UN official says latest Russian attacks on Ukraine ‘signal a calamitous turn’

A top United Nations official on Wednesday called recent attacks by Russia on the city of Odesa and other southern Ukrainian port areas “the latest casualties in this senseless, brutal war.”

Speaking to the U.N. Security Council in a briefing on Ukraine, Mohamed Khaled Khiari, an assistant secretary-general, called for such attacks to end “immediately” and suggested they “signal a calamitous turn” in the war.

“These attacks targeting Ukraine’s grain export facilities, similarly to all attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, are unacceptable and must stop immediately,” Khiari said in prepared remarks. “I must emphasize that attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure may constitute a violation of international humanitarian law.”

Khiari pointed to a Russian attack Sunday that damaged a historic cathedral in Odesa, which followed multiple nights of attacks targeting the city and other southern ports in Ukraine.

“We have now seen disturbing reports of further Russian strikes against port infrastructure, including grain storage facilities, in Reni and Izmail ports on the Danube River – a key route for shipment of Ukrainian grain, not far from Ukraine’s borders with Moldova and Romania,” Khiari said.

“Deliberately targeting infrastructure that facilitates the export of food to the rest of the world could be life-threatening to millions of people who need access to affordable food,” he added.

Russia last week pulled out of a wartime deal negotiated by the U.N. that allowed for Ukraine to export grain to countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, a move widely condemned by the West.

“In the wake of Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Initiative, these latest attacks signal a calamitous turn for Ukrainians and the world,” Khiari said Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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