UK Defense Ministry: Russia feels 'less politically constrained' to strike Odesa, ports following end of grain deal

Russia has shown less restraint in striking Odesa and areas in Ukraine’s south since the collapse of the Black Sea Grain Deal, the U.K. Defense Ministry said in its July 25 intelligence update.

“Between August 2022 and June 2023, when the Black Sea Grain Initiative was still in force, Russia generally refrained from striking civilian infrastructure in the southern ports,” the update read.

“Since Russia failed to renew the deal, the Kremlin likely feels less politically constrained, and is attempting to strike targets in Odesa because it believes Ukraine is storing military assets in these areas."

The ministry notes that these attacks have featured an “unusual number” of missiles which are designed to destroy aircraft carriers.

Moscow announced that it would not extend the grain deal on July 17. Since July 18, Odesa and the other ports along the coast of the Black Sea have been repeatedly attacked by Russia.

On July 19, Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskyi reported that Russian attacks had destroyed 60,000 tons of grain in Chornomorsk.

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed on July 23 that the strike that damaged numerous buildings in Odesa’s historic center, including a cathedral, had targeted “facilities where terrorist acts against Russia were being prepared.” The Ukrainian authorities reported that 19 missiles were used in the attack.

On July 24, Russia used attack drones to strike port infrastructure on the Danube, destroying a hangar used for storing grain. The attack took place in the far southwest of Ukraine, just 200 meters from the border with Romania, a NATO member state.

President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke with U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on July 25 about the destruction of Odesa and Ukrainian port infrastructure.

Zelensky said he brought up Ukraine’s need for air defense to protect these sites and that the two leaders discussed further defense cooperation between Ukraine and the U.K.

The U.K. intelligence update added that Russia’s missile strike campaign against Ukraine “has been characterized by poor intelligence and a dysfunctional targeting process” since the start of the war.

UK Defense Ministry: Russia feels 'less politically constrained' to strike Odesa, ports following end of grain deal