Russia Attacks Danube Grain Export Route

July 24, 2023

© markobe / Adobe Stock
© markobe / Adobe Stock

Russia destroyed Ukrainian grain warehouses on the Danube River in a drone attack on Monday, targeting a vital export route for Kyiv in an expanding air campaign that Moscow began last week after quitting the Black Sea grain deal.

Last week's attacks mostly struck the sea ports of Odesa but Monday's pre-dawn strikes hit infrastructure along the Danube, an export route whose importance has grown since the demise of the deal allowing Ukrainian grain shipments via the Black Sea.

"The Russian terrorists have again attacked the Odesa region overnight. Port infrastructure on the Danube river is the target this time," regional governor Oleh Kiper wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Global wheat and corn futures rose sharply on fears that Russian attacks and more fighting, including an overnight drone strike on Moscow, could threaten grain exports and shipping.

Hours after Monday's attack, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for Russia to return to the Black Sea grain deal, warning in Rome of a devastating impact on "vulnerable countries struggling to feed their people."

News website Reni-Odesa cited a local official as saying three grain warehouses had been destroyed in the Danube port city of Reni during the drone attack.

Video footage verified by Reuters showed a man cursing in disbelief at damaged grain warehouses at Reni, an important transport hub across the Danube from NATO and European Union member Romania.

"This recent escalation poses serious risks to the security in the Black Sea," Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said on Twitter.

Since Russia's invasion in February 2022, Ukraine has expanded grain exports overland via the EU to about 1 million tons a month, with large volumes being exported from Romanian ports and along the Danube.

'Food terrorism'
"Russia has in the past months not attacked Ukraine's overland and inland waterways grain infrastructure," a European trader said. "Any interruption of this traffic could quickly hit international grain supplies.

A French trader called it a "major development and a major blow" to Ukrainian exports, adding: "Without the Black Sea corridor and now with attacks on alternative routes, it will be hard to take Ukrainian grains out of the country."

Ukrainian officials gave few details. Police said grain warehouses had been hit along with tanks for storing other cargo, causing a fire that Kiper said wounded seven people, one critically.

In photographs of the damage published by police, containers could be seen with the logo of Maersk Group.

"Russia is trying to fully block the export of our grain and make the world starve," Kiper said.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia of trying to extract concessions "by holding 400 million people hostage" and called for "a united global response to food terrorism."

Some Ukrainian news outlets reported explosions overnight in the area of Izmail, another Danube port in the Odesa region, but no confirmed reports of damage followed.

Ship-tracking Data showed almost 30 ships had dropped anchor near Izmail. It was not clear what caused them to stop.


(Reuters - Addition reporting by Valentyn Ogirenko, Michael Hogan, Sybille de La Hamaide, Luiza Ilie and Anna Pruchnicka; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Nick Macfie and Timothy Heritage)

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