Russia pounds Ukrainian port; Putin announces global maritime ambitions

KYIV, Ukraine – As President Vladimir Putin signed a new navy strategy depicting the United States as Russia’s principal foe and establishing global maritime goals in the Black Sea and Arctic, Russian missiles pounded Ukraine’s Black Sea port city Mykolaiv.

On Sunday, July 31, during a speech commemorating Russia’s Navy Day, Putin made no mention of the conflict in Ukraine but did announce that the navy will soon be receiving hypersonic Zircon cruise missiles. The missiles can outrun air defenses by moving at nine times the speed of sound.


Navy Day celebrations in the port of Sevastopol were disrupted when five Russian navy staff members were injured by an explosion after a suspected drone flew into the courtyard of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, the Crimean port city’s governor, Mikhail Razvozhayev, told Russian media.

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.


Olga Kovitidi, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament, told Russia’s RIA news agency that the attack was “undoubtedly carried out not from outside, but from the territory of Sevastopol”.


“Urgent search operations are being conducted in the city to track down the organizers of this terrorist act,” Kovitidi was quoted as saying.


Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said more than 12 missile strikes on Sunday, probably the most powerful on the city in five months of war, hit homes and schools, with two people confirmed killed and three wounded. Missile strikes continued into Sunday evening.


Oleksiy Vadatursky, the founder and owner of the agricultural firm Nibulon in Ukraine, and his wife were murdered at their house, according to Mykolaiv Governor Vitaliy Kim on Telegram.


Nibulon is a company that specializes in the production and export of wheat, barley, and corn. It is headquartered in Mykolaiv, a strategically significant city that borders the largely Russian-occupied Kherson region. Nibulon also has its own fleet and shipyard.


Grain shipments


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy described Vadatursky’s death as “a great loss for all of Ukraine”.


Zelenskiy added that the businessman – one of Ukraine’s richest with Forbes estimating his 2021 net worth at $430 million û had been building a modern grain market with a network of transhipment terminals and elevators.


“It is these people, these companies, precisely the south of Ukraine, which has guaranteed the world’s food security,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly address. “This was always so. And it will be so once again.”


Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24, setting off a conflict that has killed thousands, uprooted millions and deeply strained relations between Russia and the West.


The biggest conflict in Europe since World War Two has also stoked an energy and food crisis that is shaking the global economy. Both Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of grain.


Zelenskiy stated that owing to disruptions in farming, Ukraine may only harvest half of what it typically does this year.


However, a deal struck on July 22 between Turkey and the United Nations guarantees the safe transit of ships carrying grain out of three ports in southern Ukraine.


According to a representative for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, the ship may depart Ukraine’s ports on Monday.


Eastern threat


According to Zelenskiy, Russia has been moving some of its forces from the Donbas region in the east to the Kherson and Zaporizhizhya regions in the south.


“However, that won’t assist them there. Our military and intelligence personnel would retaliate to any Russian strikes, he declared.


Russia has focused its forces on Ukraine’s east and south after failing to quickly seize the country’s capital, Kyiv, early in the conflict.


Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and Kyiv says Moscow is seeking to do the same with the Donbas region and link it to Crimea in the south. Russian-backed separatist controlled parts of the region before the invasion.


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


Ukraine and Russia have traded accusations over a missile strike or explosion early on Friday that appeared to have killed the Ukrainian prisoners of war in the front-line town of Olenivka in eastern Donetsk.


The International Committee of the Red Cross condemned the attack and said it had not received permission to visit the site, while adding it was not its mandate to publicly investigate alleged war crimes. 


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