Russia Strikes Danube River Port, Escalating Attacks on Ukrainian Agriculture

Russian drones hit a Ukrainian port town on the Danube River, local authorities said on Monday, destroying a grain hangar in an apparent escalation of efforts to cripple Ukraine’s ability to export agricultural products, one of the country’s leading industries.

The explosions in the town of Reni — just across the river from Romania, a NATO member — would be the closest Russia has come to hitting alliance territory and risking a more direct confrontation with the United States and its European allies.

Ukrainian officials and Romania’s president blamed the attack on Russia, which has spent the past week bombarding Ukrainian ports near the city of Odesa after pulling out of a deal that enabled Ukraine to ship its grain across the Black Sea.

But the strike on a river port about 70 miles from the coast appeared to signal that Moscow had expanded its campaign against Ukraine’s agricultural export infrastructure by targeting alternate routes for grain to reach world markets.

A photo released by the Ukrainian military on Monday showed damage to infrastructure at a port on the Danube River in the Odesa region of Ukraine.Credit…Operational Command South of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, via Shutterstock

Global wheat prices, which rose last week after Russia pulled out of the Black Sea deal, rose by around 6.2 percent in Monday afternoon trading.

A local news website in Reni, a town of around 18,000 people, published a photograph of the aftermath. The town is more than 130 miles southwest of the city of Odesa, the focus of recent attacks on shipping infrastructure, and lies on the east bank of the Danube, just a few hundred yards from Romania.

Russia has previously fired on western Ukraine near the border with Poland, also a NATO member, but had not hit Ukrainian facilities so close to territory covered by the military alliance’s commitment to respond jointly to an attack on a member state.

President Klaus Iohannis of Romania said on Twitter that he condemned an attack by Russia on Ukrainian infrastructure close to his country’s borders and said the “recent escalation poses serious risks to the security in the Black Sea,” as well as affecting Ukrainian grain shipments and global food security. He did not specifically mention the drone strike in Reni.

Romania’s ministry of defense said it was maintaining a posture of “enhanced vigilance” with its allies along the alliance’s eastern flank.

“There are no potential direct military threats against our national territory or Romania’s territorial waters,” the ministry said in a statement.

The new attack comes after a week of increased hostilities in the Black Sea region, with Russia sending a nightly barrage of missiles into the city of Odesa, while both Russia and Ukraine warned that they might target ships heading to their adversary’s ports.

The drone attack occurred over the course of four hours, Oleh Kiper, the head of the regional military administration, wrote on the Telegram messaging app, adding that three drones were shot down by Ukraine’s air defenses. He said that seven people were injured.

The Danube River delta, a network of waterways crisscrossing the border region between Ukraine, Romania and Moldova, was rarely used to export Ukrainian grain before Russia started its full-scale invasion in February 2022, but has over the past year become an indispensable freight lifeline.

The grain deal that was first reached last year covered a trio of major Black Sea ports, enabling Ukraine to ship more than 30 million tons of grain. But at the same time, smaller ports on the Danube that were not part of the deal were also able to send out shipments that wended their way to the Black Sea and eventually to international destinations.

Those routes — as well as overland routes — became vital with Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea deal.

Since the start of the war, Ukraine has sent more than 20 million tons of grain to foreign markets through Romania and millions more by train through Poland, a flood that has infuriated East European farmers who say it has driven down local prices.

The attack appeared to be the first known Russian strike on a port in the Danube delta in the war. Mike Lee, director of Green Square Agro Consultancy, which specializes in the Black Sea and Eastern Europe, called it a “massive escalation” by Moscow in terms of the effect it could have on Ukraine’s ability to use alternative routes.

Ukraine has been exporting around two million metric tons of grain per month through its Danube River ports, according to Benoît Fayaud, deputy executive director of Stratégie Grains, an agricultural economy research firm.

The attack on Reni could deter commercial vessels from using the port in the short term and could raise the cost of insurance, Mr. Fayaud said. He said the assault on the port was likely one reason for the rise in wheat prices.

Ukraine is a major producer of grain and other food crops. The United Nations has said that Russia’s attempts to stop Ukraine’s exports exacerbate a hunger crisis faced by some countries in Africa and the Middle East, including Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan.

Last summer, Brussels took steps to smooth the path for Ukraine’s overland grain exports. But after protests by farmers in some E.U. countries, the bloc allowed Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower seeds, though they continued to allow the transit of those items for export elsewhere.

The ban is expected to end on September 15. Last week, however, ministers from those five countries called for the bloc to allow the bans to be extended — a call that further underlined the importance of the Danube River ports to Ukraine.

Yurii Shyvala contributed reporting.

Source link

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest Articles