Russia hits Ukraine's Black Sea port of Odesa in wake of grain deal The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry denounced Saturday's strike as "spitting in the face" of Turkey and the United Nations, which brokered the grain export agreements.

Russia strikes Ukraine's Black Sea port of Odesa hours after grain deals signed

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Yesterday, international leaders were praising a deal that would ensure Ukrainian grain gets exported from the port of Odesa. Less than 20 hours after the deal was signed, though, Ukraine reported missile strikes on the harbor, already violating one of the central terms of the agreement. Russian officials have yet to say anything about the explosions, but there's now concern that this attack has damaged a crucial plan to alleviate a growing global food crisis. NPR's Joanna Kakissis has this report from Kyiv.

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JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Videos posted on social media show thick smoke rising from the port of Odesa. The attack was quickly condemned by U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who spent months negotiating this deal with Turkey. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told visiting members of Congress that it proves Russia cannot be trusted. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Taras Vysotsky told NPR that Ukraine is still assessing the damage to the port.

TARAS VYSOTSKY: We can't say right now which part of the infrastructure was destroyed and whether we can keep going.

KAKISSIS: That's an important caveat because the agreement says neither side can attack, quote, "any port structure relevant to the agreement." The port of Odesa is huge - over a hundred acres, with hundreds of buildings. So it's unclear whether that means Russia cannot attack just the grain infrastructure or any part of the port. Vysotsky says that if the deal moves forward, the U.N. and Turkey must clearly define the penalties for violating the deal's terms.

VYSOTSKY: We stated before the deal that, without fixed, reliable guarantees of security, it's not going to work.

KAKISSIS: And Ukraine really needs this deal to work. President Zelenskyy said it would bring in $10 billion into the economy - a huge boost after Ukraine expected to lose almost half of its GDP. Ivan Slobodianyk, the executive director of the Ukrainian Congress of Farmers, says that if the port is not opened, a huge number of farms will go bankrupt.

IVAN SLOBODIANYK: (Through interpreter) Two-thirds of municipalities in rural areas would go into default since 90% of tax payments come from agricultural business. That will result in a huge number of unemployed and the collapse of infrastructure in this area.

KAKISSIS: But Deputy Infrastructure Minister Oleksandra Azarkhina told a Ukrainian public broadcaster that Ukraine is not giving up on this deal, despite the attacks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OLEKSANDRA AZARKHINA: (Non-English language spoken).

KAKISSIS: "Russia has shown its true face," she says, "but that does not mean we are going to stop our efforts to renew our export potential."

Joanna Kakissis, NPR News, Kyiv.

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