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Moscow Attacks Ukraine Port Day Before Russia-Turkey Talks on Grain Deal

Moscow launched a barrage of drone attacks early Sunday at a port in Ukraine’s Odesa region used by Kyiv to export grain, a day ahead of talks between Russia and Turkey where reviving a U.N.-backed grain deal will be high on the agenda.

Kyiv’s air defenses shot down 22 out of the 25 Iranian-made drones destined for the Danube River port infrastructure, Ukraine’s air force said on Telegram on Sunday. At least two people were reported injured.

The Danube River has become Ukraine’s main route for shipping grain after a deal brokered by Turkey and the U.N. allowing Kyiv to use the Black Sea for exports collapsed in July. Moscow has stepped up its attacks of Danube port infrastructure in recent weeks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Russia on Monday, where Turkey is expected to push for the restoration of the Black Sea grain deal.

“Russian terrorists continue to attack port infrastructure in the hope of provoking a food crisis and famine in the world,” Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, said on Telegram following the Russian attack.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday about the situation following the collapse of the U.N.-backed grain deal. The two leaders “discussed ways to ensure the functioning of the grain corridor and enhance the security of the Odesa region,” Zelenskyy said on social media.

Ukrainian officials also said Russian shelling had injured four people in the country’s southeastern Dnipropetrovsk region Sunday morning, while one person had died after attacks on Saturday in the country’s northeastern Sumy region. POLITICO couldn’t independently verify the reports.

That also comes after a top Ukrainian general leading the country’s counteroffensive said on Saturday that Kyiv’s troops had breached Russia’s first defensive line near Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine after weeks of mine clearance. Ukrainian forces were pushing out on both sides of the breach and consolidating their hold on territory seized in recent fighting, said Brig. Gen. Oleksandr Tarnavskiy, who expected faster gains as they pressed the weaker second line of defense.

In a sign that Russia is increasingly looking at all possible options to shore up its forces, Moscow has been appealing for fresh recruits through advertising in the Caucasus and Central Asia, the U.K. Defense Ministry said on Sunday. Online ads have been spotted in Armenia and Kazakshtan, as well as schemes offering fast-track Russian citizenship for those who sign up.

Around 280,000 people have signed up for military service in Russia so far this year, the country’s former President Dmitry Medvedev said on Sunday. Last year, Russia announced a plan of increasing its troops by 30 percent to 1.5 million.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said that since Russia’s invasion Ukraine has received about $100 billion in military aid from Western allies, including more than $50 billion from the U.S. “Ukraine’s [potential] membership in NATO would be a very serious step toward building the architecture of our new security, in fact, a guarantee of security against a future offensive and attack by Russia,” he added in an interview published Sunday.