Russian strikes in southern Ukraine kill owner of key grain exporter

A combine harvester collects wheat in a field near Kharkiv in Ukraine on July 30, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KYIV (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Heavy Russian strikes hit the southern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv overnight and early Sunday (July 31), killing the owner of one of the country’s largest grain producing and exporting companies, the local governor said.

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

Headquartered in Mykolaiv, a strategically important city that borders the Russia-occupied Kherson region, Nibulon specialises in the production and export of wheat, barley and corn.

It has its own fleet and shipyard.

President Volodymyr Zelensky described Mr Vadatursky’s death as “a great loss for all of Ukraine”, saying in a statement the businessman had been in the process of building a modern grain market involving a network of transhipment terminals and elevators.

Three people were also wounded in the attacks on Mykolaiv, said the city’s Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych, adding that 12 missiles had hit homes and educational facilities.

He earlier called the strikes “probably the most powerful” on the city in the five-month-old war.

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

Ukrainian forces struck the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Russian-held Sevastopol early Sunday, the Crimean port city’s Governor Mikhail Razvozhayev told Russian media.

Five staff members were wounded in the attack when what was presumed to be a drone flew into the courtyard at the headquarters, he said.

Mr Sergiy Bratchuk, spokesman for the coastal Odesa military region, said claims that Ukraine was behind the attack were “sheer provocation”.

“Our liberation of Crimea from the occupiers will be carried out in another way and much more effectively,” he wrote on Telegram.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin sent tens of thousands of troops over the border on Feb 24, setting off a conflict that has killed thousands, uprooted millions and caused a deep strain in relations between Russia and the West.

The biggest conflict in Europe since World War II has also stoked an energy and food crisis that is shaking the global economy.

Both Ukraine and Russia are leading suppliers of grain.

Mr Zelensky said on Sunday the country may harvest only half its usual amount this year due to the invasion.

“Ukrainian harvest this year is under the threat to be twice less,” suggesting half as much as usual, he wrote in English on Twitter. “Our main goal – to prevent global food crisis caused by Russian invasion. Still grains find a way to be delivered alternatively.”

Ukraine has struggled to get its product to buyers via its Black Sea ports because of the war.

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

There is a high possibility that the first grain-exporting ship will leave Ukraine’s ports today, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.

Russia’s Defence Ministry on Sunday invited experts from the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross to investigate the deaths of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the Olenivka detention centre, according to Tass.

Last Friday’s strike on the prison camp in occupied Donetsk killed about 50 Ukrainian prisoners.

Ukraine and Russia have traded blame over the missile strike or blast. The Russian Defence Ministry had published a list of 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war killed and 73 wounded in what it said was a Ukrainian military strike with a US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.

Ukraine’s armed forces denied responsibility, saying Russian artillery had attacked the prison to hide mistreatment there.

President Zelensky called on residents of the Donbas region to evacuate, saying in his nightly video address on Saturday that many are refusing.

“Leave, we will help,” he said. “At this stage of the war, terror is the main weapon of Russia.”

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the government is enforcing evacuations amid intensified shelling and fears that it will be hard to survive the winter.

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