Intense Russian strikes hit the southern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv on Sunday, killing the owner of one of the country’s largest grain production and export companies, the local governor said.
Vitaly Kim, the governor of Mykolaiv, said in a Telegram that Oleksiy Vadatorsky, founder and owner of the agricultural company Nipolon, and his wife were killed in their home.
The headquarters is located in Mykolaiv, a city of strategic importance located on the border of the occupied Kherson region, Nipolon specializes in the production and export of wheat, barley and corn, has its own fleet and shipyard.
President Volodymyr Zelensky described Mr. Vdatorsky’s death as a “great loss for the whole of Ukraine,” saying the businessman was in the process of building a modern grain market that included a network of freight stations and elevators.
The city’s mayor, Oleksandr Senkevich, told Ukrainian television that three people were also wounded in the attacks on Mykolaiv, adding that 12 missiles hit homes and educational facilities. He had earlier described the strikes as “perhaps the strongest” on the city during the five-month-old war.
Up to 50 Grad rockets hit residential areas in the southern city of Nikopol on Sunday morning, Dnipropetrovsk Governor Valentin Reznichenko wrote on Telegram. One person was injured.
The governor of the city of Crimea, Mikhail Razvogayev, told Russian media that Ukrainian forces bombed the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Russian-controlled Sevastopol in the early hours of Sunday morning.
He added that five employees were injured in the attack when what was supposed to be a drone hovered in the headquarters’ yard.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the battlefield reports.
The Sevastopol attack coincided with Russian Navy Day, which President Vladimir Putin celebrated by announcing that the Navy would receive what he called “enormous” high-speed Zircon cruise missiles in the coming months. These missiles can travel at over nine times the speed of sound.
In this image taken from a video released by the press service of the Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday, May 28, 2022, the frigate Admiral Gorshkov of the Russian Navy launched from the Barents Sea a new hypersonic Zircon cruise missile. source: AAP / AP
He made no mention of the conflict in Ukraine during a speech after the signing of a new naval doctrine that made the United States Russia’s main rival and outlined Russia’s global maritime ambitions for important regions such as the Arctic and the Black Sea.
Putin sent tens of thousands of troops across the border on February 24, sparking a conflict that killed thousands, uprooted millions and severely strained relations between Russia and the West.
Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II has also fueled an energy and food crisis that has shaken the global economy. Both Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of grain.
Participants carry wheat branches covered in red paint as they march in central Athens during a rally in support of Ukraine on July 31, 2022 (Photo by Luisa Golyamaki/AFP) (Photo by Luisa Golyamaki/AFP via Getty Images) source: GT / Luisa Golyamaki/AFP via Getty Images
Harvest can be cut in half
On Sunday, Zelensky said the country could harvest only half the usual amount this year due to the invasion.
“Ukraine’s harvest this year is threatened by being twice less,” Zelensky wrote in English on Twitter, pointing to half of the norm. “Our main goal is to prevent the global food crisis caused by the Russian invasion. Grain is still finding a way to deliver it instead,” he added.
Ukraine has struggled to get its products to buyers through its Black Sea ports because of the war.
But the agreement signed under the auspices of the United Nations and Turkey on July 22 provides for safe passage for ships carrying grain from three ports in southern Ukraine.
A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that there is a high probability that the first grain-exporting ship will leave Ukrainian ports on Monday.
Zelensky said late on Saturday that hundreds of thousands of people were still being subjected to heavy fighting in the Donbass region, which includes the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that Russia seeks to fully control. Vast areas of the Donbass were captured before the invasion by Russian-backed separatists.
“Many are refusing to leave but that still has to be done,” Zelensky said. “The more people leave the Donetsk region now, the fewer people the Russian army will have time to kill.”
Russia said on Sunday it had invited experts from the United Nations and the Red Cross to investigate the deaths of dozens of Ukrainians held by Moscow-backed separatists.
Ukraine and Russia traded accusations over a missile attack or explosion early on Friday that appeared to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the frontline town of Olenivka in eastern Donetsk.
The International Committee of the Red Cross on Sunday condemned the attack and said it had not yet received permission to visit the site, adding that it was not its job to publicly investigate alleged war crimes.
“Families should receive urgent news and answers about what happened to their loved ones,” she said in a statement. “The parties must do everything in their power, including through impartial investigations, to help establish the facts behind the attack and clarify this issue.”
The Russian Defense Ministry had published a list of 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war who were killed and 73 wounded in what it said was a Ukrainian military strike with US-made artillery.
Ukraine’s armed forces denied responsibility, saying that Russian artillery attacked the prison to cover up abuse there.
Reuters journalists confirmed some deaths in the prison, but were not immediately able to verify different accounts of the events.
Russia denies that its forces deliberately attacked civilians or committed war crimes in the invasion, which it described as a “special operation”.