Putin 'Spit in the Face' of UN by Striking Port After Grain Deal: Ukraine

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin "spit" in the face of the United Nations and Turkey after Russia was accused of striking a Ukrainian port in Odessa with missiles.

The reported strike came hours after Russia and Ukraine had reached a deal, which the U.N. and Turkey had helped broker, to unblock ports in the Black Sea in order to free tens of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain.

"The Russian missile (strike) is (Russian President) Vladimir Putin's spit in the face of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep (Tayyip) Erdogan, who made enormous efforts to reach the agreement," said Ukraine Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko on Saturday, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). "If the reached agreement is not fulfilled, Russia will bear full responsibility for deepening the global food crisis."

Putin 'Spit' in Face of UN: Ukraine
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin "spit" in the face of the United Nations and Turkey after Russia was accused of striking a Ukrainian port in Odessa with missiles. Above, the bay of the city of Odessa, on April 20, 2014. Alexey Kravstov

The BBC reported that under the terms of the agreements, Moscow has said it will not target ports while shipments are in transit. Ukrainian vessels will guide cargo ships through mined waters, where these vessels will be inspected by Turkey—with U.N. support—to ensure there are no weapons onboard. Russian exports of grain and fertilizer through the Black Sea will also be facilitated.

World leaders are hopeful that the deals will ease soaring food prices, particularly in the Middle East and Africa where certain nations are especially reliant on exports from Ukraine and Russia.

Before the alleged attack on Odessa, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Friday during a press conference that Ukraine didn't trust Russia to respect the Black Sea deal.

"I don't think anyone has reasons to trust Russia," he said. "We invest our trust in the United Nations as the driving force of this agreement."

According to the Ukrainian military's Southern Command, two Russian Kalibr cruise missiles hit port infrastructure, but that there were no injuries, the Associated Press reported. However, the news outlet also reported that Odessa's regional governor said that an unspecified number of people were injured.

Newsweek has reached out to the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.

Turkey's defense minister said Saturday that Russia claims it had "nothing to do" with the strikes on Odessa.

However, Russia admitted on Sunday that it was responsible for the strikes in Odessa. "Kalibr missiles destroyed military infrastructure in the port of Odessa, with a high-precision strike," Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for Russia's Foreign Ministry, stated on Telegram. It's currently unclear why Russia has now decided to backtrack from its initial stance on the attack.

Despite the attack, Ukraine said it's still preparing to export its grain.

"We continue technical preparations for the launch of exports of agricultural products from our ports," Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said, according to Reuters.

In a statement on Saturday, Farhan Haq, a deputy spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, said the leader "condemns" the attack.

"Yesterday, all parties made clear commitments on the global stage to ensure the safe movement of Ukrainian grain and related products to global markets," Haq wrote. "These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and ease the suffering of millions of people in need around the globe. Full implementation by the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Türkiye is imperative."

Update 7/24/22, 10:47 a.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information.
This story was updated with new information at 10:45 a.m. on 07/24/2022.