Ukrainian and Romanian officials said on Monday Russia attacked a port on the Danube River in Ukraine close to the Romanian border for the first time, destroying a grain hangar as it escalated its efforts to cripple Kiev’s agriculture and risk more direct confrontation with the United States and its European allies.
The attack on the port in the city of Reni across the river from NATO member Romania targeted Kiev’s alternative export routes for grain to world markets, days after Russia scrapped a deal that enabled Ukraine to ship its grain across the Black Sea. The attack is one of the closest Moscow has come to striking the military coalition’s territory since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year.
port strike between two freelancer Russian officials blamed Ukrainian forces for the attacks in central Moscow on Monday morning. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on the Telegram messaging app that at least two non-residential buildings were attacked at around 4 a.m. local time. He said there was no “serious damage or casualties.”
Ukrainian and Romanian officials condemned the port attack with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis condemning the attack On Ukrainian infrastructure close to the borders of your country. He said on Twitter that “the recent escalation poses a serious threat to security in the Black Sea,” as well as affecting Ukrainian grain shipments and global food security.
Romania’s defense ministry said it was maintaining a state of “increased vigilance” with its allies in the eastern part of the alliance. But the ministry said in a statement that “there is no potential direct military threat against our national territory or Romania’s territorial waters.”
Since the Kremlin pulled out of the Black Sea grain initiative last week, its forces have launched attacks almost nightly on the city of Odessa – which is about 130 miles from Renni – and its Black Sea port, destroying grain stores and infrastructure. Those attacks, as well as Moscow’s warning that it would treat any ships headed to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports as potentially carrying military cargo, made Ukraine’s alternative grain routes more important.
Ukraine, a major producer of grain and other food crops, is exporting about two million metric tons of grain per month through its Danube ports, according to Benoit Fayoud, deputy executive director of agricultural economy research firm Strategy Grains.
Mr Fayed said the attack in Reni, about 70 miles off the coast, could deter commercial ships from using the port in the short term and raise insurance costs.
Global wheat prices rose nearly 5.5 percent in Monday morning trade.
The Moscow and Danube attacks come amid fierce fighting that has seen Ukraine retaliate slowly to retake territory seized by Russian forces. Kiev has rarely admitted to attacking Russian territory far from the front line, but the drone attack was not the first in Moscow since the war began.
Eight drones targeted Russia’s capital Moscow in May, shattering windows in three residential buildings and injuring two residents, according to officials. The attacks introduced Muscovites to the reality of Russia’s war in Ukraine, which President Vladimir V. Putin had worked to shield from their daily lives. The attack came after the Russian military launched another series of attacks on Ukraine’s capital Kiev overnight.
Following the drone strikes on Monday, video verified by the New York Times showed damage in at least two locations near the Moskva River in southern Moscow. According to the ministry’s website, the building that was attacked is one block close to the Russian National Defense Management Center, a grand structure used to conduct “centralized combat management of the Russian Armed Forces”.
Smoke can be seen rising from the top floor of a high-rise building housing a French home-improvement chain. Other footage showed damage to several structures along Komsomolsky Prospekt – an avenue that runs through one of the most expensive parts of central Moscow and close to the Ministry of Defense – including the Military University and the building of the Central Military Band, a performance group of the Russian Armed Forces.
It was not possible to determine whether the damage was caused by the drone. But state news media reported that authorities blocked part of Komsomolsky Prospekt after a drone was found there. Russian officials said they destroyed two drones.
Later on Monday, another drone crashed near a residential building in Moscow’s Pervomaiskoye district, but no injuries were immediately reported, according to local news outlets.
The attack on the Danube port took place over the course of four hours, Oleh Kiper, head of the regional military administration in that region of Ukraine, wrote in a telegram. “Ukraine’s air defense shot down three drones and seven people were injured, three of them from shrapnel injuries,” he said. One got serious injuries.
Mike Lee, director of Green Square Agro Consultancy, which specializes in the Black Sea and Eastern Europe, called the attack on Rainy a “massive escalation” by Moscow that could have an impact on Ukraine’s ability to use alternative routes for its exports.
Russia earlier last year shelled western Ukraine near the border with Poland, which is also a NATO member, but did not attack Ukrainian facilities close to the region under the military alliance’s commitment to jointly respond to an attack on a member state.
Russia’s war cheerleaders praised the attacks on the port, calling it another step toward destroying Ukraine’s economy and blocking Western arms deliveries.
He said Kiev was taking advantage of the port’s proximity to NATO territory – and the fact that ships could reach it along the Danube without sailing through Ukrainian waters into the Black Sea – as a way to continue exporting grain and other goods during the war.
Olga Skabayeva, a Russian talk show host, said, “It looks like they are blocking this way to escape the sea blockade of Kiev.” Said on the Rossiya State Television Channel. “And soon they will completely deprive Ukraine of access to the Black Sea.”
A popular pro-war blog, also known as Raeber Claimed that the Rainy port was being used for grain exports as well as supplies to Ukraine’s military.
On Monday, the FSB, the successor to Russia’s KGB, claimed it had evidence that Ukraine imported explosives in May at one of its Danube ports across the Black Sea. The claim could not be independently verified.
The Danube River Delta, a network of waterways crossing the border region of Moldova, Romania and Ukraine, was rarely used to export Ukrainian grain before the invasion, but in the last year, it has become indispensable.
The grain deal, first brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last year, included a trio of major Black Sea ports, and enabled Ukraine to ship more than 30 million tonnes of grain. At the same time, smaller ports on the Danube that were not part of the deal were able to send shipments bound for the Black Sea and to international destinations.
Those routes – as well as the land route – became important after Russia terminated the Black Sea accord, saying that its demands must be met. Moscow complained bitterly that the deal was biased towards Kiev and that Western sanctions restricting sales of its own agricultural products should be lifted, among other demands.
The United Nations has said Russia’s efforts to block Ukraine’s exports will worsen the hunger crisis facing some countries in Africa and the Middle East. Ukraine exports grain via road and rail to EU countries as well as through Danube ports.
Since the start of the war, Ukraine has sent more than 20 million tons of grain to foreign markets through Romania and millions of tons by train through Poland, a flow that has angered Eastern European farmers who say it drives down local prices. Following protests in some EU countries, the bloc allowed Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower seeds, although it continued to allow transit of those goods for export elsewhere.
The ban is expected to end on September 15. Last week, ministers from those five countries called for the ban to be extended.
On Monday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky rejected that idea, saying on Telegram that an extension of the ban would be “unacceptable in any form”.
Yuri Shivala, Anton Troyanovsky And gabriella sa pessoa Contributed reporting.