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EU chief says Russian invasion will fail, takes cover during Ukraine visit

European Council President Charles Michel said Russia would fail to "execute" Ukraine's "freedom" on a surprise trip to Odessa Monday during which he was forced to take cover when missiles again truck the Black Sea city.

European Council President Charles Michel participates in a last roundtable discussion following a four days European summit at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium on July 21, 2020. – EU leaders approved a 750-billion-euro package to revive their coronavirus-ravaged economies after a tough 90-hour summit on July 21, along with a trillion-euro budget for the next seven years. (Photo by STEPHANIE LECOCQ / POOL / AFP)

European Council President Charles Michel said Russia would fail to “execute” Ukraine’s “freedom” on a surprise trip to Odessa Monday during which he was forced to take cover when missiles again truck the Black Sea city.

“The Kremlin wants to execute your spirit of freedom and democracy,” Michel said in a video on Twitter.

“I am totally convinced they will never succeed,” he added, promising that the EU will help Ukraine “build a modern, democratic country.”

The EU chief said people in Ukraine are “tortured, raped and executed in cold blood,” saying Ukrainians are “resisting with courage.”

Michel was forced to take shelter earlier during a strike that came as he held talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal, an EU official said.

“It was an air raid during the first meeting with the PM. They simply continued their tete-a-tete in the shelter,” a member of his entourage said.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, who joined their talks by video conference, thanked Michel for visiting Ukraine on Victory Day, the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

“I am very pleased that today the European Union, at the highest level, supports Ukraine at a time when manifestations of Nazism, unfortunately, exist and are being revived,” he said in a statement from his office.

– Talks to unblock Ukraine’s ports –
Ukraine said both sides discussed taking “immediate measures to unblock Ukraine’s ports for grain exports.”

Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports has forced its grain exporters to look for alternatives to move their precious cargo.

The cargo is loaded onto trains, lorries or barges and taken to Romania, now a vital maritime export hub for Ukraine’s crops.

“In the port of Odessa, I saw silos full of grain, wheat and corn ready for export,” Michel said.

“This badly-needed food is stranded because of the Russian war and blockade of Black sea ports causing dramatic consequences for vulnerable countries. We need a global response,” he added.

Before the war, Ukraine exported 4.5 million tonnes of agricultural produce per month through its ports — 12 percent of the world’s wheat, 15 percent of its corn and 50 percent of its sunflower oil.

But the invasion has crippled its export capacity with Russia destroying transportation infrastructure and blockading Odessa, the main port for grain exports.

The conflict has sent the price of food soaring.

The UN’s World Food Programme last week called for the reopening of ports in the Odessa region, saying “hundreds of millions of people globally” depend on Ukraine’s grain supplies.

The EU leader was also briefed by Ukraine’s navy chief on “the damage caused by Russian missiles fired from the sea and was able to witness first-hand the wanton destruction of a residential building and the impact on innocent civilians”, the EU official said.