The Russian-Ukrainian conflict took a disturbing turn when Russian missile attacks targeted Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. The attack resulted in thousands of tonnes of grain destroyed, critical storage infrastructure damaged, and international trade disrupted.

According to reports, over 60,000 tonnes of grain were obliterated, leading to significant economic losses for the Ukrainian agricultural sector.

Prior to the attacks, Ukraine and Russia had an agreement that ensured safe passage for grain exports across the Black Sea. Russia withdrew from this agreement later. The move is seen as a retaliatory measure by Russia in response to geopolitical tensions, which has created uncertainty in the grain trade.

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West of using the grain deal as “political blackmail,” hinting that the agreement could be reconsidered if certain conditions were met.

The Russian defence ministry’s declaration that any ships heading to Ukrainian ports would be considered potential carriers of military cargo poses a significant risk to maritime traffic in the region. This announcement temporarily makes certain Black Sea areas dangerous for shipping.

The missile strikes targeted Ukrainian ports, including Odesa and Chornomorsk, leading to civilian casualties and damage to residential buildings and military facilities. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his concern that each missile strike not only harmed Ukraine but also impacted people around the world who seek a normal and safe life.

Global leaders – France and Germany, in particular – have criticised President Putin for depriving the world of Ukrainian grain and harming the world’s poorest. Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock accused Russia of using the bombings in Odesa to exert control over the grain trade.

The Ukrainian infrastructure ministry released photographs that reveal the extent of damage to silos, grain facilities, wharves, and reservoirs along the Black Sea coast.

Russian war commentators claim that the damage caused by missile attacks reflects Kyiv’s inability to effectively intercept Russian missiles and drones.

The Russian missile attack on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast was meticulously coordinated, utilising sophisticated weaponry. Reports indicate that Kalibr cruise missiles, Onyx supersonic missiles, Kh-22 anti-ship missiles, and kamikaze drones were launched from different locations, including the Black Sea, Crimea, and southern Russia. Despite Ukrainian defences intercepting and shooting down 37 Russian missiles and drones, some still penetrated their defences.

Russian justification

Russia provided a justification for the initial missile strike on Odesa, labelling it a “mass revenge strike.” This retaliation was in response to an attack on a Russian-built bridge over the Kerch Strait, connecting occupied Crimea to Russia. Seaborne drones were responsible for the bridge strike. This resulted in the destruction of a bridge section and the tragic death of a Russian couple.

In addition to the missile attacks on Ukrainian ports, Crimea experienced further disruptions on a different front. A fire broke out near a military training range in Crimea, triggering explosions and threatening nearby residents. As a precautionary measure, approximately 2,200 residents from four villages near the range were evacuated to ensure their safety.

In response to the fire and explosions near the military training range, Russian-installed officials took the decision to close a 12-kilometre section of the Tavrida motorway. This motorway, connecting Simferopol and Sevastopol in southern Crimea to the bridge over the Kerch Strait, was a major route constructed by Russia’s occupation authorities starting in 2017. The closure has further disrupted transportation in the region, adding to the overall strain on the local population.