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Russia Denies Striking Port City of Odesa

Firefighters work at a site of a Russian missile strike in a sea port of Odesa, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, Ukraine, July 23, 2022.

Turkey said Russia has denied any involvement in missile strikes Saturday on the southern Ukrainian port of Odesa.

"In our contact with Russia, the Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack and that they were examining the issue very closely and in detail," Defense Minister Hulusai Akar said in a statement. “The fact that such an incident took place right after the agreement we made yesterday really worried us.”

Public broadcaster Suspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying the missiles had not caused significant damage, and a government minister said preparations continued to restart grain exports from the country's Black Sea ports, according to Reuters.

Earlier Saturday, Ukraine said Russia attacked Odesa with Kalibr cruise missiles, just one day after both countries had signed an agreement to allow grain exports to move safely out of Black Sea locations.

“Two missiles were shot down by air defense forces; two hit the infrastructure of the port,” Ukraine’s Operational Command South posted on Telegram.

The strikes drew strong condemnation by the U.N., U.S. and Kyiv.

“Yesterday, all parties made clear commitments on the global stage to ensure the safe movement of Ukrainian grain and related products to global markets,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement delivered by spokesman Farhan Haq.

“These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and ease the suffering of millions of people in need around the globe. Full implementation by the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Turkey is imperative.

U.S. Ambassador to Kyiv Bridget Brink called the strike "outrageous."

“The Kremlin continues to weaponize food. Russia must be held to account," she posted on Twitter.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called Russia’s actions “reprehensible.”

"Striking a target crucial for grain export a day after the signature of Istanbul agreements...demonstrates Russia's total disregard for international law and commitments," he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Russian strike on Odesa demonstrates that Moscow will find ways not to implement the grain deal struck with the United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine.

"This proves only one thing: no matter what Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement it," Zelenskyy said in a video posted on Telegram.

Russia has yet to issue any official comment.

A Russian defense ministry statement on Saturday outlining progress in the war made no mention of any strike in Odesa.

However, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova reposted the U.N. condemnation and said: "It is awful that UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres does not 'unequivocally' condemn also the Kyiv regime's killing of children in Donbas."

Ongoing fighting

Elsewhere in Ukraine, a Russian missile attack on an airfield and a railway facility in central Ukraine Saturday killed three people and wounded at least 13, according to local officials.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said early Saturday that in the last 48 hours, heavy fighting has been taking place as Ukrainian forces have continued their offensive against Russian forces in Kherson Oblast, west of the Dnipro River.

In the statement posted to Twitter, the ministry said, “Russia is likely attempting to slow the Ukrainian attack using artillery fire along the natural barrier of the Ingulets River, a tributary of the Dnipro. Simultaneously, the supply lines of the Russian force west of the Dnipro are increasingly at risk.”

In another development, credit rating firms Fitch and Scope has downgraded Ukraine to just one step above default. The move followed Ukraine’s request for a debt payment freeze. The rating agencies said that makes a default on the debt more likely.

The U.S. has promised Ukraine a new $270 million security assistance package, which will include four more High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS.

Ukraine's military has already deployed at least eight HIMARS to the front lines in its fight against Russia, while another four are either on the ground or on their way.

The latest U.S. pledge will bring the total number of HIMARS to 16. In addition, Ukraine has deployed six medium- to long-range rocket systems from Germany and Britain.