Two Americans killed in Ukraine's Donbas region - report

Two missiles hit area of grain pumping station • Ukraine says Moscow, Kyiv had signed grain export deal on Friday • Canadian recently died in Ukraine

 A general view shows the aftermath of a missile strike at a location given as Serhiivka, Odesa, Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi region, Ukraine, in this handout image released July 1, 2022. (photo credit: State Emergency Services of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS)
A general view shows the aftermath of a missile strike at a location given as Serhiivka, Odesa, Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi region, Ukraine, in this handout image released July 1, 2022.
(photo credit: State Emergency Services of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS)

Two US citizens recently died in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, CNN reported on Saturday, citing a US State Department spokesperson.

The spokesperson, not named in the report, did not provide any details about the individuals or the circumstances of their deaths but said the US administration was in touch with the families and providing "all possible consular assistance," according to CNN.

"Out of respect to the families during this difficult time, we have nothing further to add," the spokesperson was quoted as saying by CNN.

The State Department did not respond to emailed queries from Reuters on Saturday.

Ukraine has been under siege by Russia for nearly five months in what Moscow calls a "special military operation" to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Kyiv and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked war.

 A firefighter works at a site of a residential building damaged by a Russian military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Mykolaiv, Ukraine July 12, 2022. (credit: Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS) A firefighter works at a site of a residential building damaged by a Russian military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Mykolaiv, Ukraine July 12, 2022. (credit: Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS)

Several Americans have volunteered to fight alongside Ukrainian forces despite warnings not to take up arms. A US citizen was killed in combat in May after he joined thousands of foreign fighters who have volunteered to help Ukraine fend off Russian forces.

Canadian recently died in Ukraine, Canadian government says

Canada said on Sunday a Canadian citizen died recently in Ukraine, with a media report suggesting the deceased Canadian was with two US citizens who died in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

"Global Affairs Canada is aware of the death of a Canadian in Ukraine. Consular officials are in contact with the family and are providing consular assistance," a Canadian foreign ministry spokesperson said on Sunday, adding that further details would not be shared due to privacy considerations.

Russian missile attack against Odesa

Russian missiles hit Ukraine's southern port of Odesa on Saturday, the Ukrainian military said, threatening a deal signed just a day earlier to unblock grain exports from Black Sea ports and ease global food shortages caused by the war.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the United States strongly condemns the attack and that Russia bears responsibility for deepening the world's food crisis.

The attack "undermines work of the UN, Turkey and Ukraine to get critical food to world markets" Blinken said in a statement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the strike blatant "barbarism" showing Moscow could not be trusted to implement the deal. However, public broadcaster Suspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying the missiles had not caused significant damage and a government minister said preparations continued to restart grain exports from Black Sea ports.

The deal signed on Friday by Moscow and Kyiv and mediated by the United Nations and Turkey was hailed as a breakthrough after nearly five months of punishing fighting since Russia invaded its neighbor. It is seen as crucial to curbing soaring global food prices by allowing grain exports to be shipped from Black Sea ports including Odesa.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, before a NATO foreign ministers meeting amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium March 4, 2022. (credit: Yves Herman/Pool/Reuters)US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, before a NATO foreign ministers meeting amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium March 4, 2022. (credit: Yves Herman/Pool/Reuters)

"Unfortunately there are wounded. The port's infrastructure was damaged."

Odesa governor Maksym Marchenko

The strikes on Odesa drew strong condemnation from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy. On Friday, UN officials said they hoped the agreement would be operational in a few weeks.

Turkey's defense minister said Russian officials told Ankara that Moscow had "nothing to do" with the strikes on Odesa. Neither Russian defense ministry statements nor the military's evening summary mentioned any missile strike in Odesa. The ministry did not reply to a Reuters request for comment.

Two Russian Kalibr missiles hit the area of a pumping station at the port, while two others were shot down by air defense forces, according to Ukraine's military. Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yuriy Ignat said the missiles were fired from warships in the Black Sea near Crimea.

Suspilne quoted Ukraine's southern military command as saying the port's grain storage area was not hit.

"Unfortunately there are wounded. The port's infrastructure was damaged," said Odesa region governor Maksym Marchenko.

But Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook that "we continue technical preparations for the launch of exports of agricultural products from our ports."

SAFE PASSAGE

The strike appeared to violate the terms of Friday's deal, which would allow safe passage in and out of Ukrainian ports.

"If anyone in the world could have said before this that some kind of dialog with Russia, some kind of agreements, would be necessary, look at what is happening," Zelensky said in a late-night video.

He vowed to do everything possible to acquire air defense systems able to shoot down missiles like those that hit Odesa.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "unequivocally condemned" the strikes, a spokesperson said, adding that full implementation of the deal was imperative.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusai Akar said in a statement: "The Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack ... The fact that such an incident took place right after the agreement we made yesterday really worried us."

Ukraine has mined waters near its ports as part of its war defenses, but under the deal pilots will guide ships along safe channels.

A Joint Coordination Center (JCC) staffed by members of all four parties to the agreement will then monitor ships transitting the Black Sea to Turkey's Bosphorus Strait and off to world markets. All sides agreed on Friday there would be no attacks on these entities.

'SPIT IN THE FACE'

Ukraine foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said on Facebook that "the Russian missile is (Russian President) Vladimir Putin's spit in the face" of Guterres and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing its food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its ports.

A blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia's Black Sea fleet since Moscow's Feb. 24 invasion has trapped tens of millions of tonnes of grain and stranded many ships.

This has worsened global supply chain bottlenecks. Along with Western sanctions on Russia, it has stoked food and energy price inflation. Russia and Ukraine are major global wheat suppliers and a global food crisis has pushed some 47 million people into "acute hunger," according to the World Food Programme.

The deal would restore grain shipments from the three reopened ports to pre-war levels of 5 million tonnes a month, UN officials said.

Zelensky said it would make around $10 billion worth of grain available for sale with roughly 20 million tonnes of last year's harvest to be exported.

Also on Saturday, the US State Department confirmed that two Americans were killed recently in Ukraine's Donbas region but declined to provide details.

Three people were killed when 13 Russian missiles hit a military airfield and railway infrastructure in Ukraine's central region of Kirovohrad, the regional governor said.

Ukraine struck a bridge in the occupied Black Sea region of Kherson, targeting a Russian supply route, a Ukrainian official said. The deputy head of the Russian-installed regional authority said the bridge had been hit but was still operating, Russia's TASS news agency said.

Zelensky said late on Saturday that Ukrainian forces were moving "step by step" into the eastern Kherson region, which was taken over by Russia at the start of the war.