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Russia struck the city center of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine on Thursday, according to Vitaliy Kim, the head of the Mykolaiv regional military administration.
"A parking garage and a 3-story apartment building are on fire. The fire brigade is on its way," Kim said on Telegram.
At least nine people were wounded, including five children, he said. Among the wounded children were a 3-year-old and a child who was less than 1 year old.
Kim reported fatalities but did not specify how many. He also did not provide more details on the nature of the attack.
Russia attacked the southern port city of Odesa for the third night in a row, according to Ukrainian authorities.
At least two people were injured in the attacks, the head of the region's military administration Oleh Kiper said in a post on Telegram.
At least eight Russian Tu-22M3 aircraft were "flying in the direction of the Black Sea," the Ukrainian air force said early Thursday.
"There is a threat of cruise missile launches. Don't ignore the air alert!" it said on Telegram on Thursday.
The air force warned that Russian supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles "were launched in the direction of the Odesa region."
A CNN team on the ground witnessed a large explosion and heard the sound of other explosions.
Some background: Russian attacks over the previous two nights damaged the port infrastructure in the city, officials said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday the attacks were the largest since the war began, and he accused Russia of trying to weaponize hunger and destabilize the global food market.
The president linked the strikes with Russia’s decision to pull out Monday of the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain initiative, which allowed Ukraine to export its grain via the contested body of water.
Russia could target civilian ships in the Black Sea and blame Ukraine following the Kremlin’s decision to leave the Black Sea Grain Initiative, according to a spokesperson for the National Security Council.
Russia has laid additional sea mines in the approach to Ukrainian ports, spokesperson Adam Hodge said in a statement Wednesday. Earlier in the day, Russia’s Defense Ministry said any ship sailing toward a Ukrainian port would be considered as potentially carrying military cargo.
“We believe that this is a coordinated effort to justify any attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea and lay blame on Ukraine for these attacks,” Hodge said.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered one year ago by Turkey and the United Nations, which allowed for the export of Ukrainian grain, expired Monday at midnight. The agreement guaranteed safe passage for ships carrying Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea to Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait.
In the days since the grain deal expired, Russia has targeted the port city of Odesa with missiles and drones, destroying agricultural infrastructure and 60,000 tons of grain, Hodge said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the attacks on Odesa were the largest since the war began, and he accused Russia of trying to weaponize hunger and destabilize the global food market.
A series of explosions were reported at a Russian ammunition dump in occupied Crimea, forcing thousands of people to evacuate and prompting leaders there to redirect traffic. Russian President Vladimir Putin was briefed on the explosions.
According to Sergey Aksyonov, the Russian-backed leader of Crimea, "a fire occurred at a military training ground." The head of Crimea’s parliament said that it could take two days to fully extinguish the blaze, according to Russian state media.
Here's what else you should know to get up to speed:
- Iranian drones: The UK’s intelligence chief has said that Iran’s decision to supply Russia with drones for use in the war in Ukraine has triggered “internal quarrels” at the “highest level” of the regime in Tehran. Iran has denied accusations of supplying drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine, only acknowledging providing drones to Russia before the war started.
- Russian spies: The head of Britain's foreign intelligence service used a rare speech in Prague to issue a plea to disaffected Russians to spy for the UK. In response, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said any citizens disaffected by Putin's regime who are tempted to spy for Western intelligence should think again.
- Grain deal developments: Turkey’s chief presidential adviser told CNN’s Eleni Giokos that Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal was not in retaliation to Turkey's support for Sweden’s bid to join NATO. The Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday that all ships sailing in the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports will be considered as potential carriers of military cargo, starting on Thursday. Putin called the West's failure to comply with Moscow’s demands to extend the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain initiative “arrogance and impudence,” and said his country would consider returning if conditions are met.
- Odesa strikes: Russian missile and drone strikes on Odesa damaged port infrastructure that was being used as part of the UN-brokered Black Sea grain initiative, which Moscow pulled out of, the Ukrainian Agriculture Ministry said. President Volodymyr Zelensky says overnight Russian missile and drone strikes on Odesa were the biggest Russian attempt to “inflict pain" on the southern port city since the war began.
- Wagner developments: About 72 hours after the first convoy arrived, hundreds of vehicles from Wagner Group convoys are filling a disused military base in Belarus, according to satellite imagery taken by Planet Labs PBC. And on Wednesday, video emerged that appears to show the group's founder Yevgeny Prigozhin greeting his fighters in Belarus, in what would be his first public appearance since he led an armed rebellion in Russia last month.
- Military aid for Ukraine: The US committed to providing Ukraine with more air defense systems and attack drones in a $1.3 billion aid package announced Wednesday, according to the Department of Defense. Zelensky thanked the US and President Joe Biden for another defense support package.
Russia has taken "fairly dramatic actions" since pulling out of the Black Sea grain deal and it would be "very hard at this point to get Russia back," according to David Harland, executive director of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue.
"It's going to be very hard to get back Russia in the agreements. They've gone very far now," Harland, who helped broker the deal, told CNN.
Earlier Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the "continuation of the grain deal in the form in which existed has lost all meaning." The Russian Ministry of Defense also announced all ships sailing in the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports will be considered potential carriers of military cargo, starting Thursday.
"I am not at all optimistic. Having been involved in this from the very beginning, I think this is the worst moment," Harland said.
When asked about what options still remain on the table, and remarks by Ukrainian officials about the possibility to continue shipments through the Black Sea, Harland said it won't be possible without Russia's consent.
"Russia has to agree because Russia controls militarily the whole northern part of the Black Sea," he said. "So I think it has to involve Russia but at this point Russia is not cooperating, and in my view if there is going to be a new deal, Russia has done so much now to speak out against the agreement and to deny it, that any new deal will have to be of a different nature."
There may be a chance that Russia agrees to "humanitarian shipments" only, if pressured by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and leaders of countries facing huge food supply shortages, like nations in Africa, Harland said. But he added he doubts the initial deal can be revived.
"I doubt we are going to get back there. I think next time there will be a big deal, it will probably be in the context of the deal that ends the war," he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have declared open season on Ukraine’s consequential grain exports, targeting the port city of Odesa with a new ferocity and jeopardizing worldwide food prices.
With the strikes on Odesa, Putin says he wants payback for damage to a nearly 12-mile bridge that connects annexed Crimea to the Russian mainland.
But they also coincide with Russia’s retreat from a yearlong deal known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative to keep Ukrainian grain flowing to the world.
Wheat and corn prices on global commodities markets jumped Monday after Russia pulled out of the deal, and they spiked again Wednesday after attacks on the ports in Odesa and as hope faded for Russia to rejoin the grain deal.
Turkey brokered previous versions of the grain deal and it plans to host Putin for talks in August.
Without a new grain deal, the options are to use railroads to ship Ukrainian grain to ports in Romania or in southeastern Europe. The problems in both of those scenarios are time and money, according to Simon Evenett, a professor of international trade and economic development at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. He told CNN’s Rosemary Church that ports in Romania are currently being expanded.
Church noted that China has come to rely on grain from Ukraine and wondered if Beijing could lean on Russia to reenter the deal.
Evenett said it’s true that China has also suffered from droughts that have affected its domestic production.
“If those droughts turn out to be as significant as people highlight, then maybe Beijing will be moved to put leverage onto Russia to relent on this,” Evenett said. “But I think there’s a series of ifs there. It’s not clear yet if Beijing is particularly worried about its own food security needs.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the United States and President Joe Biden for another defense support package.
“Thank you @POTUS for a powerful new defense support package worth $1.3 billion,” Zelensky tweeted Wednesday. “NASAMS anti-aircraft missile systems with ammunition, artillery shells, mine clearance equipment, and other much-needed assistance will save [Ukrainian] lives and bring our common victory closer.”
“We appreciate the unflagging support from the friendly [American] people,” Zelensky added.
Some context: The US committed to providing Ukraine with more air defense systems and attack drones in a $1.3 billion aid package, according to the Department of Defense.
The package includes four more National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, which are medium-range air defense batteries that have already helped Ukraine withstand ongoing Russian barrages of missiles and drones. It is the same system used to protect Washington, DC, and the area around the nation’s capital.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called the West's failure to comply with Moscow’s demands to extend the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain initiative “arrogance and impudence,” and says his country would consider returning if conditions are met.
“Just outright arrogance and impudence. Promises and empty chatter. And they only compromised themselves with this,” Putin said during a remote meeting with the members of the government broadcast on Wednesday. “The authority was undermined, among other things, of the leadership of the UN secretariat, which actually acted as a guarantor of the grain deal.”
Moscow had shown “miracles of endurance and tolerance,” by continuously extending the deal in the past, the Russian president said.
“The West has done everything to derail the grain deal, they have not spared their efforts,” he said, adding Russia was obstructed from donating fertilizers to the poorest countries.
Putin also said Moscow would consider the possibility of returning to the deal if all the principles in it, without exception, are taken into account and implemented.
“The continuation of the grain deal in the form in which it existed has lost all meaning. That is why we objected to the further extension of this so-called deal,” he said. “All obstacles must be removed for Russian banks, financial institutions that aid the supply of food and fertilizers. This includes their immediate connection to the SWIFT international banking settlement system.”
“We don't need promises and ideas in this regard. We need the fulfillment of these conditions," he added.