Belize-flagged bulker New Victory, carrying grain under UN's Black Sea Grain Initiative, transits Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey May 12, 2023. Image Credit: REUTERS

KYIV: Ukraine said “unprecedented” air attacks had rocked its capital and other areas early Thursday, a day after it reached an agreement with Russia to extend a deal allowing grain exports across the Black Sea.

The deal, a rare example of cooperation between the warring sides, was welcomed by the United Nations and the United States, though both called for more certainty over the exports as Russia has threatened to end the pact, which is crucial to global food security.

But doubts about the viability of the deal were quickly raised after Ukraine accused Russia of launching an extraordinary series of air attacks on Kyiv and other regions early Thursday.

“A series of air attacks on Kyiv, unprecedented in their power, intensity and variety, continues,” said Serhii Popko, head of Kyiv’s civil and military administration, adding that no casualties had been reported in the capital.

Ukraine’s army reported several explosions in Kyiv’s Desnyansky district and said a fire had broken out at a business in the city’s Darnytskyi neighbourhood as a result of falling debris.

The military also reported “cruise missile” attacks in the central Vinnytsia region, and local media reported explosions in Khmelnytskyi, about 100 kilometres further west.

Kyiv’s anti-aircraft defences were working, according to Serhii Popko, head of the city’s civil and military administration, who urged people to stay in bomb shelters.

Air defences

The grain deal came after Ukraine’s foreign minister met China’s special envoy in Kyiv, and insisted that the war-torn country would not accept any peace plan that relied on giving up territory.

China, a close ally of Moscow, has not publicly condemned Russia’s attacks, and envoy Li Hui sought to promote Beijing-led negotiations to resolve the conflict.

In his meeting with Li, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stressed “Ukraine does not accept any proposals that would involve the loss of its territories or the freezing of the conflict”, his ministry said.

Key Ukrainian ports

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, which has a central role in the grain deal, announced the two-month extension, saying Russia had agreed not to block ships from leaving two Ukrainian ports.

“These agreements matter for global food security; Ukrainian and Russian products feed the world,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

“I hope we will reach a comprehensive agreement to improve, expand and extend the initiative.”

Russia has repeatedly threatened to pull out of the deal, which was meant to expire on May 18, and again on Wednesday denounced “disparities” in how it is implemented.