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Russia strikes Ukraine’s Danube port, sending global grain prices higher

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Russia attacked Ukraine’s grain ports in the early hours of Wednesday, including an inland port across the Danube River from Romania, sending global food prices soaring as Moscow ramps up its use of force to reimpose a blockade of Ukrainian exports.

Ukraine’s defense ministry said a grain silo was damaged in the Danube port of Izmail in the Odesa region.

“Ukrainian grain has the potential to feed millions of people worldwide,” the ministry wrote on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

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There were no reports of casualties, Odesa region governor Oleh Kiper wrote in a post on the Telegram messaging app. Kiper posted several photos showing firefighting crews trying to put out a fire in a blighted high-rise building next to a river.

“Unfortunately, there are damages,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Telegram.

“The most significant ones are in the south of the country. Russian terrorists have once again attacked ports, grain, global food security.”

An industrial source also confirmed Izmail was the main target of the attack, describing the level of damage as “serious.”

Ukraine’s prosecutor's office released pictures showing a war crimes investigator outside a ruined building, and at least two damaged silos with wheat tumbling out.

The port, across the river from NATO-member Romania, has served as the main alternative route out of Ukraine for grain exports since Russia reimposed its de facto blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports in mid-July.

Chicago wheat prices jumped 4 percent following Wednesday’s attack, with traders worried afresh about a hit to global supplies from driving Ukraine, one of the world’s top food exporters, off the market.

Russia has relentlessly attacked Ukrainian agricultural and port infrastructure for more than two weeks, since refusing to extend an agreement that had lifted its war-time blockade of Ukrainian ports last year.

Moscow has demanded better terms for its own food and fertilizer exports, which are already exempt from international financial sanctions.

“The enemy... is trying to destroy Ukrainian grain, attacking industrial and port infrastructure. Unfortunately, there are hits, unfortunately the silo was damaged, and fires broke out at the site,” Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Volunteer Army South, part of Ukraine’s armed forces, said in a video statement.

“Russia is trying to cut Ukraine out of the future grain agreement and, most importantly, to strategically displace our country from the global food market,” he said.

Ukraine’s Danube River ports accounted for around a quarter of grain exports before Russia pulled out of the Black Sea deal and have since become main route out, with grain loaded onto barges and shipped to Romania’s Black Sea port of Constanta for shipment onwards.

On Sunday, Ukrainian media reported several foreign cargo ships had arrived directly at Izmail from the Black Sea, for the first time since the expiration of the grain deal, opening a potential breach in Russia’s newly restored blockade.

The United Nations has warned of a potential food crisis and hunger in the world’s poorest countries as a result of Russia’s decision to abandon the deal, brokered by the UN and Turkey.

Moscow says it will treat ships heading to Ukrainian seaports as potential military targets. Kyiv has said it hopes ships will return anyway, but so far they have not done so.

As a result of the deal's collapse midway through July, Ukraine’s grain exports for the month were down 40 percent from June, analysts said on Tuesday.

Russian drones already targeted Izmail once before in late July, destroying a grain warehouses.

Ukrainian officials have said Moscow has hit 26 port facilities, five civilian vessels and 180,000 tonnes of grain in nine days of strikes since quitting the grain deal. Moscow has said such attacks are retribution for a Ukrainian strike on a bridge that Russia uses to supply its occupation army in southern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Air Force reported that Russia also launched a drone attack on Kyiv and the surrounding region overnight. Air defense shot down 23 drones, but debris from downed drones damaged several buildings in the capital and the region.

No casualties have been reported so far.

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