Russia launches missile attack on strategic Odesa region

·28 min read
Ukraine war: Russia launches missile attack on strategic Odesa region - UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES /via REUTERS 
Ukraine war: Russia launches missile attack on strategic Odesa region - UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES /via REUTERS

Russian forces have reportedly launched missile attacks on the Black Sea region of Odesa, a key location for the export of grain.

Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesperson for the Odesa regional administration, reported that Russian forces launched several missiles at the region, injuring three people.

In a post on the Telegram messaging app he said the damage was caused by two enemy rockets, with a rescue operation ongoing.

Ukraine’s armed forces also provided an update, saying the missiles destroyed a recreation centre and several private buildings.

07:00 PM

That's all for tonight

Today's top stories included:

  • Following a series of blasts deep in occupied Crimea, the Kremlin claimed six Islamist terrorists had been detained

  • Ukraine's defence minister has said no US-supplied Himars rocket systems have been lost, despite Russian repeated claims to have destroyed them

  • The UK Government is reportedly considering doubling the monthly payments to hosts of the Homes for Refugees scheme to £700

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has arrived in Ukraine, ahead of talks over a diplomatic solution to the war with Ukrainian and Turkish presidents in Kyiv on Thursday

  • Nato has urged Russia to allow UN's atomic watchdog to inspect the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

  • Russia has appointed a new Black Sea fleet commander, following a series of explosions in Crimea and the devastating sinking of the Moskva warship in April

06:53 PM

Russia sets up checkpoint at entrance to bridge out of Crimea

Russian forces have set up a checkpoint at the approach to the bridge connecting Crimea to Russia after a series of blasts in the occupied territory saw nearly 40,000 cars left the annexed peninsula.

Denys Savchenko, coordinator of the human rights organisation Crimea SOS, told Ukrainian media: "The occupation authorities have set up a checkpoint at the approach to the Kerch/Crimean bridge.

"And at the checkpoint they are checking those who are leaving Crimea. In particular, they are checking documents, cars and personal belongings."

Mr Savchenko said the explosion at an ammunition depot in Crimea had caused a surge in people heading back to Russia.

06:12 PM

Up to 15 Russian soldiers killed in strikes on Kherson town

The Ukrainian armed forces said between ten and 15 Russian soldiers have been killed in the strike against a Russian post near the town of Nova Kakhovka.

Russian positions in and around the town in Kherson, south Ukraine, have been repeatedly hit by long-range Ukrainian weapons and combat aircraft over the past month.

"The base of the occupiers was destroyed in Nova Kakhovka," the State Border Guard Service said.

05:02 PM

Aftermath of missile strike that damaged Mykolaiv university

Petro Mohyla Black Sea State University following a missile strike in Mykolaiv - BULENT KILIC/AFP 
Petro Mohyla Black Sea State University following a missile strike in Mykolaiv - BULENT KILIC/AFP

04:57 PM

Ukraine has not lost any Himars, defence minister says

Ukraine's defence minister has said it has not lost any US-provided Himars rocket launches, despite Moscow's repeated claims to have destroyed a number of the weapons which have been credited for turning the tide of the war.

Ukraine still had all the systems it has been given, Oleksiy Reznikov told the Ukrainian-language arm of US outlet Voice of America.

04:37 PM

UK hosts of Ukrainian refugees urge Government to help them find permanent homes

More than a thousand UK hosts of Ukrainian refugees have signed an open letter asking the Government to make it easier for them to move into permanent homes.

The Government has been warned that "there is currently no simple way for them to find their own homes" amid pressures on social housing and the private rented sector.

Around 79,000 refugees have come to the UK under the Homes For Ukraine sponsorship scheme, with hosts expected to provide accommodation for at least six months.

Some of these placements will be approaching their end, with these refugees needing to find alternative accommodation either independently or with another sponsor.

The Sanctuary Foundation, which organised the letter, said finding appropriate and affordable long-term accommodation "is one of the greatest challenges" to the scheme.

04:36 PM

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrives in Lviv

04:32 PM

'Panicked' Russians evacuate after explosions heard in occupied area

A loud explosion in an occupied city has led to Russian forces evacuating their "panicked" families, according to Ukrainian mayor Ivan Fedorov.

The blast was heard in the centre of Melitopol in southern Ukraine just after midnight, and came after a series of explosions in Crimea starting last Tuesday.

It was heard near one of the Russian occupiers' command posts, leading Russian forces to block the exit from Melitopol towards Crimea.

Mr Fedorov said a previous explosion at the beginning of the week had suspended the broadcasting of a Russian propaganda channel.

Although it is not clear what caused the explosion, Mr Fedorov described it as a "resistance movement".

The mayor said Russian military forces had begun to evacuate their families from Melitopol, describing them as "panicked".

03:26 PM

Russia must allow UN's atomic watchdog to inspect Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Nato says

It is "urgent" that the UN's atomic watchdog be allowed to inspect the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine that is under Russian military control, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg has said.

Russia's seizure of the plant "poses a serious threat to the safety and the security of this facility (and) raises the risks of a nuclear accident or incident," he told reporters in Brussels.

"It is urgent to allow the inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency and to ensure the withdrawal of all Russian forces," he said.

03:24 PM

Ukraine calls for Crimean Bridge to be 'dismantled'

A senior Ukrainian official has called for Moscow's main bridge connecting the Kremlin-controlled Crimea to the Russian mainland to be "dismantled," in the wake of several attacks on the peninsula.

The 12-mile bridge inaugurated in 2018 by Russian President Vladimir Putin is Moscow's key military and civilian land corridor to the peninsula, which it grabbed from Ukraine in 2014.

"The bridge is an illegal object," presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said on social media.

It "must therefore be dismantled. Not important how - voluntary or not", he added, implying the Kerch bridge could become a military target for Ukrainian forces.

Russia annexed Crimea in the wake of massive street demonstrations in Ukraine that ousted a Kremlin-friendly president and sparked a separatist conflict with pro-Moscow rebels in the country's eastern Donbas region.

In an address late Tuesday after explosions at an ammunitions storage facility near the village of Dzhankoi, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said there had been an exodus from Crimea of Russian tourists who had realised that "Crimea is not a place for them".

03:19 PM

Soviet lab behind 'Robocop' exo-suit set to test weapons in 'extreme cold'

A Russian weapons lab that claimed it had trialled an exoskeleton to turn its soldiers into "Robocops" has announced it has undergone a revamp and is now ready to carry out extreme cold temperature tests.

TsNIITochMash, which was mothballed following the fall of the Soviet Union, told state news agency TASS that its revamped lab would be able to test ballistic weapons and small-calibre artillery in extreme cold temperatures.

In 2018, the head of the defence contractor Oleg Faustov told Tass that it had trialled a powered exoskeleton, which resembles a suit from the Iron Man films, that will allow soldiers to fire a rifle one-handed, carry more supplies and move more quickly.

"We have already held trials for the prototype of the active exoskeleton. It really enhances physical abilities," he said.

Russia has been keen to emphasise its weaponry capabilities since it invaded Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin insisting Russian military technology is "years" ahead of its rivals.

In a speech opening an arms show on Monday, Putin said Russia was ready to sell advanced weapons to its allies and cooperate with others in developing military technology.

Russia ranks second only to the United States in arms sales, selling around $15 billion a year - nearly a fifth of the global export market.

02:36 PM

'Sacked' Admiral couldn't face the public after £574million Moskva sinking, Moscow said

Black Sea fleet chief Igor Osipov disappeared from the public eye after the sinking of the Moskva warship in April.

Forbes estimated the cost of Russia's largest surface combatant lost in action since the end of the Second World War at £574million.

Osipov was noticeably absent from a Red Square victory parade and Moscow addressed rumours around his disappearance by claiming that he was "not in the mood" to face the public.

Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhaev said: "Our commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Igor Vladimirovich Osipov, is now at his combat post.

"Of course he is not in the mood for social networks and congratulations, but I’m sure he and our Black Sea people feel our support."

Ukraine claimed the Moskva was brought down by two Neptune missiles at the time while the Kremlin insisted it sank on stormy seas following a fire caused by exploding ammunition.

But following a recent series of blasts in deep occupied Crimea which Moscow has claimed were due to "sabotage", sources today said Osipov had been removed from post, marking the most prominent sacking of a military official in the nearly six months since Russia launched its war on Ukraine.

State-owned RIA cited the sources as saying the new chief, Viktor Sokolov, was introduced to members of the fleet's military council in the port of Sevastopol.

02:00 PM

Black Sea fleet commander appointment is 'biggest military sacking of the war'

Russia's Black Sea fleet based in annexed Crimea has installed a new commander, RIA news agency cited sources as saying on Wednesday, after Russian military bases on the peninsula were rocked by explosions in the past nine days.

If confirmed, the removal of the previous commander Igor Osipov would mark the most prominent sacking of a military official in the nearly six months since Russia launched its war on Ukraine, in which it has suffered heavy losses in men and equipment.

State-owned RIA cited the sources as saying the new chief, Viktor Sokolov, was introduced to members of the fleet's military council in the port of Sevastopol.

One source said it was "normal" that the appointment was not publicly announced at a time when Russia is conducting what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine.

01:54 PM

MoD shares its latest map of the war in Ukraine

01:33 PM

Russia appoints new Black Sea fleet commander in wake of Crimean blasts

Russia's Black Sea fleet based in annexed Crimea has named Viktor Sokolov as its new commander, RIA news agency cited sources as saying on Wednesday.

The appointment followed blasts at Russian military bases in Crimea last week and on Tuesday.

01:24 PM

Ships set to form largest grains shipment convoy since the war arriving at Chornomorsk port

Five ships are set to form the largest convoy of Ukrainian grain shipments since the war when they arrive at its Chornomorsk Black Sea port later today.

The Ukrainian sea ports authority said they will be loaded with more than 70,000 tonnes of agricultural products including wheat, corn and sunseed oil.

The sea ports authority said that 24 ships carrying food had left Ukrainian ports so far during the 17 days of the grain corridor operation under the Initiative for the Safe Transportation of Grain and Foodstuffs.

"Today we expect five vessels to enter at the port of Chornomorsk - this is the largest figure during the operation of the 'grain corridor'," it said.

01:13 PM

Russian defence minister and Palestinian security chief discuss forging closer ties

A Russian defence minister and the commander of Palestinian security forces have discussed forging closer military and intelligence ties, Moscow's defence ministry has said.

Russia's Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin and Major General Nidal Abu Dukhan from the Palestinian National Authority met at the margins of a security conference held alongside Russia's Army-2022 forum on Tuesday.

Russia has traditionally maintained good relations with the Palestinians and supported their drive for statehood, while stopping short of steps it believes could threaten its status as a neutral intermediary between them and Israel.

Ties between Moscow and Israel have also been historically strong, but have recently become strained due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which Israel has condemned.

Russia has been keen to offer support to countries it considers allies in Latin America, Africa and Asia since its invasion, including through selling advanced weapons and military technology.

In a separate statement on Wednesday, the defence ministry said it held talks with the West African nation of Mali on strengthening its defence capabilities.

Al Qaeda's affiliate in Mali claimed on Monday it had killed four mercenaries from Russia's private military firm Wagner Group in an ambush around Bandiagara in the centre of the country.

12:55 PM

Russia expects its export gas prices will more than double this year

Russia forecasts its average export gas price will more than double this year to $730 per 1,000 cubic meters before gradually falling until the end of 2025, an economy ministry forecast seen by Reuters showed.

Gas flows from Russia, Europe's top supplier, are running at reduced levels this year as pipeline gas exports decrease, fueling a surge in prices.

One route was shut when Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in February, some European countries were cut off for refusing to pay for gas in roubles, and a dispute broke out over repairs to a turbine for the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia to Germany.

Russia's economy ministry forecasts that pipeline gas exports by Gazprom will fall to 170.4 billion cubic meters (bcm) this year, compared to its forecast published in May of 185 bcm and versus 205.6 bcm exported - in 2021.

Gazprom has also said gas supplies are increasing to China, but has not provided detail and Europe remains by far the bigger market for Russian gas.

Last year, Russia earned $244.2 billion from energy exports, the ministry said.

12:45 PM

Ministers looking at 'doubling monthly payments for hosting Ukrainian refugees to £700'

The government is looking at doubling the payments under the Homes for Ukraine scheme to £700 per month in a bid to prevent refugees becoming homeless as a result of the cost of living crisis, it has been reported.

More than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees arrived in Britain under the scheme, which asks British hosts to provide accommodation for a minimum six month period in exchange for a £350-a-month payment aimed at helping offset an increase in household bills.

Office for National Statistics have shown nearly a quarter of all hosts are planning to end their sponsorships at the six month mark, many citing the increasing cost-of-living as a factor for their decision.

A source told Politics Home said growing concerns about the risk of homelessness has now prompted plans to increase the payments if they agree to extend their sponsorship of Ukrainian refugees.

It was understood the Treasury has been presented with proposals to double the monthly payment to £700 for all hosts willing to extend beyond the six month mark in an effort to stop refugees having to be found new sponsors, or potentially being left homeless.

12:30 PM

Four more grains shipments leave Ukraine's ports

Four dry cargo ships carrying sunflower meal, sunflower oil and corn set off from Ukraine's ports of  Odessa and Chernomorsk this morning, according to a Turkish defence ministry announcement, reports Anadolu news agency.

12:24 PM

Chinese troops to take part in joint military exercises with Russia

Chinese troops will take part in  joint military exercises led by Russia, Beijing has said.

Its defence ministry claimed they were  "unrelated to the current international and regional situation" and also include India, Belarus, Mongolia, Tajikistan and other counties.

Last month, Moscow announced plans to hold "Vostok" (East) exercises from August 30 to September 5, saying foreign forces would participate without naming them.

China's defence ministry said its participation in the exercises was part of an ongoing bilateral annual cooperation agreement with Russia.

"The aim is to deepen practical and friendly cooperation with the armies of participating countries, enhance the level of strategic collaboration among the participating parties, and strengthen the ability to respond to various security threats," the statement said.

Under Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Beijing and Moscow have grown increasingly close.

Russia's last such exercises took place in 2018, when China took part for the first time.

11:42 AM

Six-year-old among wounded in shelling on eastern frontline

Residents inspect a crater following a strike in Druzhkivka village, Donetsk region - ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP
Residents inspect a crater following a strike in Druzhkivka village, Donetsk region - ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP

A six-year-old child is among the wounded following overnight shelling in the Donetsk region on the eastern frontline, according to Interfax news agency.

Russian forces shelled Druzhkivka and Avdiyivka in the morning and hit Novodmytrivka at night, Head of Donetsk Regional Military Administration Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

A man today remained under the rubble of a house in Kurakhivka, a whole family was hut in Toretsk and  a six-year-old child was wounded, he added.

"The Russians continue to shell the frontline communities from Kurakhove to Toretsk and hit the towns in the relative rear. In the evening, Toretsk was shelled from artillery – they hit a private house and wounded a whole family of three, including a six-year-old child," he said in the Telegram channel.

"In Ocheretianska merged territorial community, Pisky and Nivelske are under fire. We are establishing the consequences of the shelling.

"In Kurakhivka merged territorial community, the Russians got into an infrastructure facility in Kurakhove and a house in Kurakhivka – there was a man under the rubble, a rescue operation is underway."

He said Russian forces attacked Novodmytrivka, damaging the lyceum and eight private houses without casualties overnight.

In the morning, Druzhkivka was shelled – about ten private houses were destroyed.

11:15 AM

Six Islamist terrorists have been captured in Crimea by the FSB, official claims

Six Islamist terrorists have been detained in Crimea by Russia's FSB security service, a top official in the occupied peninsula said.

The arrests of members of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir were not linked with a recent series of explosions in Crimea, which rocked a military base and damaged infrastructure there yesterday.

"All of them are detained. The activities of the terrorists were coordinated, as one would expect, from the territory of the terrorist state of Ukraine," Sergei Aksyonov, the official, said on Telegram.

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine, which wants to restore its control of the Black Sea peninsula which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Aksyonov said the suspects were members of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Russia.

An FSB statement did not say whether the detained individuals were linked with explosions on Tuesday at a base in Dzhankoi in northern Crimea and last week at a Russian military base in western Crimea, where satellite pictures showed eight Russian warplanes had been destroyed.

But it mentioned Dzhankoi, along with the city of Yalta, as the two locations where the alleged cell had been "neutralised". On Tuesday, Russian authorities blamed saboteurs for the explosions at Dzhankoi.

The FSB said the cell had been recruiting local Muslims and accused it of carrying out terrorist activity.

11:02 AM

Prepare for winter that is 'hard to imagine', warns mayor of Lviv

The mayor of western Ukraine’s biggest city has called on residents to get prepared for a possible disruption of gas and electricity supplies and stock on firewood, reports our Russia correspondent Nataliya Vasilyeva.

Andriy Sadovy, mayor of Lviv, in a five-minute video on Wednesday said the city’s utilities are prepared to ensure central heating across the city but said the City Hall is getting ready for a complete Mariupol-style shutdown of electricity and gas supplies.

“Are such abnormal situations possible here in Lviv? I think, yes,” Mayor Sadovy said, speaking of Mariupol residents cooking food on campfires outside.

“Our task today is to get prepared for a situation that is truly hard to imagine.”

Ukraine still gets most of its gas from Russia.

Mr Sadovy, who recorded the address inside a warehouse filled with firewood, said the city is already buying large amounts of firewood and burning wood stoves as a precaution.

Another official in the video advised the residents to get an electric kettle and a portable electric stove in case Russia switches off gas to Lviv this winter.

10:35 AM

How Kyiv's special forces may have triggered a new phase in the war

Recent attacks on the illegally-annexed peninsula of Crimea might suggest that Kyiv is entering the latest phase in the war against Russia, says our Defence & Security Editor Dominic Nicholls.

Military planners love naming the different “phases” of their operations. Phase one, the break-in. Phase two, the assault. Phase three, the reorganisation. Phase four, the consolidation. And so on until one’s head spins.

The “phase” term is chucked around like Russian ammunition after a Himars strike, but at least the numbering convention can, generally, be understood by the layman.

One phase, though, pushes the bounds of credulity to breaking point and sounds like something from a Stephen King novel: phase zero, the shaping.

You can read Dominic's analysis in full here.

10:15 AM

Russia facing mass migration of Jewish population

Russia is facing the mass migration abroad of large numbers of its Jewish population, with at least one in eight leaving the country since its war with Ukraine began, the BBC reports.

The Jewish Agency helps Jews around the world move to Israel. It says an astonishing 20,500 of Russia's estimated total of 165,000 Jews have gone since March.

Thousands more have moved to other countries.

09:58 AM

German gas giant reports steep losses from Russian squeeze

German energy giant Uniper has reported heavy first-half losses which it blamed on Russia squeezing gas deliveries in the wake of the Ukraine war.

The company, which accepted a government rescue package last month, said that it had recorded a net loss in the first six months of the year of 12.3 billion euros (£10.3 billion).

"Uniper has for months been playing a crucial role in stabilising Germany's gas supply at the cost of billions in losses resulting from the sharp drop in gas deliveries from Russia," CEO Klaus-Dieter Maubach said in a statement.

The German government agreed in late July to take an around 30-percent stake in Uniper, which was threatened with bankruptcy as a result of the crisis.

Mr Maubach said that the bailout would "prevent a chain reaction that would do much more damage".

"Our top priority now is to swiftly implement the stabilisation package," he added.

09:31 AM

Three Britons face charges of mercenarism in Kremlin-backed separatist court

09:06 AM

Russia retreating from Kherson

08:43 AM

Oleksandr Usyk: 'Zelensky's example makes me want to fight for Ukraine'

Ahead of his heavyweight rematch against Anthony Joshua, Usyk is acutely conscious of his role in a quest far larger than himself. Our chief sports writer Oliver Brown has interviewed the Ukrainian boxer in Jeddah.

In the ring, Oleksandr Usyk cultivates an image of tattooed and terrifying intent. And yet here in a fourth-floor meeting room at Jeddah’s Shangri-La Hotel, he is so in touch with his gentler side that he has brought a soft-toy donkey along for support.

“Loilia, it’s called,” says the man seeking to consign Anthony Joshua to oblivion on Saturday night. “It’s my daughter Yelizaveta’s. She’s 12, and she gave it to me to be my talisman. We bought it when we were at Disneyland Paris. We left Ukraine together, but our roads separated in Europe, so she said, ‘This needs to be right next to you. It’s always close to me. It will be in my dressing room, too.”

For five-and-a-half months, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine compelled Usyk to join his compatriots’ ring of steel around Kyiv, he has been cut off from his three children. That is, he admits, a source of desperation, although the presence in Saudi Arabia of his wife, Yekaterina, is helping to placate him. “I have this diamond watch,” he smiles, switching briefly to English as he shows off a fabulously extravagant timepiece. “It’s a present from my wife. It’s my pride.”

You can read Oliver's interview in full here.

08:27 AM

Russians flock to Crimea train station after explosions at ammunitions depot

08:09 AM

Ukraine today, in pictures

Russia-Ukraine war: Donetsk leader urges cooperation with North Korea - SERGEI SUPINSKY /AFP
Russia-Ukraine war: Donetsk leader urges cooperation with North Korea - SERGEI SUPINSKY /AFP
Russia-Ukraine war: Donetsk leader urges cooperation with North Korea - David Goldman /AP
Russia-Ukraine war: Donetsk leader urges cooperation with North Korea - David Goldman /AP
Russia-Ukraine war: Donetsk leader urges cooperation with North Korea - YURIY DYACHYSHYN /AFP
Russia-Ukraine war: Donetsk leader urges cooperation with North Korea - YURIY DYACHYSHYN /AFP

07:47 AM

Latest MoD update

07:13 AM

UN ship with grain for Africa leaves Ukraine

A UN-chartered vessel laden with grain set off from Ukraine for Africa on Tuesday following a deal to relieve a global food crisis, the ministry in charge of shipments said.

The MV Brave Commander left the Black Sea port of Pivdennyi and will sail to Djibouti "for delivery to Ethiopia", the infrastructure ministry said on Telegram.

The ship is carrying 23,000 tonnes of wheat.

It is the first ship chartered by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to leave Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in February and the government has said it hopes two or three similar shipments will follow soon.

06:45 AM

Stay away from Russian military bases, warns Zelensky

As Kyiv considers a potential counter-offensive in the south of Ukraine, explosions in Moscow-annexed Crimea have raised the prospect of new dynamics in the six-month-old war if Ukraine now has capability to strike deeper in Russian-occupied territory or pro-Kyiv groups are having success with guerrilla-style attacks.

President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Ukrainians to steer clear of Russian military bases and ammunition stores and said the explosions could have a number of causes, including incompetence.

"But they all mean the same thing – the destruction of the occupiers' logistics, their ammunition, military and other equipment, and command posts, saves the lives of our people," he said in his nightly address.

In Tuesday's blasts, an electricity substation also caught fire, according to footage on Russian state TV. Seven trains were delayed and rail traffic on part of the line in northern Crimea was suspended, Russia's RIA news agency said.

05:11 AM

In pictures: after the blasts

A rescue worker examines a crater after Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine - Ukraine Emergency Service/AFP
A rescue worker examines a crater after Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine - Ukraine Emergency Service/AFP
 A woman walks past a destroyed shopping mall in Bucha, Kyiv - SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP 
A woman walks past a destroyed shopping mall in Bucha, Kyiv - SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP

04:19 AM

Ukraine's wheat heads to Africa

A UN-chartered vessel laden with grain set off from Ukraine for Africa on Tuesday following a deal to relieve a global food crisis, the ministry in charge of shipments said.

The MV Brave Commander left the Black Sea port of Pivdennyi and would sail to Djibouti "for delivery to Ethiopia", the infrastructure ministry said.

The ship is carrying 23,000 tonnes of wheat.

It is the first ship chartered by the UN World Food Programme to leave Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion.

The Government hopes two or three similar shipments will follow soon.

03:21 AM

Why is Ukraine's grain in Syria raising eyebrows?

Syria remains sanctioned by the West over killing and abuses of civilians during the civil war, though food supplies have been exempted by the West.

Russian military support has been key to Syrian president Bashar Assad remaining in power.

Syria has recognised the Russian-backed breakaway eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as sovereign entities, leading to Kyiv severing diplomatic ties with Damascus.

Since earlier this year, ships have carried Ukrainian foodstuffs from Russian-occupied territory to Syria.

03:14 AM

Grain no longer Kyiv's responsibility

When asked about grain arriving in Syria, the Ukrainian Embassy in Beirut referred to an earlier statement that the cargo of the ship Razoni was no longer Kyiv's responsibility.

"Our task has been to reopen seaports for grain cargo and it has been done," the statement said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price similarly said that the US did not "determine who buys the grain shipments or their final destinations".

"What matters most to us are a couple things," Mr Price said.

"One: That Ukraine is appropriately compensated for the grain, the foodstuff, for the crops that it is in this case providing. And that the food gets to where it is needed most."

03:10 AM

Ukraine grain appears to have arrived in Syria

The first shipment of grain to leave Ukraine under a war-time deal appears to have ended up in Syria – even as Damascus remains a close ally of Moscow, satellite images analysed by The Associated Press show.

The arrival of the cargo ship Razoni in Syria comes after the government in Kyiv praised the ship's initial departure from the port of Odesa as a sign that Ukraine could safely ship out its barley, corn, sunflower oil and wheat to a hungry world where global food prices have spiked in part due to the war.

But its arrival in Syria's port of Tartus shows how complicated and murky international trade and shipping can be. Syria has already received Ukrainian grain taken from Russian-occupied territory amid Moscow's war on Kyiv.

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni, centre bottom with four white cranes on its red deck, at port in Tartus, Syria - Planet Labs PBC via AP
This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni, centre bottom with four white cranes on its red deck, at port in Tartus, Syria - Planet Labs PBC via AP

Images from Planet Labs PBC show the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni at port just before 11am on Monday. The vessel was just next to the port's grain silos, key to supplying wheat to the nation.

Data from the Razoni's Automatic Identification System tracker shows it had been turned off since Friday, when it was just off the coast of Cyprus, according to ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com. Ships are supposed to keep their AIS trackers on, but vessels wanting to hide their movements often turn theirs off. Those heading to Syrian ports routinely do so.

The Razoni could be identified in the satellite image by its colour, length and width, as well as the four large white cranes on its deck. Samir Madani, co-founder of the oil-shipment website TankerTrackers.com and an expert on following ships via satellite images, similarly identified the vessel from the image.

02:24 AM

Ukrainian officials cheer Russia's setbacks

Smoke rises over the site of an explosion at an ammunition storage site of the Russian army near the village of Mayskoye, Crimea - AP
Smoke rises over the site of an explosion at an ammunition storage site of the Russian army near the village of Mayskoye, Crimea - AP

Russia has blamed sabotage for explosions at one of its military bases in Moscow-annexed Crimea while Kyiv hinted it was responsible as Ukrainian officials said their strategy was to destroy supply lines supporting Russia's invasion.

The blasts on Tuesday engulfed an ammunition depot at a military base in the north of the Crimean peninsula, disrupting trains and forcing the evacuation of 2,000 people from a nearby village, according to Russian officials and news agencies.

Plumes of smoke were later seen at a second Russian military base in central Crimea, Russia's Kommersant newspaper said.

Russia's defence ministry said the explosions at the ammunition depot were "a result of sabotage".

The Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, is the main supply route for Russian forces in southern Ukraine and the base for its Black Sea fleet.

Ukraine did not confirm or deny responsibility for the explosions though its officials openly cheered Russia's setbacks there.

02:08 AM

Today's top stories

  • Ukrainian special forces are reported to be behind a series of mysterious explosions behind enemy lines in occupied Crimea

  • The term “shaping the battlefield” is used by military planners to describe the manoeuvres in a campaign prior to the main fight breaking out. What seems to be happening now in Crimea could well be the shaping phase of the anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive in the Kherson region

  • Production has slumped at Russia’s state gas giant Gazprom as it struggles to replace European buyers

  • Germany plans to keep its remaining nuclear power plants open for longer in a major U-turn as it scrambles to keep the lights on this winter with less Russian gas