- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that an “important and substantive step” was made towards a comprehensive deal to resume exports of Ukraine grain after talks between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and United Nations’ officials.
- Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar says the deal will be signed next week while warring parties already agree on “joint controls” for checking grains at harbours and on ways to “ensure the safety of the transfer routes” across the Black Sea.
- The United Nations Refugee Agencies says that more than nine million people have crossed the border from Ukraine since Russia invaded the country in February.
- Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reports a significant buildup of Russian troops, particularly in the Bakhmut and Siversk areas, and around Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, as the region braces for a powerful offensive.
- Russian troops, along forces from the Russian-backed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), have entered the city limits of Siversk city in the east of Ukraine, a LPR’s official told TASS news agency.
This live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us.
These were the updates on Wednesday, July 13:
Lithuania will allow sanctioned Russian goods trade to Kaliningrad
European Union member Lithuania will allow sanctioned Russian goods to transit its territory on their way to Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, its foreign ministry has said, reversing its policy after new European Commission guidelines.
The new guidelines followed weeks of tension among Moscow, Lithuania and the European Union that tested Europe’s resolve to enforce sanctions on Russia.
Kaliningrad, which is bordered by EU states and relies on railways and roads through Lithuania for most goods, has had some freight transport from mainland Russia cut off since June 17 under sanctions imposed by Brussels.
Where are people fleeing to?
‘An important and substantive step’: Guterres
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that an “important and substantive step” was made towards a comprehensive deal to resume Black Sea exports of Ukraine grain.
“Next week, hopefully, we’ll be able to have a final agreement. But, as I said, we still need a lot of goodwill and commitments by all parties,” he told reporters in New York. He said that although Ukraine and Russia had engaged, “for peace we still have a long way to go.”
Turkey says warring parties agree to form coordination centre for grain exports
Talks between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and UN officials on resuming Black Sea exports of Ukraine grain resulted in an agreement to form a coordination centre in order to ensure the safety of routes, the Turkish defence minister has said.
In a statement, Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said an agreement would be signed next week when all parties meet again, adding the parties had agreed on joint controls for checking grains at harbours.
Russia, Ukraine reach breakthrough over grain exports: sources
As the UN chief is soon expected to provide details over a potential deal on the export of Ukrainian grain, two senior UN officials told Al Jazeera that there has been a breakthrough in talks in Istanbul.
Delegations from Russia and Ukraine, along UN officials, met in the Turkish capital to reach an agreement on how to bring back to the world market Ukrainian grain amid a global food crisis.
The two sources said that “they are close to a deal or perhaps they even have a deal,” Bays said.
Ukraine cuts ties with North Korea over recognition of breakaway regions
Ukraine severed relations with North Korea over Pyongyang’s recognition of two breakaway self-proclaimed republics in Ukraine’s east.
“We consider this decision as an attempt by Pyongyang to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.
Russian and Russian-backed separatist forces enter Siversk: TASS
Russian troops, along forces from the Russian-backed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), have entered the city limits of Siversk city in the east of Ukraine, a LPR’s official told the Russian TASS news agency.
“It seems that in a couple of days Siversk will be free”, Vitaly Kiselev, an assistant to the self-styled interior minister of the LPR, was reported as saying.
Russian opposition leader arrested for ‘spreading fake news’
A court in Moscow has ordered the arrest of Ilya Yashin, an opposition leader and Kremlin critic, on suspicion of “spreading false information” about the war in Ukraine.
Meduza.io reported that the 39-year-old now faces up to 15 years in jail.
The charges came after Yashin made a livestream on YouTube where he talked about the killing of hundreds of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.
On Friday, municipal lawmaker Aleksey Gorinov became the first Russian to be sentenced to seven years in jail for “spreading fake information” about the war.
Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev from Kyiv, Ukraine
Russia-Ukraine grain talks end in Istanbul: Turkey
Russian and Ukrainian defence delegations have concluded their closed-door talks on unblocking Black Sea grain exports, the Turkish defence ministry has said, without disclosing details.
The Turkish ministry issued a one-sentence statement saying the talks had “ended”, without specifying if any progress had been made in the first direct negotiations between the two sides since March.
Over 9 million border crossings registered from Ukraine: UN
The UN Refugee Agency says that more than nine million people have crossed the border from Ukraine since Russia invaded the country.
EU says Lithuania must allow rail transit of Russian goods to Kaliningrad
The European Union has said Lithuania had an obligation to allow the passage of sanctioned goods, with the exception of weapons, between Russia and its exclave of Kaliningrad.
While transit by road was not allowed, legal guidance by the EU executive said that “no such prohibition exists for rail transport” from Russia to its outpost of Kaliningrad and that it could not be subject to an outright ban.
Russia has threatened reprisals against the Baltic nation after Vilnius imposed strict restrictions on goods travelling across its territory, arguing it was simply applying EU sanctions.
North Korea recognises separatist Donetsk: report
North Korea has recognised the “independence” of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic in southeastern Ukraine, its leader Denis Pushilin told the RIA Novosti news agency.
Russia recognised Donetsk and the neighbouring Luhansk People’s Republic in February, days before invading Ukraine.
Only Syria and two separatist republics in ex-Soviet Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, followed suit.
Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua said they would recognize the two regions, but never actually did.
Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev from Kyiv, Ukraine
In Ukraine, Boris Johnson’s downfall is met with sorrow
As Boris Johnson prepares to leave office following a humiliating loss of confidence by his own Conservative Party, most in the United Kingdom agree he leaves a mixed legacy after a premiership defined by dishonesty and scandal.
Yet that is not the view in Ukraine.
In a phone call last Thursday, after Johnson resigned, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told him, “We all heard this news with sadness. Not only me, but also the entire Ukrainian society.”
So how did Johnson become so popular in Ukraine?
Read the full story here.
Russia ‘hysterical’ about raids from US-made HIMARS: Official
Attacks using US-supplied HIMARS systems have caused “hysteria” among Russian forces, an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.
Kyiv used high-precision HIMARS, or “high-mobility artillery rocket systems,” to effectively destroy several large ammunition stores in occupied or separatist-controlled areas.
“There is hysteria in Russia. It is a weapon that cannot be resisted. All measures that can be taken: dispersal, separation – worsen the combat capabilities of the Russian army, because their principle of deploying troops is concentration,” adviser to the president Oleksiy Arestovych said in televised remarks.
Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev from Kyiv, Ukraine.
Russia’s fast-tracking of passports for Ukrainians is ‘propaganda’: Germany
Germany has dismissed as “propaganda” a Russian decree that simplifies rules for Ukrainians to obtain Russian passports.
Russia has said that residents of areas of southern and eastern Ukraine occupied since February’s invasion are entitled to become Russian citizens, a move that Ukraine and Western countries say confirms that Moscow plans to retain control of those regions.
The German spokesperson said that “it’s part of Russian propaganda. Ukraine is a sovereign, independent state. No other state can give Ukrainian citizens any kind of passport.”
US calls for observers in Russian-held amid reports of child separation
The United States has called on Russia to immediately release Ukrainians it has forced out from their home country and to allow outside observers, citing reports that Moscow was putting Ukrainian children up for adoption and “disappearing’ thousands of others.
“The unlawful transfer and deportation of protected persons is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians and is a war crime,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“Estimates from a variety of sources, including the Russian government, indicate that Russian authorities have interrogated, detained, and forcibly deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens, including 260,000 children, from their homes to Russia – often to isolated regions in the Far East,” read the statement.
“Moscow’s actions appear pre-meditated and draw immediate historical comparisons to Russian “filtration” operations in Chechnya and other areas,” it added.
Kyiv denies Russia shot down four Ukrainian jets
Ukraine’s air force has denied that Russian forces shot down four Ukrainian military jets.
The Russian defence ministry said Russian forces had destroyed an Su-25 and Su-24 – Soviet-era jets used by the Ukrainian air force – over the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine along with another Su-25 and a Mig-29, another Soviet-designed fighter aircraft in the Mykolaiv region.
Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, dismissed the assertion as propaganda.
Russian shelling kills 5 in southern Ukraine’s Mykolaiv region: Kyiv
At least five people have been killed in Russian shelling in the region surrounding the embattled Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv near the Black Sea, the Ukrainian leadership has said.
The presidential deputy chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko said several raids had damaged a hospital and homes in the region, adding that “there were also artillery strikes in the Vitovsk district and according to preliminary information five civilians were killed”.
Ukraine rules out ceding territory to Russia to secure peace
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has ruled out ceding territory to Russia as part of any peace deal and said no peace talks were under way between Moscow and Kyiv.
“The objective of Ukraine in this war … is to liberate our territories, restore our territorial integrity, and full sovereignty in the east and south of Ukraine,” he told a briefing. “This is the end point of our negotiating position.”
Russia took control of Luhansk province in eastern Ukraine this month and hopes to capture all territory it does not yet control in neighbouring Donetsk, the other province in the industrial Donbas region.
Russia’s deepening ties with Iran represents a ‘profound threat’: White House
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to deepen ties with Iran amid the Ukraine conflict represents a “profound threat,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has said.
“Russia deepening an alliance with Iran to kill Ukrainians is something that the whole world should look at and see as a profound threat,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan’s comments come as US officials have said Iran is preparing to help supply Russia with several hundred drones, including some that are weapons-capable, to use in Ukraine. Putin is expected to visit Tehran next week.
Sullivan called the timing of the Putin trip “interesting”.
Captive Britons and Moroccan may be executed by a firing squad: Report
Two Britons and one Moroccan who were sentenced to death by pro-Russian separatists may be executed by a firing squad “not publicly,” a rebel leader has said according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.
UK nationals Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun, fought for the Ukrainian military and were captured by pro-Russian separatists.
In early June, they were sentenced to death for allegedly “attempting to seize power” and “training in order to conduct terrorist activity.” They appealed their sentences.
Denis Pushilin, who heads the Moscow-backed “People’s Republic of Donetsk” in southeastern Ukraine was quoted by Interfax as saying that “if the appeals court rules that their earlier sentences are legal, they will be [executed] by a firing squad not publicly.”
Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev from Kyiv, Ukraine.
Kremlin hopes Biden will not seek to turn Saudi Arabia against Russia
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said he hoped President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia would not be used to try to foster anti-Russian relations, just as the United States seeks to convince Riyadh to boost oil production amid soaring prices.
Peskov added that Russia, the world’s second-largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and the world’s biggest exporter of natural gas, highly valued cooperation with Saudi Arabia within the framework of OPEC+ group of world’s leading oil producers.
“We highly appreciate our relations and our interaction with Riyadh and we certainly hope that the building of relations and the development of relations between Riyadh and other world capitals will in no way be directed against us,” he told a daily conference call with reporters.
Russian official says inspecting vessels requirement for export of grain
Russia’s Interfax news agency has quoted Pyotr Ilyichev, the head of the international organisations department at the Russian foreign ministry, as saying that Russia was ready to facilitate the navigation of foreign commercial vessels to export Ukrainian grain.
However, he said Russia wanted to control and inspect vessels to rule out arms smuggling.
Russian news agency RIA quoted an unnamed diplomatic source as saying Russia’s demands included the removal of “obstacles to exports” created by Western sanctions, citing the areas “of shipping insurance, logistics, transportation services and banking operations.”
Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov joins fight in Kramatorsk
Ukrainian movie director Oleg Sentsov, who last year presented his film Rhino at the prestigious Venice film festival, has joined the fighting in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
In an interview with news agency AFP in the embattled city of Kramatorsk, the filmmaker said, “Today we live in a totally different world where everything has to do with war.”
Sentsov took part in the 2013 Maidan uprising that removed a pro-Kremlin president in Ukraine and then joined demonstrations in his native Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Later the same year, the director of the internationally acclaimed 2011 film Gamer was arrested by Russia and sentenced to 20 years in prison on terrorism charges. He was jailed in Siberia and staged a hunger strike for 144 days before he was released in 2019 as part of a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine.
Two-thirds of Ukraine refugees plan to stay put for now: UN
Around two-thirds of refugees from Ukraine expect to stay in their host countries until hostilities subside and the security situation improves after Russia’s invasion, a survey by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has found.
Most of the refugees from Ukraine, mainly women and children, hope to return home eventually, according to the survey of about 4,900 people from Ukraine now living in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. The survey was conducted between mid-May and mid-June.
UNHCR says 5.6 million refugees are now recorded across Europe, with nearly 8.8 million people crossing out of Ukraine and nearly 3.3 million crossing back in since the Russian invasion on February 24.
Read more here.
Why the war in Ukraine is causing a global food crisis | Start Here
Ukraine is usually one of the world’s biggest exporters of grain, but the war has changed that. What’s going on? And why has it got the UN warning about famine?
Russia says it shot down four Ukrainian jets
Russia’s defence ministry has said its forces shot down four Ukrainian military jets in the Mykolaiv region of southern Ukraine.
Russian fighter jets destroyed an Su-25 and Su-24 – both Soviet-era jets used by the Ukrainian air force – over the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine along with another Su-25 and a Mig-29, the defence ministry said in a daily briefing.
Lithuania aims to decouple Baltics from Russian power grid
Lithuania is pushing to decouple the Baltic States from the Russian power grid already in early 2024 compared with a previous plan for the end of 2025, Lithuanian power grid operator Litgrid’s CEO Rokas Masiulis has said.
Masiulis said discussions with Estonia and Latvia on the matter had started and that the European Commission was also involved.
Litgrid’s CEO also assured that European power grid network ENTSO-E will connect to the Baltic states’ grids within 24 hours if the countries were to be disconnected by Russia.
Kuleba says ‘security’ needed for grain exports but deal within reach
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told journalists that “security” was needed to ensure that ships carrying grain can transit through Ukrainian ports safely.
“Security for us means that [the] Russian navy won’t be able to attack our ports from the sea in … these open corridors, because you don’t know, you know, we cannot trust the Russians,” Kuleba was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying.
The foreign minister added that Moscow was using grain negotiations to obtain the lifting of financial measures that have hit its economy hard. “They are playing their hunger game, putting millions of people in Africa and in Asia at risk simply because they want to get rid of some of the sanctions,” Kuleba added.
In an interview to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, he expressed optimism and stressed that Ukraine was “ready to export grain to the international market.” “We are two steps away from a deal with Russia,” Kuleba said.
Russia would consider gas transit via Ukraine beyond 2024: RIA
Russia will consider continuing to send gas to Europe via Ukraine beyond its current deal which ends in 2024, as long as European countries still want Russian gas and Ukraine’s national transit system works, the RIA news agency has reported citing the foreign ministry.
Despite the war in Ukraine, Russia has continued to ship large quantities of gas across Ukraine into Europe – Moscow’s key global customer for its multibillion-dollar gas exports.
Chasiv Yar death toll climbs to 46: State Emergency Service
The body of another person was pulled out from under the rubble of the five-storey apartment block in Chasiv Yar, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine has said, bringing the total number of dead from the Russian missile attack on Saturday to 46.
Russian-backed separatists say Ukraine’s forces fired at Luhansk using HIMARS
Russian-backed separatists from the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) say Ukraine fired several missiles at Luhansk from the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) donated by the US.
“From the side of the armed formations of Ukraine, shelling was recorded: 23.35 from the direction of the settlement of Artemovsk (Bakhmut) towards the settlement of Luhansk using HIMARS MLRS (nine missiles),” a representative from the LPR said on Telegram, Russia’s state news agency RIA reported.
RIA’s report did not include any mention of casualties.
Anti-Russian sentiment growing in occupied Ukraine: UK
The anti-Russian sentiment is growing in occupied Ukraine, and Russian-backed officials are at risk of escalating attacks which would exacerbate the “already significant challenges facing Russian occupiers,” the UK’s Ministry of Defence has said.
“Anti-Russian sentiment in occupied Ukraine is leading to Russian and pro-Russian officials being targeted. The Russian-appointed administration in Velykyi Burluk acknowledged that one of its mayors was killed on 11 July 2022 by a car bombing,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing.
“The targeting of officials is likely to escalate, exacerbating the already significant challenges facing the Russian occupiers and potentially increasing the pressure on already reduced military and security formations,” the briefing added.
The ministry also said Russian forces will likely focus on taking several small towns in the Donetsk region in the coming week, including Siversk and Dolyna, as they approach the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 13 July 2022
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/TG9u00orEQ
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) July 13, 2022
Indonesia hopes for progress in G20 finance leaders’ talks despite war friction
G20 finance leaders will meet in Bali this week for talks that are due to include issues like global food security and soaring inflation, as host Indonesia tries to ensure frictions over the war in Ukraine do not blow discussions off course.
Indonesia has said Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov will address the meeting virtually, with his deputy travelling to Bali. Ukraine’s finance minister has also been invited and is due to attend one session virtually.
Indonesia hopes to issue a communique when talks wrap up on Saturday though its central bank governor said the meeting would be summarised in a chair’s statement if that is not feasible.
Indonesian officials have noted disagreements between Western countries and Russia on how to word a draft communique to describe the state of the global economy and how it is being affected by the war in Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.
Four killed, eight injured in Donetsk: Governor
Four civilians were killed and eight injured in Russian attacks in the Donetsk region on Tuesday, the regional governor has said.
“During July 12, the Russians killed four civilians of Donbas: two in Avdiivka, one in Bakhmut and one in Chasiv Yar,” Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote on Telegram.
It was unclear whether the death in Chasiv Yar was related to Russia’s Saturday air raid on a five-storey apartment building.
Poland backs measures to boost gas security as energy crisis flares
The Polish cabinet has backed legislation loosening gas trading rules, extending tariff protection for consumers, and contingency planning for grid operators to allow for a swift reaction if the energy crisis deteriorates.
“An exceptional situation on global energy markets caused by Russia’s aggression on Ukraine and surging gas prices … create a necessity for special legal measures that allow for a real-time reaction if the situation deteriorates further,” the government said on Tuesday.
Proposed measures include a suspension of the rules obliging gas companies to trade fuel on the Warsaw exchange if a gas crisis is declared, an extension of tariff protection for 7.1 million small consumers including households until 2027, and contingency planning for gas storage and transmission operators.
“The measures will allow us to use gas storage more effectively and increase storage capacity,” Government Spokesperson Piotr Muller told a news briefing.
Lockheed delivers first model of new rocket launcher to US army
Defence contractor Lockheed Martin has said it handed over the first model of its newest mobile rocket launcher to the US army.
The United States and its allies have recently supplied weapons worth billions of dollars to Ukraine to help it repel an invasion by Russia. Lockheed said the new multiple launch rocket system, named M270A2, can be transported by large military transport aircraft C-17 and C-5.
The United Kingdom, an M270A2 customer, said last month it would supply Ukraine with some of its older multiple-launch rocket systems that can reach targets up to 80km (50 miles) away.
Ukrainian group to sue Canada for returning Nord Stream 1 turbine
A group representing the Ukrainian diaspora has said it is seeking a judicial review of the Canadian government’s decision to return a repaired turbine to Germany that is needed for the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline.
The Canadian government on Saturday said it was issuing a “time-limited and revocable permit” to exempt the return of turbines from its Russian sanctions as Europe seeks continued energy flows until it can end its dependency on Russian gas.
“This exemption to the sanctions regime against Russia is totally unacceptable,” the Ukrainian World Congress said in a statement. “There are real alternatives to Germany’s gas needs, including buying through Ukraine’s pipeline.”
The Ukrainian World Congress said it had filed a notice of application for judicial review to the Federal Court and was requesting “a declaration that the decision to provide a permit to Siemens was unreasonable and unauthorised and an order quashing the permit.”
Chasiv Yar death toll hits 45
The death toll after a Russian missile attack on the town of Chasiv Yar has increased to 45, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service has reported.
UK proposes dropping anti-dumping measures against Chinese steel
The UK’s Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) has proposed dropping anti-dumping measures on Chinese reinforcement steel, saying more imports were needed to meet a fall in supply from other countries because of the war in Ukraine.
The measures have been in place since 2016, but the TRA said maintaining them would not be in the UK’s economic interests given high demand for the steel from its construction sector, and a fall in supply from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
The three countries supplied 27 percent of the UK’s imports of Rebar reinforcing steel in 2020-21, the TRA said, and this would likely drop substantially as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the UK’s subsequent sanctions against Russia and Belarus.
“Our judgement is that the impact on the British economy of higher prices would significantly outweigh the impact on the sole UK producer of rebar of removing tariffs on Chinese imports,” said TRA Chief Executive Oliver Griffiths.
US concerned critical minerals vulnerable to manipulation amid war
The US energy secretary has said the government is concerned that supplies of critical minerals, used widely in clean energy technology, could be subject to weaponisation the way oil and gas have been amid the Ukraine conflict.
“Our concern is that critical minerals could be as subject or vulnerable to manipulation as we’ve seen in other areas, or weaponisation,” Jennifer Granholm said at the start of talks with Australia’s resources minister and executives from 14 mining companies at the Sydney Energy Forum.
LeBron critical of US efforts to get Griner home
US basketball player LeBron James is publicly criticising his country’s handling of WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner’s case in a trailer for an upcoming episode of his television show: “The Shop: Uninterrupted.”
“Now, how can she feel like America has her back?” James said in the trailer. “I would be feeling like, ‘Do I even wanna go back to America?’”
It is unclear when the show was filmed, although in the trailer it is mentioned that Griner had been in Russia for more than 110 days, which would have been nearly five weeks ago as she was detained on February 17.
Griner is on trial in Russia for drug possession. She pleaded guilty last week and will appear again in court on Thursday. Washington has not disclosed its strategy in the case and the US may have little leverage with Moscow because of strong animosity over its actions in Ukraine.
Brazil wants to buy a lot of diesel from Russia: Minister
Brazil’s foreign minister has said his country wants to buy as much diesel fuel as it can from Russia following a deal with Moscow.
Carlos França called Russia “a strategic partner” and said Brazil is in short supply of diesel.
“Of course, we have to make sure that we have enough diesel for the Brazilian agribusiness and, of course, for Brazilian drivers,” he said. “So that’s why we were looking … for very reliable suppliers of diesel and Russia is one of them.”
The minister was responding to a question about President Jair Bolsonaro’s comments on Monday in Brasilia that Brazil has “a deal” and Russian diesel “can start getting here within 60 days”. Earlier, the president told supporters that Brazil was about to get “cheaper” diesel from Russia.
Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and UN to meet Wednesday on grain exports
Military delegations from Ukraine, Russia and Turkey will meet UN officials in Istanbul on Wednesday to discuss a possible deal to resume safe exports of Ukraine’s grain from the major Black Sea port of Odesa, as a global food crisis worsens.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar announced the meeting on Tuesday. Turkey has been working with the UN to broker a deal after Russia’s invasion stoked global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser.
According to diplomats, elements of the plan being discussed include Ukrainian vessels guiding grain ships in and out through mined port waters; Russia agreeing to a truce while shipments move; and Turkey – supported by the UN – inspecting ships to allay Russian fears of weapons smuggling.
“We are working hard indeed but there is still a way to go,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters. “Many people are talking about it. We prefer to try to do it.”
Zelenskyy quiet on reported civilian deaths from Ukrainian strike
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vaguely alluded to the reported air raid by Ukrainian forces on Nova Kakhovka, in Russia-occupied Kherson, but remained quiet about a Moscow-backed official’s claim that at least seven people, including civilians, were killed in the strike and dozens more injured.
In his nighttime speech to the nation, Zelenskyy mentioned ongoing Russian strikes on Mykolaiv, Kharkiv and areas in the eastern Donbas region. But, he said, “it should also be remembered that even in such conditions, the state takes steps forward – in cooperation with partners – in institutional development. And, of course, on the front line.”
“The occupiers have already felt very well what modern artillery is, and they will not have a safe rear anywhere on our land, which they occupied. They have felt that the operations of our reconnaissance officers to protect their Homeland are much more powerful than any of their ‘special operations’,” he said.
Ukraine’s military said on Tuesday that the attack hit an ammunition dump in the town of Nova Kakhovka and killed 52 Russians. The attack came after Washington supplied Ukraine with advanced high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS), which Kyiv says its forces are using with growing efficiency. Kyiv also says it is planning to retake the occupied Kherson region in a counteroffensive using hundreds of thousands of troops.
Separatist and self-declared Ukraine statelet defends death penalty
The self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) on Tuesday opened an embassy in Russia, one of only two countries to recognise the separatist “statelet” in eastern Ukraine, and defended its right to impose capital punishment.
The DPR’s self-proclaimed foreign minister Natalia Nikonorova said the territory’s use of the death penalty – which it has handed down to two Britons and a Moroccan for fighting as “mercenaries” for Ukraine – was irrelevant to its bid for diplomatic recognition.
Asked if capital punishment would tarnish the DPR’s image, she said: “We consider that mercenary activity is indeed a terrible crime because people, for a reward, come to another country to kill other people, despite having no personal goals connected to the conflict in question.”
“Yes, it is the highest measure of punishment, but it is in our legislation and it is not linked to the further process of recognition of the Donetsk People’s Republic by other states.”
Ukraine braces for new Russian offensive in the east
Ukraine is bracing itself for what it expects to be a massive new Russian offensive in the east of the country where Moscow says it is determined to take control of all of the industrial Donbas region.
Russian forces, which earlier this month completed the capture of Luhansk province in the Donbas, have for weeks been shelling parts of neighbouring Donetsk.
Regional Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said there was a significant buildup of Russian troops, particularly in the Bakhmut and Siversk areas, and around Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. The entire front line in the region was under constant shelling as Russian troops tried to break through but were being repelled, he said.
He also said a Russian air raid destroyed Bakhmut stadium, used as a training facility for Ukraine’s Olympic athletes before the war.
Read the updates from July 12 here.