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Ukraine will reinforce its air defense in the south to counter Russian strikes on grain and port infrastructure

Since pulling out of the Grain Initiative, Russia has struck Ukrainian ports nearly daily, destroying Ukrainian agricultural products aimed to be delivered to different countries worldwide.

The Ukrainian port of Odesa, which has been regularly targeted since Russia pulled out of a deal to allow grain exports
from Ukraine through the Black Sea.
Photo: Emile Ducke for The New York Times

Ukrainian forces have taken measures to protect port infrastructure and strengthen air defense in the south. However, Ukraine needs more missiles and air defense systems, stated Nataliia Humeniuk, Head of the United Coordinating Press Center of Defence Forces of the South of Ukraine. “Reinforced [air defense systems – ed.], powerful, modern, and capable of countering the types of missiles that the enemy uses against us,” said Humeniuk in an interview with Agence France-Presse.

Humeniuk also added that Ukrainian troops need, among other things, US F-16 fighter jets, capable of targeting Russian weapons systems and ships used to shell the south of Ukraine.

Despite the fact that Ukraine already has various Western defense systems, including the US Patriot missile systems, there is still a need for more, as Russian troops have been improving their attack tactics. For instance, Russia resorted to massive shellings, simultaneously firing cruise missiles, hypersonic, and anti-ship missiles, while Ukrainian “means of defense are dispersed” and “are not able to counter this threat”, explained Humeniuk.

In particular, after withdrawing from the Grain Initiative, Russia started purposefully launching missile strikes at grain terminals in the ports of Odesa and Chornomorsk, targeting the south of Ukraine almost on a daily basis. Due to these terrorist acts, the agricultural facilities suffered damage. At least 60,000 tons of grain, 100 tons of peas, and 20 tons of barley were destroyed.

“In two or three months, we [Ukraine – ed.] may not have a single port left. They [Russia – ed.] want to dominate the Black Sea. They want to have a monopoly on grain. They want to remove Ukraine as a country capable of feeding the world,” emphasized Nataliia Humeniuk.

Read more: One (and only?) year into the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Russia continues to blackmail the world using food

On August 2, 2023, Russia once again attacked the Odesa region with Iranian-made Shahed-136/131 drones, targeting the port and industrial infrastructure. Due to a UAV hit, one of the elevators was damaged.

Due to a Russian drone attack, an elevator in the Odesa region was damaged. August 2, 2023.
Photo: Operational Command “South”

After the Russian Federation suspended its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, all Ukrainian seaports have been blocked once again. Russia’s defense ministry stated that it would deem all ships traveling to Ukraine to be potentially carrying military cargo involved in the war. Later, Ukraine mirrored the statement regarding ships heading to Russian ports and ports temporarily occupied by Russia in the Black Sea.