Even after a Russian missile attack over the weekend threatened to undermine a critical pact aimed at relieving a blockade on Ukraine's ports, the Kremlin resumed its strikes in the country and pressed Kyiv to resume grain supplies.
Governor Oleh Sinegubov claims that Russian forces bombed a school and other civilian structures in the northern Kharkiv region, burying dozens of people alive under the debris. The hard-hit Donbas region wasn't the only one shelled; reports came in from southern Mykolaiv and eastern Dnipropetrovsk as well.
Himars rocket launchers and other Western-supplied weapons have been effectively used by Ukrainian forces, slowing Russia's advances in eastern Ukraine and making it much more difficult for Moscow to solidify its hold in some places.
In the eastern Luhansk region, which Russia asserted control of earlier this month, Russian-backed rebel sources stated on Monday that Ukrainian forces had fired five missiles from Himars systems at Alchevsk overnight.
Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine's minister of defense, said on Monday that his country's armed forces had destroyed 50 Russian ammo storage facilities since they began using the long-range Himars systems they had purchased from the United States last month.
“This cuts their [Russian] logistical chains and removes their ability to conduct active fighting and cover our armed forces with heavy shelling,” he stated on national television.
During the time that Russia was trying to retake Kharkiv and Mykolaiv, Ukraine was preparing a counteroffensive in the area of Kherson, whose capital city Moscow had conquered in the beginning of the conflict.
Hours after striking an international agreement to relieve its blockade of the Black Sea coastline and allow for the safe passage of grain and other foodstuffs needed to avert a worldwide food crisis, Russia launched a missile attack on Ukraine's important grain-exporting port of Odessa on Saturday.
According to a copy of the deal obtained by The Wall Street Journal, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in Istanbul on Friday pledging not to attack port facilities or civilian ships transporting grain. This strike appears to be in violation of this agreement.
The Kremlin claims that the target of the attack was military facilities.
Nothing to do with the facilities used to ship grain overseas and fulfill commitments. In light of this, this cannot and should not affect the start of the shipment process, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday.
Later on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "There is nothing in Russia's obligations that prevents it from destroying military infrastructure." Lavrov was visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the time.
Even though grain has been stacking up in silos along Ukraine's borders ever since Russia invaded, Ukrainian officials have promised to keep attempting to export it.
Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Saturday that despite the attack, preparations were continuing to begin exports of agricultural products from the country's ports. There will be no turning back from our commitment to re-establishing seaport access.
Moscow's commitment to the accord and readiness to help alleviate food shortages affecting millions of people globally were called into question following the attack, which was universally condemned.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the attack "casts serious doubt" on Russia's interest in removing the siege.
Mr. Peskov has requested that the agreement's evaluation be postponed until shipments begin.
At the same time, according to a statement released by his office on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fired Ruslan Demchenko, his first deputy secretary for the National Security and Defense Council. After the Ukrainian leader recently fired several high-ranking security and intelligence officers for alleged failures to root out Russian sympathizers and spies, Mr. Demchenko was next in line for the ax.
Mr. Demchenko pushed for ratification of the so-called Kharkiv Pact in 2010, in which Ukraine agreed to extend the stay of the Russian Black Sea navy on the Crimean Peninsula. As of 2014, Crimea was officially part of Russia.
The preceding is a summary of an article that originally appeared on The Daily Cable.