Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, a grain warehouse destroyed by a Russian drone strike is seen in a sea port in Odesa, Ukraine, on July 24. Ukrainian Armed Forces/Reuters

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told CNN that he thinks Russia’s targeting of the Ukrainian port city of Odesa is an “absurd” approach and claimed the attacks were “new evidence they are a terrorist state.”

Speaking before the attack on the cathedral in Odesa over the weekend, Reznikov said in a wide-ranging interview with CNN senior national security correspondent Alex Marquardt that he was not surprised by the ferocity of the attacks, saying that “honestly, after February of last year, it is very difficult to surprise me.”

When asked if he felt the attacks were a response to Ukraine’s admitted attack on the Kerch Bridge on July 17, Reznikov said that Moscow “tried to explain that it’s a response for some explosions in their territories, but they are fighting with the civilians. That’s why I call them looters, rapists and murderers.”  

Last week, a CNN team in Odesa witnessed four consecutive nights of attacks against the port city. The attacks came as Russia withdrew from the crucial Black Sea grain initiative. Odesa had been one of the key ports that exported Ukrainian grain to the world under a wartime agreement.

On Russia’s withdrawal from the initiative, Reznikov said “You know, that is why I have a saying, the sign of Russian signature on the paper, costs less than the price of this piece of paper.”

Ukraine will respond if attacked in the Black Sea, Reznikov told CNN.

The defense minister said “we have capacity” and “if they threaten us in the Black Sea we’ll have to respond.”

Reznikov used the example of the Russian cruiser ship The Moskva, which sank after being targeted by Ukrainian naval forces in the Black Sea. 

Last week CNN reported US officials were worried Russia may target civilian ships in the Black Sea and “blame Ukraine.” CIA director Bill Burns said “false flag” attacks by Russia in the body of water could be being prepared.

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