Ukraine Live Briefing: Odessa strike ‘undermines’ grain deal, U.S. says; 2 Americans die in Donbas region

Part of the Black Sea port of Odessa, one of Ukraine’s major gateways to the world, on March 28.
Part of the Black Sea port of Odessa, one of Ukraine’s major gateways to the world, on March 28. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Four Russian Kalibr missiles were fired at the port of Odessa, the Ukrainian military said, less than 24 hours after a deal was made to allow grain exports to resume. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the attack, which he said “undermines” Russia’s commitment to the deal; Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesman described it as a “spit in the face” of efforts to free an estimated 22 million tons of grain stuck in silos since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects around the world.

Key developments

  • Two Americans were killed in Donbas region, a State Department spokesperson told The Washington Post on Saturday. The State Department could not confirm whether the Americans, who have yet to be identified, were fighting for Ukraine. “We are in touch with the families and providing all possible consular assistance,” the spokesperson said.
  • Two of the missiles in the attack hit the Odessa port, while two others were shot down by air defenses, Ukraine’s military said. There was no immediate response from Russia. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, who was at the signing of the deal in Istanbul on Friday, “unequivocally condemns” the strikes on Odessa, a U.N. spokesperson said.
  • No one was killed or injured, and the missiles did not hit any grain silos, the Ukrainian military said, with the country’s infrastructure minister saying preparations for export shipments were continuing. The city’s mayor said on Facebook that the historic center of Odessa should be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List to protect it from attacks.
  • Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said “the Russians told us they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack.” “The fact that such an incident occurred right after the agreement we made yesterday regarding the grain shipment really worried us,” Akar said. “We are also disturbed by this.”
  • Ukraine accused Russia of “breaking its promises” under the grain deal. The agreement includes Russian assurances not to attack merchant ships or port facilities involved in the initiative. President Volodymyr Zelensky said the attack showed that “no matter what Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement it.” He later called the attack “a cynical one” that would be another “blow” to Russia’s diplomatic status on the world stage.

Battlefield updates

  • Three people were killed and 19 others injured after Russian missiles struck a military airfield in the Kirovohrad region in central Ukraine early Saturday, the regional governor said on Ukrainian TV. Andriy Raikovych said the attack, which killed a soldier and two security guards, also damaged rail infrastructure.
  • Ukrainian rockets struck a bridge in the occupied Black Sea region of Kherson, according to a regional official. Serhiy Khlan, a member of the Kherson regional council, wrote on Facebook that the strike hit the Daryivskyi bridge, which runs across a river crucial for supplies for Russian troops.
  • Ukrainian forces are advancing in Russian-held Kherson, Zelensky said in his nightly address Saturday. In a report published Saturday, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said Ukrainian forces probably have recaptured some areas in Kherson, but they are difficult to specify due to a lack of information from authorities.
  • Several strikes hit the center of the northeastern city of Kharkiv early Saturday, its mayor said, damaging a residential building and the city’s university.

Global impact

  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said during a speech in Romania that “only Russian-U.S. talks can put an end” to the war in Ukraine. Orban said only Washington could give security guarantees that Russia wants, adding that the E.U. “should not side with the Ukrainians, but position itself” between both sides.
  • Even before Saturday’s missile strike, there was much skepticism about the grain deal. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his country’s “confidence in Russia’s reliability is pretty much nil.”
  • A House delegation led by Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) visited Kyiv on Saturday. Zelensky told the delegation: “We appreciate the help of the United States in defending our territory,” and he stressed the importance of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine. They also discussed plans for postwar reconstruction.

From our correspondents

Fleeing war, Ukrainians find open arms but a closed border: For many Ukrainians escaping war in their homeland, reaching the United States proved to be an arduous journey, Arelis R. Hernández and Whitney Shefte report.

Some made it across the U.S. border with their families, only to encounter hardship on the other side. Others flew across an ocean only to find the border shut — leaving them trapped in an unfamiliar country, confused and disillusioned.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees Friday to annex four occupied regions of Ukraine, following staged referendums that were widely denounced as illegal. Follow our live updates here.

The response: The Biden administration on Friday announced a new round of sanctions on Russia, in response to the annexations, targeting government officials and family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials and defense procurement networks. President Volodymyr Zelensky also said Friday that Ukraine is applying for “accelerated ascension” into NATO, in an apparent answer to the annexations.

In Russia: Putin declared a military mobilization on Sept. 21 to call up as many as 300,000 reservists in a dramatic bid to reverse setbacks in his war on Ukraine. The announcement led to an exodus of more than 180,000 people, mostly men who were subject to service, and renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.

The fight: Ukraine mounted a successful counteroffensive that forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in early September, as troops fled cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large amounts of military equipment.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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