Friday, July 12, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 509: Russia says Black Sea grain deal “has been terminated”

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine in February 2022 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Putin vows retaliation for new Crimean Bridge strike

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed retaliation for a new strike on the Crimean Bridge, targeted by two Ukrainian naval drones overnight. Exact retaliatory measures are currently being weighed by the country’s Defense Ministry, he said during an extraordinary meeting with senior officials on Monday.

“The incident is a yet another terrorist attack by the Kiev regime. This crime is pointless from the military point of view, since the Crimean Bridge has long not been used for military transport, and brutal, since only innocent civilians were killed and injured,” the president stressed.

Putin stated Moscow would retaliate harshly for the attack. The Russian Defense Ministry is already preparing “necessary proposals” for such measures, he added.

The president also urged officials to ramp up security measures around the bridge, noting that this marks the second such blow against it. Both the road and railway sections were heavily damaged last October, when a truck packed with explosives was detonated on the bridge.

“I am waiting for specific proposals to improve the security of this strategically important transport facility,” Putin added.

The bridge received considerable damage in the new attack, with one of its road sections “completely destroyed,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, tasked with organizing repairs to the structure, said during the meeting. However, he told the president that the bridge’s pillars had not been damaged in the blast.

“That’s good news. If we can speak about some good news here at all. But the fact that the pillars are not damaged is the most important thing,” Putin replied.

The morning blasts, believed to have been caused by seaborne drones, killed two Russian civilians who were traveling across the bridge in a vehicle, and left their now orphaned 14-year-old daughter injured.


Blinken: Russia’s decision on Black Sea grain initiative ‘unconscionable’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that Russia’s decision to halt participation in the year-old deal that lets Ukraine export grain through the Black Sea was “unconscionable” and called for the pact to be restored as quickly as possible.

“The result of Russia’s action today weaponising food…will be to make food harder to come by in places that desperately need it, and have prices rise,” he said.

“The bottom line is, it’s unconscionable,” he added.

Blinken, speaking to reporters, also said Washington was monitoring the situation after the attack on the road bridge that links Crimea to southern Russia, adding that it is up to Ukraine to decide how it conducts the war.


 

WTO chief ‘deeply disappointed’ by end of Black Sea grain deal

The head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) said she was “deeply disappointed” by the end of the Black Sea grain deal, which she described as essential to ensuring the stability of global food prices.

“Black Sea trade in food, feed and fertiliser is critical to the stability of global food prices,” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala wrote on Twitter.

“Sad to say that poor people and poor countries are hardest hit. Let’s keep hope alive on renewal,” she added.


USAID announces more than $500m in assistance on Ukraine visit

US aid chief Samantha Power has announced more than $500m in humanitarian assistance during a visit to Ukraine.

The aid, which will be provided through the UN and NGO partners, will increase support for those who have been displaced or otherwise affected by the war with emergency food assistance, health care and safe drinking water, according to a statement from USAID, the US Agency for International Development.

Power also said she handed over an additional $2.3m of equipment to help the agency repair damage inflicted by Russia’s forces on Ukraine’s infrastructure.

“We see what is happening in Ukraine. Russia continues to burn, and Ukraine continues to build. It is our privilege … to support our Ukrainian partners as they do that building,” Power added.


Russia’s grain deal suspension will ‘harm millions’: White House

The White House says Russia’s suspension of the Black Sea grain deal, which has allowed the export of grain from Ukraine, “will worsen food security and harm millions.”

“We urge the Government of Russia to immediately reverse its decision,” White House National Security Council spokesperson Adam Hodge said in a statement.


UN ‘deeply regrets’ Russia’s decision to end Black Sea grain deal

The United Nations’ secretary general Antonio Guterres says he “deeply regrets” Russia’s decision to end the Black Sea grain deal, including the withdrawal of Russian security guarantees of navigation in in the north-west part of the Black Sea.

He added that he was disappointed that the Russian President Vladimir Putin ignored his proposal to extend the Black Sea grain deal and highlighted that the UN would still try to facilitate “unimpeded access to global markets of food and fertilizers from Russia and Ukraine.”

Earlier, China’s envoy to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, also expressed hope that all parties involved could find a way forward, specifically mentioning that Russia had concerns.

“We still hope that, you know, by accommodating the concerns of all parties … then we can find a package solution,” Zhang told reporters.


France calls on Russia to stop blackmail over grain deal suspension

France has called on Russia to stop its blackmail over the grain deal suspension.

“France condemns Russia’s suspension of its participation in the Black Sea grain initiative,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Russia is solely responsible for blocking navigation in this maritime space and imposes an illegal blockade on Ukrainian ports. It must stop its blackmail on world food security and reconsider its decision,” the ministry added.


Russia suspending grain deal sends bad message: Germany

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated that Russia’s refusal to extend the agreement that has enabled Ukraine to export grain from its Black Sea ports for the past year “sends a bad message” to the rest of the world.

“The fact that Russia does not want to extend the grain agreement sends a bad message … to the rest of the world,” Scholz said at a two-day EU- Latin America summit in Brussels.

“But everyone will understand what is behind it, namely an action that has a lot to do with the fact that Russia does not feel responsible for good coexistence in the world,” he added.


Russian decision on grain deal is final; no more talks planned: Official at UN

A senior Russian official at the UN has said his country’s decision not to extend the Black Sea grain export deal is final and no more talks are planned, according to a report by Russian state news agency TASS.

Earlier, Russia’s foreign ministry had announced that despite UN efforts to prolong the deal, obstacles to Russian food and fertiliser exports remained.

“Only upon receipt of concrete results and not promises and assurances will Russia be ready to consider restoring the deal,” it noted.


Ukraine says everything must be done to use Black Sea grain corridor

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says everything must be done so the Black Sea grain export corridor continues to be used, according to his spokesperson.

“Even without the Russian Federation, everything must be done so that we can use this Black Sea corridor. We are not afraid,” Serhiy Nykyforov quoted Zelensky as saying after Russia halted its participation in the grain export deal.

“We were approached by companies, shipowners. They said that they are ready, if Ukraine lets them go, and Turkey continues to let them through, then everyone is ready to continue supplying grain,” he added.


Belarus says it shoots down Ukrainian reconnaissance drone

Belarus claims its border guards have shot down a Ukrainian reconnaissance drone that had crossed into its territory near the Dnipro River.

The Belarusian border agency reported “administrative proceedings” had been launched after the incident.


Russia’s suspension of the Black Sea grain deal is a ‘cynical move’: EU

President of the European Union Commission Ursula von der Leyen has called Russia’s decision to suspend a Black Sea grain export deal a “cynical move”, adding that the EU would continue to work towards ensuring food security for poor countries.

Russia said it had halted participation in a landmark UN-brokered deal that allowed Ukrainian grain to be exported through the Black Sea just hours after Moscow said Ukraine had attacked the Crimean Bridge.


Turkish, Russian foreign ministers to discuss grain deal: Erdogan

The Turkish and Russian foreign ministers will discuss the Black Sea grain deal on Monday, according to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“I hope that with this discussion, we can make some progress and continue on our way without a pause,” Erdogan told reporters in Turkey, shortly after Moscow announced it was halted its participation in the deal.

Erdogan stated that he believes President Vladimir Putin wants the continuation of the Black Sea grain export deal after Moscow has said it would suspend its participation.

Erdogan added he would discuss the deal, including the export of Russian fertiliser, with Putin when they meet in person during an expected meeting in August.


No link between Crimean Bridge attack and grain deal: Kremlin

Kremlin spokesperson Dimitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow that there was no link between an overnight attack on the Crimean Bridge and Russia’s decision to suspend its participation in the Black Sea grain deal, which intended to allow Ukraine to export grain safely from its Black Sea ports.

Peskov highlighted that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s position on the deal had been known before the attack.


Russia formally notifies Ukraine that grain deal is terminated from July 18

Russia has formally notified Ukraine, via the Russian embassy in Minsk, that it was suspending its participation in the Black Sea grain deal, according to Moscow’s ambassador to Belarus, Boris Gryzlov.

He said that a note had been sent from the embassy to Ukraine via diplomatic channels and that the deal would be terminated from July 18.


UK sanctions target those behind child deportations in Ukraine: Minister

The UK has imposed a new round of sanctions against Russia due to its actions in Ukraine.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the sanctions target individuals who have propped up Putin’s government, including through a programme of forced child deportations in Ukraine.

Russian Culture Minister Olga Lyubimova and Education Minister Sergey Kravtsova are on the UK’s latest sanctions list.


Medvedev says ‘terrorist’ leaders must be destroyed after Crimean attack

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said Russia must destroy what he called the top leadership of “terrorist formations” after an attack on the Crimean Bridge.

Russia has blamed the attack on Ukrainian special services.

While Ukraine’s military said Russia was behind the attack, Ukrainian media reported that Ukrainian security services had attacked the bridge with underwater drones.


Black Sea grain deal ‘is terminated’: Kremlin

The agreements underpinning the controversial Black Sea grain deal have been “terminated,” the Kremlin announced on Monday morning. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia will immediately return to the arrangement when all parties concerned implement the previously agreed steps.

Speaking at a press briefing on Monday – the day the deal expired – Peskov stated the “Black Sea agreements effectively ceased to be in effect today.”

According to the Kremlin spokesman, “as soon as the Russian conditions are met, the Russian Federation will return to the deal… The Grain Deal has come to a halt.”

Peskov stressed that the other signatories have yet to honor some of the points of the agreement with respect to Russia.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated that Moscow has officially notified Turkey, Ukraine, and the UN that it will not renew the agreement.

Last Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Moscow would “suspend participation in this deal” unless its food and fertilizer exports were unblocked.

He described the arrangement as a “one-sided game all along,” adding that “not a single goal linked to the interests of the Russian Federation was met.” Putin also stressed that, despite this fact, his country had extended the deal numerous times over the past year.

Formally known as the Black Sea Initiative, the agreement between Moscow and Kiev was mediated by the UN and Turkey last summer. Accompanying the deal was a Russia-UN memorandum aimed at facilitating unimpeded Russian agricultural exports.

The document, among other things, called for the admission of Russia’s major agricultural lender, Rosselkhozbank, back into the SWIFT payment system, as well as enabling deliveries of spare parts for agricultural machinery, sorting out insurance and logistics and “unfreezing” Russian assets.

While the agreement was originally touted as a mechanism for averting famine in poorer nations, the vast majority of Ukrainian grain exported as part of the deal ended up in Europe instead, Moscow claimed.


Russian foreign ministry blames Ukraine for Crimea bridge “attack”

Russia’s foreign ministry on Monday held the Ukrainian government responsible for an “attack” on the bridge connecting the Russian mainland to occupied Crimea, echoing claims from other senior officials in Moscow.

“Today’s attack on the Crimean bridge was carried out by the Kyiv regime,” Maria Zakharova said on her Telegram channel.

“This regime is a terrorist one and has all the signs of an international organized criminal group,” she added.

The Kremlin announced earlier that it had opened an official investigation into what the Russian Investigative Committee calls “a terrorist act committed by the special services of Ukraine.”

Kyiv has not responded directly to the allegations, but the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) hinted that the Ukrainian government was responsible.

In a statement on Telegram, threaded to an October 2022 post referring to a previous attack on the Crimean Bridge last year, the SBU noted: “Nightingale, my dear brother, The bridge has gone to sleep again. And once… Twice!”


Kremlin blames Ukrainian seaborne drones for Crimea bridge attack and opens investigation

The Kremlin claimed two Ukrainian seaborne drones struck the Crimea bridge connecting the peninsula to Russia on Monday, though it did not provide evidence for the allegation.

Moscow has opened an official investigation into what the Russian Investigative Committee calls “a terrorist act committed by the special services of Ukraine.”

A couple traveling by car was killed and their daughter was injured in the incident, Russian authorities said earlier.

“At 3.05 a.m., two Ukrainian unmanned water-surface drones carried out an attack on the Crimean bridge,” the National Antiterrorism Committee of the Russian Federation said in a statement.

“As a result of the terrorist act, the road component of the Crimean bridge was damaged. Two adults were killed and one child was injured,” it added.

The Russian Investigative Committee announced that it had “opened a criminal case” into the incident, under legislation relating to terrorism.

“According to investigators, on the night of July 16-17, one of the sections of the Crimean bridge was damaged as a result of a terrorist act committed by the special services of Ukraine,” it said.

“The necessary expert examinations have been commissioned as part of the criminal case. Investigators are identifying persons from among the Ukrainian special services and armed formations involved in the organization and execution of this crime,” it added.

Ukrainian authorities have not responded to the accusations.


Crimean Bridge targeted by Ukrainian terrorist attack: Russia

The Crimean Bridge was targeted by a Ukrainian terrorist drone attack, the National Antiterrorist Committee (NAK) said on Monday.

In a statement, the NAK said that the key link between the Crimean Peninsula and mainland Russia was attacked by two Ukrainian unmanned sea vehicles at around 3am local time.

“The terrorist act resulted in the road component of the Crimean Bridge sustaining damage. Two adults were killed and one child was injured,” it stated, adding that law enforcement agencies are investigating the matter.

The NAK statement comes after several Ukrainian media outlets described the attack as a “special operation” conducted by the country’s security services and naval forces. Publicly, however, Ukrainian officials stopped short of assuming direct responsibility, while cheering the incident.


Moscow accuses UK, US of participating in bridge ‘attack’

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova accused Ukraine of carrying out the attack on the bridge with the involvement of the United Kingdom and the United States.

“Today’s attack on the Crimean Bridge was carried out by the Kyiv regime. This regime is terrorist and has all the hallmarks of an international organized crime group,” she said.

“Decisions are made by Ukrainian officials and the military with the direct participation of American and British intelligence agencies and politicians. The US and Britain are in charge of a terrorist state structure,” she added.

Zakharova did not provide evidence for these claims.


Russia-backed official blames Ukraine for “attack” on Crimean Bridge

A Moscow-appointed official in occupied Crimea on Monday blamed Ukraine for an “attack” on the bridge connecting the peninsula to Russia.

“Tonight the terrorist regime in Kyiv committed a new crime – it attacked the Crimean bridge,” Vladimir Konstantinov, head of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea, said on Telegram.

The key bridge was hit by strikes early Monday, according to multiple reports. Two people were killed in the incident, a Russian regional governor confirmed earlier.

Kyiv has not claimed direct responsibility for the alleged attack but the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) posted an opaque hint on social media that its government was behind the damage.

“Nightingale, my dear brother, The bridge has gone to sleep again. And once… Twice!” the SBU said in a cryptic message on Telegram, threaded to an October 2022 post referring to a previous attack on the Crimea bridge.

“P.S. The music is folk,” the SBU announced, adding, “Lyrics by the Security Service of Ukraine.”

Last October, a huge blast partially damaged the bridge, causing parts of it to collapse. Earlier this month, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar made what appeared to be the clearest admission yet that Ukrainian forces were responsible for the October attack.


2 killed in Crimean Bridge incident: Belgorod governor

A couple traveling by car was killed and their daughter was injured in the incident on the Crimean Bridge Monday, the governor of Russia’s southwestern Belgorod region said.

Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said the family is from Novooskolsky district of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, and he has instructed local authorities to notify their relatives.

The girl has injuries of “medium severity” and has been placed under medical supervision, Gladkov stated.

“If possible, when the doctors allow, we will immediately transport her to us in Belgorod region,” he continued.

“I would like to express the sincerest words of condolence from all of us, although I realize that no words can take away the pain of loss, but everything that depends on us, I repeat, we will try to help,” he added.


Russian Transport Ministry reports damage to Crimean Bridge

The Russian Ministry of Transport said Monday that the Crimean bridge has sustained damage to its spans and is currently being inspected by officials.

“There is damage to the roadway on spans of the Crimean Bridge,” the ministry said on Telegram.

The spans on a bridge are the lengths between the support piers.

The ministry did not mention the extent of the damage to the bridge.

Earlier Monday, the Moscow-appointed head of Crimea Sergey Aksenov confirmed an “emergency incident” occurred on the bridge, bringing traffic to a halt.

Multiple Telegram channels have reported strikes on the bridge, however there has been no official confirmation.


“Emergency incident” on Crimean Bridge: Russia-backed official

An “emergency incident” has been reported on the Crimean Bridge, halting traffic on the only link between the annexed peninsula and Russia, a Moscow-backed official said Monday.

Sergey Aksenov, the Russia-appointed head of Crimea, did not specify the nature of the incident.

“Law enforcement agencies and relevant services are at work. I spoke to the Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation, Vitaly Savelyev, and measures are being taken to ameliorate the situation,” Aksenov stated.

Aksenov urged residents and those traveling to and from Crimea to choose an alternative land route.

Earlier this month, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar made what appeared to be the clearest admission yet that Ukrainian forces were responsible for an attack last October on the bridge.

The attack disrupted major transport links between Russia and Crimea, which Moscow has controlled since it seized the peninsula in 2014. It also hit Russia’s military effort in Ukraine and represented a psychological blow for Moscow and a major propaganda victory for Kyiv.


Fighting positions changing for both sides along eastern front: Ukrainian official

Positions on both sides are “changing dynamically” along the eastern front as fighting there has “somewhat escalated,” a Ukrainian official said.

“There are fierce battles, and the positions of the parties are changing dynamically several times a day,” Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar stated Sunday.

Russia has been “actively advancing” near the city of Kupyansk in the country’s northeastern Kharkiv region for two days in a row, Maliar continued, adding, “We are on the defense,” she added.

Further south along the eastern front, Maliar said Ukrainian forces are gradually moving forward around Bakhmut and that there are “daily advances on the southern flank” of the long-contested city.

On Bakhmut’s northern flank, Ukrainian forces are trying to hold their positions, while Russian forces continue to attack, Maliar noted.

“In Bakhmut itself, we are shelling the enemy, and the enemy is shelling us,” she added.

And south of Bakhmut, Russian forces are also on the offensive in areas surrounding the towns of Avdiivka and Marinka, Maliar stated, adding, “Our defenders continue to effectively hold them back. Hot battles continue with no change in positions.”


US is not delaying F-16 training for Ukrainian fighter pilots: National security adviser

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed Sunday that the US will allow European countries to start training Ukrainian fighter pilots to use F-16 fighter jets, after reports that Europe was awaiting formal approval.

“Yes, we will,” Sullivan told CNN’s Jake Tapper when asked.

“The president has given a green light and we will allow, permit, support, facilitate and in fact provide the necessary tools for Ukrainians to begin being trained on F-16s, as soon as the Europeans are prepared,” he added.

Sullivan noted that European leaders have said they need several weeks to prepare training abilities and that the US would meet whatever timeline they set out.

“The United States will not be the hold up in ensuring that this F-16 training can get underway,” he said.

Ukraine’s quest for the superior US-made fighter jets received a huge boost when the Joe Biden administration said in May that it would back a training program for pilots and would not disallow allies from supplying Kyiv with the planes. But the US has not said that it will supply Kyiv with F-16s directly.


Russian security apparatus in chaos following Wagner mutiny: UK

Russia’s security apparatus entered a period of confusion and negotiations after the Wagner Group mutiny and an interim arrangement for the future of the group had started to form in recent days, the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence has said.

In its latest intelligence update on Sunday, the ministry announced: “On 12 July 2023, the Russian MoD announced that Wagner had handed over 2000 pieces of military equipment, including tanks. As of 15 July 2023, at least a small contingent of Wagner fighters have arrived at a camp in Belarus.

“Concurrently, some Wagner-associated social media groups have resumed activity, with a focus on highlighting the group’s activities in Africa. Based on recent announcements by Russian officials, the state is likely prepared to accept Wagner’s aspirations to maintain its extensive presence on the continent,” it added.


US running low on stockpile ammunition as it gives military aid to Ukraine: Official

The United States is running low on ammunition in its own stockpile as the country works to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia, according to US national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

President Joe Biden’s administration, upon taking office, “found that overall stocks of 155 munition, which is the NATO standard ammunition used for artillery rounds, was relatively low,” Sullivan said in an interview with CNN.

Sullivan added the administration also learned that it would take years, not months, to restock the supplies to acceptable levels — a daunting task for a nation supplementing the war in Ukraine.

“President Biden ordered his Pentagon to work rapidly to scale up the ability of the United States to produce all the ammunition we could ever need for any conflict at any time,” Sullivan stated, noting, “Month on month, we are increasing our capacity to supply ammunition.”

Ukraine is burning through ammunition faster than the US and NATO can produce it, and that the Pentagon has taken a central role in trying to ramp up production, according to reports.

The national security adviser was not able to say whether Ukraine was currently using the controversial cluster munitions Biden recently sent to Ukraine, but said, “if they have not been deployed yet, they will be in the coming hours or days.”

Sullivan confirmed that the munitions had arrived in the country, as CNN has previously reported.

“They have now very rapidly been shipped into the fight and are in the hands of Ukrainian defenders on the front lines,” he added.

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