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Russian forces launched a massive drone attack on the port area of ​​Odessa in southern Ukraine in the early hours of Sunday, a day before talks between the Turkish and Russian presidents to restart food exports through the Black Sea.

Moscow pulled out of a deal in July to allow Ukraine to ship grain through Black Sea ports, claiming a parallel agreement to remove obstacles to Russian fertilizer and food exports had not been fulfilled. The Danube has since become the main export route for Ukrainian grain.

Sunday’s attack lasted more than three hours and hit food transport infrastructure on the Danube, injuring at least two people.

“Russian terrorists continue to attack port infrastructure, hoping to cause a food crisis and hunger worldwide,” Andrei Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, wrote on Telegram. Ukraine Ukrainian air defenses shot down 22 of 25 Iranian-made Shahid drones, the Air Force said.

Images posted on social media by southern army spokesman Sergei Brachuk showed firefighters battling flames, but it was unclear whether the flames were in the Danube port of Reni or the nearby port of Izmail.

“Russia always tries to create a certain information background before important international events,” Blachuk told Ukrainian television. “But it’s clear that cooperation with Russia is out of the question.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is hoping to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to renew the food deal at talks scheduled for Monday in Sochi.

The original grain deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July 2022, allowed Ukraine to export nearly 33 million tons of grain and other commodities from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

After Russia refused to renew the agreement, Ukraine has steadily increased the amount of grain exported through Danube ports or overland by rail and truck to about 36 million tonnes.

Additional reporting by Roman Olearchyk in Kiev

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