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Grain prices put in a strong finish to the week, with corn setting course for a fifth successive positive session, as an attack by Ukrainian troops on a Russian armoured column escalated regional tensions.

Ukraine said its military had partially destroyed an armoured column crossing from Russia, although it is unknown whether the attack was on official Russian forces, or pro-Russian separatists.

The news sent wheat futures for September soaring 3.5% to $5.56 1/4 a bushel in Chicago at one point, before easing to $5.52 a bushel with an hour's trading to go, a gain of 2.8%.

Paris wheat for November closed up 1.8% at E173.75 a tonne.

With both Russia and Ukraine big exporters of competitively priced wheat, futures in the grain have been particularly sensitive to changes in regional tensions.

Futures in corn, in which Ukraine is a big exporter, rose 1.6% at one point to $3.79 3/4 a bushel for December delivery before easing back to $3.76 1/2 a bushel, a gain of 0.8%.

Opposing dynamics

The price gains were "pretty much all down to Ukraine-Russian tensions", Rich Nelson, chief strategist at Allendale, the Chicago broker, told, with the particular gains in wheat futures a classic signal of such a move.

The boost from the political concerns contrasted with the "bearish factor" of growing estimates for wheat production from both countries, he said, although Black Earth Farming separately on Friday highlighted concerns of low protein in the Russian crop.

Richard Warburton, chief executive of the Russian farm operator, said that protein levels in the national crop have been about 1 percentage point lower "than prior years", a dynamic reflected in the group's own harvest results too.

At Iowa-based US Commodities, Don Roose said that "increased tensions along the Russia-Ukraine border are getting attention".

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