Day 511: Russia launches most intense attack at Odesa region

Ports of Odesa and Chornomorsk are damaged in most intense Russian attack since the invasion. Zelenskyi outlines how Ukraine wants to restart passage of grain. Russia says it will consider all ships heading to Ukraine “military targets”.

Ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk damaged in most intense Russian attack since invasion

Overnight into July 19, an air raid alert was declared in most Ukrainian regions. In some, sirens went off several times. Russian forces launched Kh-22, Kh-59, Kalibr, and Onyx missiles, and Shahed drones in several waves.    

All attack drones directed at Kyiv were intercepted. While a Russian strike at Odesa was the most intense since the invasion. The strikes damaged grain terminals and port infrastructure in the ports of Odesa and Chornomorsk that are part of the grain deal. 

Ukraine’s Minister of Agricultural Policy and Food Mykola Solskyi said in a statement that it will take at least a year to fully restore the damaged facilities. The attack put a significant part of the grain export infrastructure of the Chornomorsk port out of commission, he added.

The minister said the 60,000 tons of grain destroyed in the strike were supposed to be loaded on a large-tonnage ship and sent through the grain corridor 60 days ago.

Zelenskyi outlines how Ukraine wants to restart passage of grain

Ukraine weighs possibility to secure safe passage for grain, including through shipping escorts, President Zelenskyi said at a joint news conference with Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach of Ireland on Wednesday.  

“How can we guarantee safe passage? There are different aspects to it. We asked about shipping escorts. This needs to be discussed not only with Turkey, but also with our other partners,” he said.

“The UN, Turkey, and the military can say that they cannot give us 100 per cent guarantee,” he added. “But that would be a very easy position, and not the one we’re ready to accept. We need the passage to be operational,” Zelenskyi said.

Russia to consider all ships heading to Ukraine “military targets”

From midnight Moscow time on July 20, Russia will consider all ships in the Black Sea heading to Ukraine as potential carriers of military equipment, Russia’s defense ministry said.

It added the flag states of ships travelling to Ukrainian ports would also be considered as on Ukraine’s side of the conflict. The ministry said it was declaring southeastern and northwestern parts of the Black Sea’s international waters as unsafe for navigation.

On July 17, Russia quit the grain deal, with an explanation that the Crimean bridge was attacked.

Russia said it no longer guarantees the safety of shipping in the northwestern Black Sea. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi said Kyiv was ready to work with Turkey and the United Nations to continue the deal.

The Black Sea grain deal agreed in July 2022 with mediation of the UN and Turkey, unblocked shipments of grains from three ports. The grain passage began to operate on August 1, 2022.