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Russia strikes Ukraine grain exporting port ahead of Putin-Erdo?an talks

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Russia’s Monday (4 September) drone attack on a major Ukraine grain exporting port damaged warehouses and set buildings on fire, Ukraine said, hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, were due to hold talks.

A 3 1/2-hour drone assault on the Danube River port of Izmail, in Ukraine’s Odesa region, hit warehouses and production buildings, and drone debris set several civilian infrastructure buildings on fire, the governor of the Odesa region said.

Putin and Erdo?an were to meet on Monday in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi as Ankara and the United Nations seek to revive a Ukraine grain export deal that helped ease a global food crisis. Ankara called the talks vital for the deal.

Russia quit the deal in July – a year after it was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey – complaining that its own food and fertiliser exports faced obstacles and that not enough Ukrainian grain was going to countries in need.

After quitting the Black Sea grain deal, Moscow has launched frequent attacks on the ports of the Danube River, which has since become Ukraine’s major route for exporting grain.

About 17 drones were shot down, but some hit their targets in the broader Izmail area, Governor Oleh Kiper said on the Telegram messaging app. He added that according to preliminary reports, there were no casualties or injuries.

Monday’s attack followed Russia’s strikes on Sunday on the other major Danube port of Reni, in which the port’s infrastructure was damaged and at least two people injured.

Both Izmail and Reni are situated at the border with Romania, a NATO member.

Drone attacks

Ukraine launched drone attacks on the Kursk region of Russia overnight from Sunday to Monday, with the Russian defence ministry saying its forces had shot down two drones after midnight on Monday.

The drone attack on the Kursk region, which borders Ukraine to its west, began around 1 a.m. Monday (2200 GMT Sunday), the defence ministry said on the Telegram messaging app.

This followed a report Sunday evening by the governor of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, that debris from a downed drone sparked a fire at a non-residential building in the city of Kurchatov.

One of Russia’s biggest nuclear plants is about 4 kilometres from Kurchatov, but there were no reports the plant was affected or targeted.

Starovoit did not say which building was damaged in the Sunday evening drone attack, but Russia’s Baza news outlet, which has good sources among law enforcement agencies, said drone debris fell on the roof of the security services building.

The full extent of the damage was not immediately reported. Reuters could not independently verify the report.

Drone attacks on Russian targets, especially in Crimea – annexed by Moscow in 2014 – and in regions bordering Ukraine, have become almost a daily occurrence since two drones were destroyed over the Kremlin in early May.

The attacks have disrupted flights in and out of Moscow in recent weeks. Ukraine rarely takes direct responsibility for such drone strikes but says destroying Russian military infrastructure helps a counteroffensive Kyiv began in June.

Maritime drones?

Russian naval aviation destroyed early on Monday four US-made inflatable boats with Ukraine’s landing forces in the northwestern part of the Black Sea, the Russian defence ministry said on the Telegram messaging app.

The ministry said the US-made Willard Marine Sea Force inflatable boats were heading in the direction of Cape Tarkhankut on the Crimean Peninsula.

Reuters could not independently verity the report. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine.

(Edited by Georgi Gotev)

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