Here is the situation on Thursday, July 20, 2023.
- Russia’s defence ministry said from midnight on July 20 (21:00 GMT on July 19), all ships sailing in the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports will be considered potential carriers of military cargo.
- Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the military had been instructed to strengthen the security of ports after the Russian attacks against Odesa and elsewhere.
- A video of Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin welcoming his Wagner fighters to Belarus was posted by his press service on the Telegram messaging app. Prigozhin is heard in the video saying that his men will stay in Belarus for some time, and calling what is happening on the front lines in Ukraine a “disgrace”.
- Russia’s defence ministry said the country achieved its goal of striking Ukraine’s Odesa overnight and all targets were hit, according to a report by Russia’s TASS news agency.
- Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky said a “considerable” amount of grain export infrastructure at a port in Chornomorsk in the Odesa region has been damaged in a Russian attack. The attack also destroyed 60,000 tonnes of grain that should have been loaded and shipped via the Black Sea grain export agreement 60 days ago.
- The Russian defence ministry said its forces captured Movchanove railway station in northeastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, according to a report by the Russian state news agency TASS.
- Russia launched a massive air attack on the Ukrainian port of Odesa for a second night in a row, which one Ukrainian official described as “hellish”.
- Ukraine’s air force said it shot down 13 Kalibr cruise missiles, one guided Kh-59 cruise missile, and 23 Shahed kamikaze drones launched by Russia overnight.
- Ukraine’s air force said Russia launched 16 Kalibr cruise missiles from the Black Sea Fleet vessels, as well as eight Kh-22 cruise missiles, six Oniks cruise missiles, one guided aerial Kh-59 missile, and 32 Shahed kamikaze drones.
- The Kremlin accused the West of turning a blind eye to what it said were “terrorist attacks” committed by Ukraine inside Russia after two people were killed on Monday in a naval drone attack on the bridge linking Russia to the Crimean Peninsula.
- Russia’s defence ministry said its forces destroyed a stray Ukrainian mine drifting in the southwestern part of the Black Sea. The mine was detected by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, floating about 180km (111 miles) northeast of the Bosphorus Strait.
- Mykhailo Podolyak, political adviser to Zelenskyy, said Russia was intentionally attacking grain terminals and port infrastructure in Odesa. “The main objective is to destroy the possibility of shipping Ukrainian grain,” he said in a tweet.
- Head of the United Kingdom’s MI6 intelligence service Sir Richard Moore said Russian President Vladimir Putin is “clearly under pressure”, after the Wagner Group’s attempted mutiny in June. Moore said he was optimistic about Ukraine’s counteroffensive, saying Ukrainian forces have been “liberating more territory than Russia captured last year”.
- A fire broke out at a military training grounds in the Kirovske district on the Crimean Peninsula, forcing the evacuation of more than 2,000 people and the closure of a nearby highway, the Moscow-backed governor of Crimea has said.
- The United States announced additional military assistance for Ukraine, totalling about $1.3bn, with the package including air defence capabilities and munitions.
Black Sea grain deal
- Putin accused Western countries of turning the now-expired Black Sea grain deal into political leverage. “Instead of helping countries in real need, the West used the grain deal for political blackmail and … turned it into a tool to enrich transnational corporations and speculators in the global grain market,” he said.
- The International Monetary Fund said Russia’s exit from the deal allowing Ukrainian exports via the Black Sea worsens the global food security outlook and risks adding to food inflation, especially for low-income countries.
- Five Central European countries want a ban on Ukrainian grain to be extended at least until the end of the year, Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Telus said. In May, the European Union allowed Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds while allowing transit of such cargoes for export elsewhere.
- Talks being mediated by Saudi Arabia and Turkey on the repatriation of thousands of Ukrainian children taken to Russia since at least April, the Financial Times reported.
- The Belarus Red Cross sparked international outrage after its chief told Belarusian state television that the organisation is actively involved in bringing Ukrainian children from Russian-occupied areas to Belarus.
- US Agency for International Development chief Samantha Power pledged $230m in new funding to help Ukraine’s small and medium-sized businesses and boost the economy hit by the war.
- South Africa, the host of this year’s BRICS summit, has said Russian leader Putin will not be attending the meeting. The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Putin in March and, as an ICC member, South Africa is obliged to arrest Putin if he shows up for the summit.
- Putin has decided to attend the BRICS Summit virtually, through video conferencing, according to a report by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
- Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, on a state visit to Ukraine, said “national borders cannot be changed through violence”.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies