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At least 21 injured in third night of Russian air attacks against southern Ukraine

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KYIV, Ukraine — A third night of Russian air attacks pounded Ukraine’s southern cities, including Odesa, where at least two people were killed, Ukrainian officials said Thursday.

Russia’s attacks on southern Ukraine have become more intense this week, after President Vladimir Putin pulled Russia out of a wartime deal that allowed Ukraine to send grain to countries facing the threat of hunger.

The strikes came one day after an intense Russian bombardment using drones and missiles damaged critical port infrastructure in Odesa, including grain and oil terminals. The attack destroyed at least 60,000 tons of grain.

Moscow had also vowed “retribution” earlier this week for an attack that damaged a crucial bridge between Russia and the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula. Russian officials blamed that strike on Ukraine.

Odesa Governor Oleh Kiper said Ukrainian air defenses destroyed all of the 12 Iranian-made Shahed drones and two Kalibr missiles that targeted Odesa.

But he added that air defense systems were unable to shoot down some incoming missiles, in particular the X-22 and Onyx types. He didn’t say how many missiles got through.

The two people who died in Odesa were a 21-year-old security guard and another person who was found dead under rubble during a search and rescue operation, according to Kiper.

In Mykolaiv, another southern city close to the Black Sea, at least 19 people were injured overnight, the region’s Governor Vitalii Kim said in a statement on Telegram.

Russian strikes partially destroyed a three-story building and caused a fire that affected an area of 450 square meters (4,800 square feet) and burned for hours. Two people were hospitalized, including a child, according to the regional governor.

The European Union’s foreign affairs chief condemned Russia’s targeting of grain storage facilities.

“More than 60,000 tons of grain has been burned,” Josep Borrell said in Brussels on Thursday, commenting on Moscow’s recent tactics. “So not only they withdraw from the grain agreement … but they are burning the grain.”

German Foreign Affairs Minister Annalena Baerbock, said at the same meeting that the EU is involved in international efforts to get Ukrainian grain on to the world market.

“The fact that the Russian president has canceled the grain agreement and is now bombing the port of Odessa is not only another attack on Ukraine, but an attack on the people, on the poorest people in the world,” she said. “Hundreds of thousands of people, not to say millions, urgently need grain from Ukraine.”

Furthermore, the White House warned Wednesday that Russia is preparing possible attacks on civilian shipping vessels in the Black Sea. The warning could alarm shippers and further drive up grain prices.

Russia has laid additional sea mines in the approaches to Ukrainian ports, White House National Security Council spokesman Adam Hodge said in a statement.

“We believe that this is a coordinated effort to justify any attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea and lay blame on Ukraine for these attacks,” the statement said.

In the Russian-annexed territory of Crimea, meanwhile, “an enemy drone” — an apparent reference to Ukraine — attacked a settlement in the peninsula’s northwest, the region’s Moscow-appointed governor Sergei Aksyonov reported Thursday. He said that the attack damaged several administrative buildings and killed a teenage girl.

Meanwhile, the Belarusian Defense Ministry on Thursday said the country’s military continues to train with fighters from the Wagner private military contractor, on a training ground near the border with Poland.

The exercises will continue for a week, the ministry said on Telegram, and promised to share more details later.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who brokered a deal that ended last month’s rebellion launched by Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, has said that his country’s military could benefit from the mercenaries’ combat experience.

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Raf Casert in Brussels contributed.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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