Russian forces launched waves of drones in an hourslong assault on the Odesa region of southern Ukraine overnight, officials said on Sunday, the latest bombardment to target port infrastructure since Moscow pulled out of a deal allowing safe passage for Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.
Ukrainian officials said that at least two people were injured and port infrastructure was damaged in the attack, which lasted more than three hours and involved more than two dozen drones. Ukraine’s Air Force said it shot down 22 out of 25 attack drones and the local authorities said infrastructure around a port was hit, sparking a fire. The officials did not specify where exactly the strikes landed.
Moscow has been bombarding grain facilities in the Odesa region and threatening civilian ships heading to Ukrainian ports since pulling out of the Black Sea grain agreement in July.
In response, Kyiv established a temporary corridor hugging the western Black Sea coast from Ukraine to Turkey, to allow passage for the small number of civilian ships that have been stuck in Ukrainian ports since before Russia’s full-scale invasion.
Late on Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Twitter that two more ships had successfully used the temporary corridor. He did not give a timeline or name the ships but at least three vessels have made the journey in recent weeks, according to Ukrainian officials. He also made a familiar plea.
“We urge our allies to support our effort by providing more air defense systems,” he said. “Together, we can protect freedom of navigation in the Black Sea and beyond.”
Russia has been touting what it casts an alternative to the Black Sea deal, which was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey and helped stabilize food prices across the world but which Moscow complained was carried out unfairly.
Precise details of the Russian proposal remain scant, but President Vladimir V. Putin is scheduled to discuss the matter with Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Monday when the two leaders hold bilateral talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.