June 21st, 2024

Russian fires new airstrikes as UN announces grain deal

By John Leicester, The Associated Press on November 17, 2022.

A Ukrainian sapper inspects a destroyed building during the demining of a residential area in Novoselivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Andriy Andriyenko)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Russian airstrikes inflicted more damage on Ukraine on Thursday, with the latest barrage smashing into energy infrastructure, apartment buildings and an industrial site.

At least four people were killed and five others wounded in drone and missile strikes around the country, authorities said.

Separately, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres announced an extension of a four-month-old deal to ensure the safe delivery of export of grain, foodstuffs and fertilizers from Ukraine through the Black Sea just days before it was set to expire.

Guterres says the United Nations is also “fully committed” to removing obstacles that have impeded the export of food and fertilizer from Russia, which is one of two agreements struck between the two countries and Turkey in July. The deals signed in Istanbul are aimed to help bring down prices of food and fertilizer and avoid a global food crisis.

In Kyiv, the city’s military administration said air defenses shot down at least two cruise missiles and five Iranian-made exploding drones.

With the Kremlin’s forces on the ground being pushed back, Russia has increasingly resorted in recent weeks to aerial onslaughts aimed at energy infrastructure in parts of Ukraine it doesn’t hold.

Ukrainian air defenses this week appear to have had far higher rates of successful shoot-downs than during previous barrages last month, analysts say. The improvement results in part from Western-supplied air defense systems.

But some missiles and drones still get through.

Russian strikes hit Ukraine’s southern Odesa region and the city of Dnipro for the first time in weeks on Thursday morning, and air raid sirens sounded all across the country amid fears that Moscow unleashed another large-scale missile attack.

An infrastructure target was hit on the Odesa region, Gov. Maksym Marchenko said on Telegram, warning about the threat of a “massive missile barrage on the entire territory of Ukraine.”

Multiple explosions were also reported in Dnipro, where two infrastructure objects were damaged and at least one person was wounded, according to the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko.

Air defense systems were operating in the central Kyiv region, Gov. Oleksiy Kuleba said. The Kyiv city administration said two missiles were shot down over the capital.

Officials in the Poltava, Kharkiv, Khmelnytskyi and Rivne regions urged residents to stay in bomb shelters amid the persisting threat of missile strikes.

Thursday’s blast follows the huge barrage of Russian strikes on Tuesday, the biggest attack to date on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure that also resulted in a missile hitting Poland.

Russia has increasingly resorted to targeting Ukraine’s power grid as winter approaches as its battlefield losses mount. The most recent barrage followed days of euphoria in Ukraine sparked by one of its biggest military successes – the retaking last week of the southern city of Kherson.

The head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, called the strikes on energy targets “a naive tactics of cowardly losers” in a Telegram post on Thursday.

“Ukraine has already withstood extremely difficult strikes by the enemy, which did not lead to results the Russian cowards hoped for,” Yermak wrote, urging Ukrainians not to ignore air raid sirens.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he expected the renewal, for at least 120 days, of a U.N. and Turkish-brokered deal that that has enabled Ukraine to export over 11 million metric tons of wheat and Russia to ship its grain and fertilizer to world markets.

Zelenskyy tweeted Thursday that the deal “will be prolonged for 120 days.” He called it a “key decision in the global fight against the food crisis.”

There was no immediate confirmation from Russia. Turkish officials also wouldn’t confirm it, saying that negotiations for the extension of the grain initiative are continuing and that an announcement will be make when the talks are concluded.

The United Nations has previously said that it is “cautiously optimistic” that the deal, due to expire Saturday, will be renewed. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24, saw growing food shortages and skyrocketing prices that left millions of people especially in developing countries unable to buy enough to eat.

Russia’s U.N. ambassadors had complained last month that more needed to be done to facilitate its exports of grain and fertilizers. Under the separate agreements with Russia and Ukraine brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, the deal will be extended for another 120 days when it expires on Nov. 19 unless either Moscow or Kyiv objects.

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Jamey Keaten in Geneva, and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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