Russia strikes town in southern Ukraine, killing grain exporter, governor says


A war crimes prosecutor examines the damage in a destroyed building, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, following bombings in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, in this photo released July 31, 2022.

Mykolaiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office Press Service | via Reuters

Heavy Russian strikes hit the port city of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine overnight and early Sunday, killing the owner of one of the country’s largest grain production and export companies, a said the local governor.

Oleksiy Vadatursky, founder and owner of the Nibulon agricultural company, and his wife were killed in their home, Mykolaiv Governor Vitaliy Kim said on Telegram.

Based in Mykolaiv, a strategically important city bordering the Russian-occupied Kherson region, Nibulon specializes in the production and export of wheat, barley and corn, and has its own fleet and shipyard.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described Vadatursky’s death as “a great loss for all of Ukraine”, saying in a statement that the businessman was building a modern grain market involving a network of transshipment terminals and of elevators.

Three people were also injured in the attacks on Mikolaiv, the city’s mayor, Oleksandr Senkevych, told Ukrainian television, adding that 12 missiles hit homes and educational institutions. He previously described the strikes as “probably the most powerful” on the city in the entire five-month war.

Up to 50 Grad rockets hit residential areas in another southern city, Nikopol, on Sunday morning, Dnipropetrovsk Governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Telegram. One person was injured.

Ukrainian forces struck the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Russian-controlled Sevastopol on Sunday morning, the governor of the Crimean port city, Mikhail Razvozhayev, told Russian media. Five staff members were injured in the attack when what was believed to be a drone flew into the courtyard of the headquarters, he said.

Reuters could not independently verify reports from the battlefield.

The Sevastopol attack coincided with Russian Navy Day, which President Vladimir Putin marked by announcing that the Russian Navy would receive what he called “tremendous” Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles in the coming months. These missiles can travel at nine times the speed of sound.

He did not mention Ukraine directly.

Putin sent tens of thousands of troops across the border on February 24, sparking a conflict that has killed thousands, uprooted millions and caused deep strain in relations between Russia and the ‘West.

Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II has also fueled an energy and food crisis that is rocking the global economy. Ukraine and Russia are the main grain suppliers.

The harvest could be halved

Zelenskyy said on Sunday that the country may only harvest half of its usual amount this year due to the invasion.

“The Ukrainian harvest this year is threatened with being half as much,” suggesting half the usual amount, Zelenskiy wrote in English on Twitter. “Our main objective – to prevent the global food crisis caused by the Russian invasion. Yet the grain finds a way to be delivered alternatively,” he added.

Ukraine is struggling to get its products to buyers through its Black Sea ports because of the war.

But an agreement signed under the aegis of the UN and Turkey on July 22 provides safe passage for ships carrying grain from three ports in southern Ukraine.

It is highly likely that the first grain export ship will leave Ukrainian ports on Monday, a spokesman for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.

eastern danger

In a televised address on Saturday evening, Zelenskyy said hundreds of thousands of people were still at risk of heavy fighting in the Donbass region, which includes Donetsk and Luhansk provinces and which Russia is seeking complete control. Slices of Donbass were held before the invasion by Russian-backed separatists.

“Many refuse to leave but it still needs to be done,” Zelenskyy said. “The more people who leave the Donetsk region now, the less the Russian army will have time to kill.”

Russia on Sunday invited UN and Red Cross experts to investigate the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners held by Moscow-backed separatists.

Ukraine and Russia have swapped accusations over a missile strike or explosion early on Friday that appears to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the frontline town of Olenivka in eastern Donetsk.

Russia has invited UN and Red Cross experts to investigate the deaths “in the interest of conducting an objective investigation”, the Defense Ministry said on Sunday.

The ministry had released a list of 50 Ukrainian POWs killed and 73 wounded in what it said was a Ukrainian military attack with a US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

Ukraine’s armed forces have denied responsibility, saying Russian artillery attacked the prison to hide the mistreatment there.

Reuters reporters confirmed some of the deaths at the prison, but could not immediately verify the different versions of events.

Russia denies that its forces deliberately attacked civilians or committed war crimes during the invasion, which it calls a “special operation”.

The Ukrainian army said on Saturday that more than 100 Russian soldiers had been killed and seven tanks destroyed in the south on Friday, including the Kherson region which is at the center of Kyiv’s counter-offensive in this part of the country and a link key to Moscow’s supply lines.

Rail traffic to Kherson via the Dnipro River has been cut off, the military said, potentially further isolating Russian forces west of the river from supplies in occupied Crimea and to the east.

Last week, Russian administration officials running the Kherson region dismissed Western and Ukrainian assessments that Russian forces were now vulnerable.

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