Russian strikes kill Ukrainian grain magnate; drone hits Russian naval base

  • Drone hits Russian base on Black Sea, governor blames Ukraine
  • Russian lawmaker says drone launched from Sevastopol
  • Russian missiles pound Mykolaiv, killing grain exporter and wife
  • Zelenskiy says war could cut grain harvest in half
  • ICRC Condemns Attack on Ukrainian POWs

Kiev, July 31 (Reuters) – Russian missiles shelled the southern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv early on Sunday, killing the owner of a major grain exporter, while a drone attack was launched on the Russian naval base on the Black Sea in Sevastopol from the city in a “terrorist attack,” said a Russian lawmaker.

Oleksiy Vadatursky, founder and owner of Nibulon agricultural company, and his wife were killed in their home, Mykolaiv governor Vitaliy Kim said on Telegram.

Its headquarters are in Mykolaiv, a strategically important city bordering the largely Russian-occupied Kherson region. Nibulon specializes in the production and export of wheat, barley and maize, and has its own fleet and shipyard.

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Five Russian naval personnel were injured in an explosion after a suspected drone flew into the courtyard of the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea fleet in Russian-occupied Sevastopol, the governor of the Crimean port city, Mikhail Razvozhayev, told Russian media.

He blamed Ukraine for the attack and said it had decided to “ruined Marine Day for us.” read more

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.

But Olga Kovitidi, a member of the Russian Senate, told Russia’s RIA news agency that the attack was “undoubted not from outside, but from Sevastopol territory”.

“Urgent searches are underway in the city to track down the organizers of this terrorist act. They will be found by evening,” Kovitidi said.

The attack on Sevastopol coincided with Russia’s Naval Day, which President Vladimir Putin marked by announcing that the navy would receive what he called “formidable” hypersonic zircon cruise missiles in the coming months. The missiles can travel at nine times the speed of sound and surpass the air defenses. read more

Putin did not mention the conflict in Ukraine during a speech following the signing of a new naval doctrine that labeled the United States as Russia’s main rival and outlined Russia’s global maritime ambitions for crucial areas such as the Arctic and the Black Sea.

GRAIN TYCOON ‘BIG LOSS’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy described the death of grain magnate Vadatursky as “a great loss for all of Ukraine”. Zelenskiy added that the businessman β€” one of Ukraine’s richest with Forbes estimating his 2021 net worth at $430 million β€” had built a modern grain market with a network of transhipment terminals and elevators.

“It is these people, these companies, in the very south of Ukraine, who have guaranteed the food security of the world,” Zelenskiy said in his overnight speech. β€œIt was always like this. And it will be again.’

He added that Ukraine’s social and industrial potential, “our people, our capabilities, are certainly more powerful than any Russian missiles or grenades.”

Three people were also injured in the attacks on Mykolaiv, the city’s mayor Oleksandr Senkevych told Ukrainian television, in which 12 rockets hit homes and educational facilities. He previously described the strikes as “probably the most powerful” in the city of the entire five-month war.

Up to 50 Grad missiles hit residential areas in the southern city of Nikopol on Sunday morning, Dnipropetrovsk governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Telegram. One person was injured.

Putin sent tens of thousands of troops across the border on February 24, sparking a conflict that left thousands dead and millions uprooted and deeply strained relations between Russia and the West.

The biggest conflict in Europe since World War II has also led to an energy and food crisis that is shaking the world economy. Both Ukraine and Russia are leading grain suppliers.

HARVEST CAN BE HALVED

Zelenskiy also said on Sunday that the country may only harvest half its usual amount this year because of the invasion.

“Ukraine’s harvest threatens to be two times less this year,” Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter in English, which is half less than usual. “Our main goal – to prevent a global food crisis caused by the Russian invasion. Silent grains find an alternative way to be delivered,” he added.

Because of the war, Ukraine is struggling to get its product to buyers through its ports on the Black Sea.

But an agreement signed by the United Nations and Turkey on July 22 provides safe passage for ships carrying grain from three southern Ukrainian ports.

The first grain-exporting ship is likely to leave Ukraine ports on Monday, a spokesman for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday. read more

EASTERN DANGER

Zelenskiy said on Sunday that Russia has transferred some troops from the eastern region of Donbas to the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhizhya.

“But that won’t help them there. None of the Russian attacks will go unanswered by our army and intelligence officers,” he added.

But Zelenskiy said on Saturday that hundreds of thousands of people were still exposed to fierce fighting in the Donbas region, which includes Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, which Russia aims to control completely. Before the invasion, parts of the Donbas were held by Russian-backed separatists.

Russia said on Sunday 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 exchanged accusations about a rocket attack or explosion early Friday that appeared to have killed Ukrainian POWs in the frontline city of Olenivka in eastern Donetsk.

The Russian Defense Ministry had published a list of 50 Ukrainian POWs killed and 73 injured in a Ukrainian military attack with US-made artillery.

The Ukrainian armed forces denied responsibility, saying Russian artillery had attacked the prison to cover up the beatings there.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Sunday condemned the attack, saying it had not yet received permission to visit the site, but added that it was not its mandate to publicly investigate alleged war crimes. read more

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Reporting by Reuters agencies; Written by Lincoln Feast, William Maclean and David Lawder; Editing by William Mallard, Frances Kerry, Tomasz Janowski and Diane Craft

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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