KYIV, April 27 (Reuters) – Russia launched two missile strikes and damaged a strategic bridge in Ukraine’s Odesa region, state railways and local officials said on Wednesday, an event that could affect Ukrainian plans to expand exports through Danube ports.
The bridge links mainland Ukraine with part of the Odessa region near the mouth of Danube.
The bridge across the Dniester Estuary is a part of the only fully Ukrainian-controlled railway route to Ukraine’s ports on Danube, which Kyiv regarded as a promising route for exports in a situation where Black Sea ports are blocked.
Ukraine, a major agricultural producer, used to export most of its goods through seaports but since Russia’s invasion in February has been forced to export by train via its western border or via its small Danube river ports.
The first attack was on Tuesday evening, and as a result of a rocket hit, the bridge over the estuary was damaged, however, according to local officials, it could be quickly restored.
The second blow was on Wednesday morning and the condition of the bridge has not yet been reported.
The state-run Ukrzaliznytsia railways declined to comment.
“The railway branch suffered, of course. Effect is minus 150 or more wagons/containers with metal and grain per day,” Roman Rusakov, the representative of Ukrainian agriculture ministry, told Reuters.
He said the share of grain cargoes in Izmail’s overall shipments was not so high and “there will be no significant changes”.
The railways data showed that around 1,000 wagons with various cargoes as of mid-April, including 238 wagons with grain, were at Izmail station, Ukraine’s major Danube port.
Ukrainian agriculture and transport officials have said the country is seeking to boost the export capacity of Danube river ports which allow grain to be shipped through the Danube to Romanian Black Sea ports.
European Union member Romania shares borders of the Black Sea with Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia and Ukraine.
The Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta this week said Ukraine had sent around 80,000 tones of grains to the port so far, with more expected to arrive.
The port, which has a storage capacity of around 2 million tonnes handled exports of some 24 million tonnes last year.
Ukrainian traders say that in the absence of a direct railway route, grain deliveries can be carried out by already actively used road routes.
Grain can also be delivered from the north along the already existing route through Moldova.
There was another rail route to Izmail, passing through the territory of Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniestria, but in early March a key bridge of the route was also blown up.
Ukraine accused Moscow on Tuesday of trying to drag Transdniestria into its war on Kyiv after authorities in the Moscow-backed region said they had been targeted by a series of attacks.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; editing by David Evans)