports and 80 percent of sunflower exports globally. The exports are mainly through the Black Sea.
Ukraine, often referred to as one of the world's breadbaskets, is a top grain supplier to numerous developing nations. In 2021, the country's grain exports reached $12.2 billion, accounting for nearly a fifth of its total exports.