Russia strikes Danube port and escalates attacks on Ukrainian grain routes

Russia attacked for the first time on Monday a port on the Danube River in Ukraine, near the Romanian border, Ukrainian and Romanian officials said, destroying a grain barn in an escalation of its efforts to cripple Kiev’s agriculture and risk a more direct confrontation with the United States and its European allies.

The attack on the port in the town of Reni, across the river from NATO member Romania, targeted Kiev’s alternative grain export routes to reach global markets, days after Russia ended a deal that enabled Ukraine to ship its grain across the Black Sea. The attack is one of the closest Moscow has hit the military alliance’s territory since Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine last year.

The port strike came in the middle of two Drone Attacks in central Moscow on Monday morning that Russian officials blamed on Ukrainian forces. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on messaging app Telegram that at least two non-residential buildings were hit around 4 a.m. local time. He added that there were “no serious damage or injuries”.

Ukrainian and Romanian officials denounced the port strike along with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis condemns the attack On the Ukrainian infrastructure near the borders of his country. “The latest escalation poses serious risks to security in the Black Sea,” he said on Twitter, also affecting Ukrainian grain shipments and global food security.

Romania’s Defense Ministry said it maintains a position of “enhanced vigilance” with its allies along the alliance’s eastern flank. But the ministry added in a statement that “there are no possible direct military threats against our national territory or the territorial waters of Romania.”

Since the Kremlin withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative last week, its forces have launched barrages of attacks almost every night on the city of Odessa — about 130 miles from Reni — and its Black Sea port, destroying grain stocks and infrastructure. These attacks, along with Moscow’s warning that it would regard any ship approaching Ukraine’s Black Sea ports as carrying military cargo, have made Ukraine’s alternative grain routes even more vital.

Ukraine, a major producer of grains and other food crops, exports about 2 million metric tons of grains per month through Danube ports, according to Benoit Vaio, deputy CEO of Stratégie Grains, a research firm in agricultural economics.

Mr. Fayaud said the attack in Rennie, 70 miles from the coast, could deter merchant ships from using the port in the short term and raise the cost of insurance.

International wheat prices rose about 5.5 percent in morning trading on Monday.

The Moscow and Danube offensives took place in the midst of a grinding war that saw Ukraine launch a slow counter-offensive to recapture territory captured by Russian forces. Kiev has rarely admitted to attacking Russian territory far from the front line, but the drone strike in Moscow wasn’t the first since the war began.

In May, eight drones targeted Moscow, the Russian capital, smashing windows in three apartment buildings and injuring two residents, according to officials. Blows confronted Muscovites with the realities of Russia’s war in Ukraine, which President Vladimir Putin has worked to shield from their daily lives. This attack came after Russian forces launched another in a series of nighttime assaults on Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

After Monday’s drone strikes, videos verified by The New York Times showed damage in at least two locations near the Moskva River in southern Moscow. One of the buildings that was bombed was the building of the Russian National Defense Management Center, an imposing structure used to conduct “centralized combat management of the Russian armed forces,” according to the ministry’s website.

Smoke can be seen rising from the upper floors of a high-rise building that houses a French home improvement chain. Other footage showed damage to several structures along Komsomolsky Prospekt – an avenue that runs through one of the most upmarket parts of central Moscow and is close to the Defense Ministry – including the building housing the Military University and the Central Military Ensemble, a performance group of Russia’s armed forces.

It was not possible to determine whether the drones caused the damage. But state media reported that authorities blocked off part of Komsomolsky Prospekt after one of the drones was found there. Russian authorities said they destroyed two drones.

Later on Monday, another drone crashed near an apartment building in the Pervomayskoye district of Moscow, but no injuries were reported, according to local news outlets.

Ole Kepper, the head of the regional military administration in that region of Ukraine, wrote on Telegram that the Danube port attack took place over a period of four hours. He said that the Ukrainian air defenses shot down three drones, adding that seven people were wounded, three of them by shrapnel. One of them was seriously injured.

Mike Lee, director of Green Square Agro Consultancy, which specializes in the Black Sea and Eastern Europe, called the attack on Reni a “massive escalation” by Moscow in terms of the impact it could have on Ukraine’s ability to use alternative routes for its exports.

Russia last year fired into western Ukraine near the border with Poland, also a NATO member, but did not hit Ukrainian facilities so close to territory covered by the military alliance’s obligation to jointly respond to an attack on a member state.

Fans of the Russian war hailed the port strikes as another step toward destroying Ukraine’s economy and disrupting what they called Western arms shipments.

They said Kiev was taking advantage of the port’s proximity to NATO territory — and the fact that ships could approach it along the Danube without sailing through Ukrainian waters in the Black Sea — as a way to continue exporting grain and other commodities during the war.

“It seems that they are blocking the way of evading the naval blockade of Kiev,” Russian talk show host Olga Skabieva, He said On the state television channel Rossiya. And soon they will completely deny Ukraine access to the Black Sea.

A popular pro-war blogger, also known as Rybar claimed That the port of Reni was used to supply the Ukrainian army, along with the export of grain.

On Monday, the Federal Security Service, Russia’s successor to the KGB, claimed it had evidence that Ukraine imported explosives in May across the Black Sea to a Danube port. The claim cannot be independently verified.

The Danube Delta, a network of waterways criss-crossing the border region of Moldova, Romania and Ukraine, was rarely used for Ukrainian grain exports before the invasion, but over the past year, it has become indispensable.

A grain deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last year covered three major ports on the Black Sea, and enabled Ukraine to ship more than 30 million tonnes of grain. At the same time, smaller ports on the Danube that were not part of the deal were able to send shipments making their way to the Black Sea and on to international destinations.

These routes — as well as land routes — became vital after Russia terminated the Black Sea Agreement, saying its demands must be met. Moscow had complained bitterly that the deal was biased towards Kiev and that Western sanctions that restricted the sale of its agricultural products should be lifted, among other demands.

The United Nations said that Russia’s attempts to stop Ukrainian exports will exacerbate the hunger crisis faced by some countries in Africa and the Middle East. Ukraine exports grain by road and rail to the countries of the European Union, as well as through the Danube ports.

Since the start of the war, Ukraine has sent more than 20 million tons of grain to foreign markets via Romania and millions more by train through Poland, an influx that has angered Eastern European farmers who say it has driven down domestic prices. After protests in some EU countries, the bloc allowed Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower seed, though it continued to allow transit of these items for export elsewhere.

The ban is expected to expire on September 15. Last week, ministers from those five countries called for the ban to be extended.

On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rejected that idea, saying on Telegram that extending the ban was “in no way acceptable”.

Yuri ChevalaAnd Anton Troyanovsky And Gabriela Sa Pessoa Contribute to the preparation of reports.