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Russia-Ukraine war live: UN chief calls on Russia to return to Black Sea grain deal; US journalist wounded in drone attack

UN secretary-general calls on Russia to return to Black Sea grain deal

The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, called on Russia on Monday to return to a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukrainian grain in line with a proposal he made to president Vladimir Putin.

Russia quit the agreement a week ago, saying that demands to improve its own food and fertiliser exports had not been met, and that not enough Ukraine grain had reached the poorest countries under the Black Sea deal, Reuters reports.

At the Food Systems summit in Rome on Monday, Guterres said:

With the termination of the Black Sea Initiative, the most vulnerable will pay the highest price.

When food prices rise, everybody pays for it. This is especially devastating for vulnerable countries struggling to feed their people.

Guterres had written to Putin on 11 July in a final effort to save the deal. He proposed Russia extend it – with a daily limit of four ships traveling to Ukraine and four ships leaving – in return for connecting a subsidiary of Russia’s Agricultural Bank, Rosselkhozbank, to the SWIFT global payments system, which the EU cut off in June 2022.

Guterres added:

I call on the Russian Federation to return to the implementation of the Black Sea Initiative, in line with my latest proposal.

I urge the global community to stand united for effective solutions in this essential effort.

I remain committed to facilitating the unimpeded access to global markets for food products and fertilisers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation, and to deliver the food security that every person deserves.

Key events

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said his country is “fully prepared” to start talks on joining the European Union.

In his nightly video address, the Ukrainian leader said he had spoken with military leadership in a meeting that focused on frontline issues “where we are moving forward and those where Ukrainian forces are on the defensive”. He said:

In all areas, the first task is to destroy the occupiers, their equipment, supplies, warehouses, and headquarters as much as possible. Russia must lose every day – that’s fair.

I held a meeting on the European Union and our integration. This year we are to start negotiations on membership. 🇺🇦 is fully prepared for this – we are doing what is necessary on our part. And we are doing everything possible to ensure that the 🇪🇺 is also fully prepared. Exactly… pic.twitter.com/aDlwbiMe9W

— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) July 24, 2023

Water at the Dnipro hydroelectric power plant has dropped to a critical level, threatening the station’s full operational capacity, according to the state-owned energy company Ukrhydroenergo.

The water level is at 12.05 metres, while the plant requires 12-12.5 metres to function fully, the company wrote on Telegram.

In June, the strategically important Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine was breached in what Ukraine said was an attack by Russian forces. The incident led to a sharp drop in the water level in the lower reservoir of the Dnipro hydroelectric power plant, according to Ukrhydroenergo.

Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, visited the Valaam Monastery in Karelia, Russia on Monday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during their visit the Valaam Monastery.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during their visit the Valaam Monastery. Photograph: Alexander Demyanchuk/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN POOL/EPA
Putin and Lukashenko (R) during their visit the Valaam Monastery in Karelia, Russia.
Putin and Lukashenko (R) during their visit the Valaam Monastery in Karelia, Russia. Photograph: Alexander Demyanchuk/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN POOL/EPA
Putin visits the Valaam Monastery in the Republic of Karelia, Russia.
Putin visits the Valaam Monastery in the Republic of Karelia, Russia. Photograph: SPUTNIK/Reuters

Ukrainian boys are faced with a potentially life-or-death decision as they approach the age of 18: should I stay in Ukraine or leave?

Under Ukrainian martial law, which has been in place since Russia’s invasion in February last year, men aged 18 to 60 are prohibited from travelling abroad and are potentially subject to conscription into Ukraine’s armed forces (AFU).

Although the AFU for the most part have filled ranks with volunteers, young Ukrainian men coming of age face an uncertain, according to a Kyiv Post report.

One 17-year-old boy, Ruslan, decided to leave Ukraine in February. He told the paper:

The main reason was that I don’t want to fight and none of my relatives want me to either. I am a patriot of Ukraine, but I’m definitely not ready to die, especially at such a young age. I am ready to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine as soon as I earn enough money.

Others have decided to stay in Ukraine despite worries about potentially being conscripted. Dmytro, 17, said:

It seems to me that they give [call up papers] to guys at the age of 20-21 and those who aren’t studying at university. So I hope that the war will end in a few years. But in any case, everything will already be as it will be.

Child killed and six people wounded, says governor of Donetsk

A child was killed and six people wounded in a Russian strike on the eastern Ukrainian city of Kostiantynivka, according to the region’s governor.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, Ukraine’s governor of Donetsk, wrote on Telegram that Russian forces had fired Smerch rockets at “a local pond, where people were resting”.

Three children were among the injured, he added.

It is not possible to independently verify his claim.

AFP journalist wounded in drone attack near Bakhmut

A journalist working for Agence France-Presse news agency was wounded by a Russian drone attack while reporting from a Ukrainian artillery position near the battle-torn eastern city of Bakhmut on Monday, according to AFP reporters who witnessed the attack.

Dylan Collins, 35, a US citizen based in Lebanon but on assignment in Ukraine, sustained multiple shrapnel injuries in the attack in a forested area near Bakhmut.

He was evacuated to a nearby hospital where he was being treated. Doctors have said his condition was not life-threatening. He is conscious and speaking to colleagues, AFP said.

FP’s Europe director Christine Buhagiar said in a statement:

We are investigating the full circumstances behind this incident. Our thoughts are with Dylan and his loved ones.

Collins has been working for the international news agency since 2018 and is currently its video coordinator for Lebanon and Syria. He has made regular trips to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s full-fledged invasion in February last year.

In May, AFP video journalist Arman Soldin was killed aged 32 in a Russian rocket strike near Bakhmut.

Spain’s ministry of defence said four Leopard 2 battle tanks and 10 armoured carriers are en route to Ukraine.

In a statement published today, the ministry said a ship with military and humanitarian material bound for Ukraine had left the port of Santander, and were expected to be delivered to Ukraine’s armed forces by early August.

The latest batch of assistance included four Leopard 2A4s, which will join the six Leopard 2s that have already been delivered to Ukraine, it said.

Also included in this shipment are 10 M-113 armoured vehicles, ten Navy trucks, one multipurpose armoured vehicle, three civil ambulances, one BMR armoured ambulance, and one armoured civilian ambulance, it said.

Summary

Good evening. It is now approaching 9pm in Kyiv. I’ll be handing over to my colleague Léonie soon, so here is a summary of the day’s events so far:

  • Russia said it had neutralised two Ukrainian drones over Moscow in the early hours of Monday, with one crashing close to the defence ministry in the city centre. Officials said the drones hit non-residential buildings in the capital and that there were no casualties. The attack came one day after Kyiv vowed to “retaliate” for a Russian missile attack on the Black Sea port of Odesa. “A Kyiv regime attempt to carry out a terrorist act using two drones on objects on the territory of the city of Moscow was stopped,” Russia’s defence ministry said. “Two Ukrainian drones were suppressed and crashed. There are no casualties.”

  • The governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region said on Monday that Russia was trying “make the world starve” by attempting to completely block exports of Ukrainian grain to global markets after the latest in a series of Russian air attacks struck grain infrastructure on the Danube River. Reuters reports that Oleh Kiper said on Ukrainian television: “Russia is trying to fully block the export of our grain and make the world starve.”

  • The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said extending a ban on Ukrainian grain exports by land to the EU after 15 September is “unacceptable”, at a meeting the export of the country’s agricultural products.

  • The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, called on Russia on Monday to return to a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukrainian grain in line with a proposal he made to president Vladimir Putin after Russia quit the deal a week ago.

  • Almost 30 ships dropped anchor near Ukraine’s crucial Izmail port terminal after Russia attacked grain warehouses on the Danube River on Monday, data showed, although it is unclear why. Monday’s pre-dawn Russian airstrikes wounded seven people and hit infrastructure along the Danube, a vital alternative route for Ukrainian grain since the year-old deal allowing safe exports via the Black Sea ended last week. Kyiv said the attack was an expansion of an air campaign Russia launched recently after pulling out of the grain deal.

  • Russia said on Monday it had dramatically increased production of ammunition and military equipment.

  • Without providing any evidence, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has claimed that the cathedral in Odesa was struck by a Ukrainian air defence missile. Peskov said “Our armed forces never strike at social infrastructure facilities, let alone temples, churches and other similar facilities, so we do not accept such accusations, this is an absolute lie.”

  • Lithuania’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, has called on Nato to “double down” on efforts to support Ukraine, after what he described as the Russian president being “emboldened to escalate” attacks on the country.

  • Russian media reported a third drone crashed into a cemetery in the Moscow region.

  • Russia’s industry minister, Denis Manturov, said on Monday that the defence industry was producing more munitions a month than it did in the whole of 2022, the RIA news agency reported.

  • Russia reserves the right to take “tough retaliatory measures”, the foreign ministry said on Monday, after it accused Ukraine of attacking Moscow and the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula with drones.

  • The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, signed new legislation on Monday which marked the final step in outlawing gender-affirming procedures, a crippling blow to Russia’s LGBTQ+ community.

  • Chargé d’affaires ad interim, Alexander Gusarov, said Russia’s solidarity with Africa i was set out in their its new foreign policy concept, which aims to create a “closer partnership” and to “increase bilateral trade and investment” with African countries. He said Russia’s foreign ministry was working on “expanding [our] diplomatic foothold”, with plans to introduce more diplomatic and consular posts across the continent.

  • The Kremlin on Monday accused Kyiv of carrying out a “deliberate attack on journalists” in Ukraine’s south-eastern Zaporizhzhia region after a reporter for the Russian state news agency RIA was killed. The war correspondent Rostislav Zhuravlev was killed in a Ukrainian cluster munition strike, according to RIA. He died from his wounds during an evacuation from a special military operation.

  • The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, thanked the president of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, for his “immense personal contribution” to strengthening the two countries alliance and strategic partnership in a birthday message on Twitter.

  • An ammunition depot was struck during a Ukrainian drone attack on Dzhankoi in Crimea early on Monday, with Russian air defence forces intercepting or suppressing 11 drones over the area, a Russian-installed official has said.

  • Interfax reports train traffic in Crimea has begun moving again after a delay caused by the earlier drone attacks. The Russian Federation unilaterally annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

  • Ukraine claims to have recaptured a small amount of territory in the Bakhmut region, according to the latest operational briefing by the deputy defence minister.

  • Tass reports that one civilian has been killed, and another injured, by Ukrainian shelling into occupied Kherson on the left-bank of the Dniepr River.

  • Yevgeny Balitsky, head of the Russian-imposed administration of the occupied Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, has posted to Telegram to claim that Ukraine is not actively attacking across the frontline in the region, and that “their command is actively carrying out the delivery of personnel to positions, making up for losses.”

  • Russia attacked the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Odesa again and kept up a barrage that has damaged critical port infrastructure in southern Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said. At least one person was killed and 22 wounded in the strike early on Sunday. An overnight drone attack then destroyed a grains depot and injured four port employees. The city has come under repeated attack since Moscow last week pulled out of a deal allowing the export of Ukrainian grain.

Here are some images of firefighters working to extinguish a fire at a warehouse destroyed by shelling in Donetsk, Ukraine on 24 July, courtesy of Reuters. The area is largely controlled by Russia.

Firefighter putting out fire in Donetsk region
In the aftermath of shelling in Donetsk,
firefighters attempt to extinguish a fire at a warehouse damaged by shelling in Donetsk, Ukraine.
Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
The roof has collapsed in a warehouse after a fire, as fiirefighters work to out the fire after shelling in Donetsk, Ukraine.
The roof has collapsed in a warehouse after a fire, as fiirefighters work to out the flammable debris after shelling in Donetsk, Ukraine. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

In other news, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, signed new legislation on Monday which marked the final step in outlawing gender-affirming procedures, a crippling blow to Russia’s LGBTQ+ community.

The bill, which was approved unanimously by both Houses of Parliament, bans any “medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person,” AP reports, as well as changing your gender in official documents and public records. The only exception will be medical intervention to treat congenital anomalies.

It also annuls marriages in which one person has “changed gender” and bars transgender people from becoming foster or adoptive parents.

Lawmakers say the legislation is to safeguard Russia against “western anti-family ideology,” with some describing gender transitioning as “pure satanism.”

Russia’s crackdown on LGBTQ+ people started a decade ago when Putin first proclaimed a focus on “traditional family values,” supported by the Russian Orthodox church.

Meanwhile, in an opinion piece for two of Kenya’s largest newspapers, Ambassador Dmitry Maksimychev blamed the US and the EU for the Black Sea grain deal’s collapse, asserting they had “used every trick” to keep Russian grain and fertiliser from the global markets.

He wrote:

Now, my dear Kenyan friends, you know the whole truth about who is weaponising food.

Russia plans to host nearly 50 African countries that rely heavily on Moscow for agricultural products and security for the two-say sumit. It’s not clear how many heads of state will attend, AFP reports.

Here are some images sent over the wires of Ukrainian military personnel in Donetsk oblast, Ukraine.

Soldier holding a large shell
Ukrainian soldiers carry shells to their frontline position in the direction of Bakhmut as the war between Russia and Ukraine continues in Donetsk oblast, Ukraine. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A Ukrainian soldier cuts another soldier's hair in a house far from the frontline in Donetsk oblast, Ukraine.
A Ukrainian soldier cuts another soldier’s hair in a house far from the frontline in Donetsk oblast, Ukraine. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A Ukrainian soldier waits for the reloading of artillery shells in the direction of Bakhmut in Donetsk oblast, Ukraine.
A Ukrainian soldier waits for the reloading of artillery shells in the direction of Bakhmut in Donetsk oblast, Ukraine. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Russia said on Monday it had dramatically increased production of ammunition and military equipment, as its offensive in Ukraine enters its 18th month.

The Russian deputy prime minister, Denis Manturov, said:

Since the beginning of this year, many types of weapons and military equipments are being produced in quantities far above last year.

In terms of munitions, we are reaching a level where deliveries in a month exceed last year’s total orders.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said in May that his forces were dependent on the “timely replenishment” of ammo and hardware inventories, and urged a boost in production, according to AFP.

Western sanctions have sought to hinder Moscow’s ability to restock by banning exports of machine parts and electronic components that could be used on the battlefield.

But analysts say Russia has circumvented some sanctions by importing through third countries.

Last week, Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said Ukraine was using from 5,000 to 10,000 of one type of shell daily.

In July, the EU sealed a plan to boost ammunition production in the bloc, as part of a push to arm Ukraine and restock depleted arsenals.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said extending a ban on Ukrainian grain exports by land to the EU after 15 September is “unacceptable”, at a meeting the export of the country’s agricultural products.

A meeting on the export of our agricultural products. We believe in the agreement with the European Commission, but we are preparing for any scenario.

Our position is clear: blocking exports by land after September 15, when the relevant restrictions expire, is unacceptable in… pic.twitter.com/mBtLmYADyC

— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) July 24, 2023

Russian security council secretary, Nikolai Patrushev, and top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi discussed how to bolster their two countries’ security at a meeting in South Africa, Russia’s RIA news agency reports.

UN secretary-general calls on Russia to return to Black Sea grain deal

The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, called on Russia on Monday to return to a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukrainian grain in line with a proposal he made to president Vladimir Putin.

Russia quit the agreement a week ago, saying that demands to improve its own food and fertiliser exports had not been met, and that not enough Ukraine grain had reached the poorest countries under the Black Sea deal, Reuters reports.

At the Food Systems summit in Rome on Monday, Guterres said:

With the termination of the Black Sea Initiative, the most vulnerable will pay the highest price.

When food prices rise, everybody pays for it. This is especially devastating for vulnerable countries struggling to feed their people.

Guterres had written to Putin on 11 July in a final effort to save the deal. He proposed Russia extend it – with a daily limit of four ships traveling to Ukraine and four ships leaving – in return for connecting a subsidiary of Russia’s Agricultural Bank, Rosselkhozbank, to the SWIFT global payments system, which the EU cut off in June 2022.

Guterres added:

I call on the Russian Federation to return to the implementation of the Black Sea Initiative, in line with my latest proposal.

I urge the global community to stand united for effective solutions in this essential effort.

I remain committed to facilitating the unimpeded access to global markets for food products and fertilisers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation, and to deliver the food security that every person deserves.

Kira Rudik, a Ukrainian MP and leader of the liberal Golos party, said it doesn’t make sense to “expect that there will be less Russian shelling”, as she appealed for more tactical ballistic missiles.

She said:

We need a capability to destroy Russian coastal missile complexes in Crimea.

[US manufactured MGM-140 army tactical missile system] ATACMS would help us.

US defense officials remain hesitant to provide these long-range ballistic missiles to Ukraine, according to the Washington Post, despite earlier pleas from Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

It makes no sense to expect that there will be less russian shelling. We need a capability to destroy russian coastal missile complexes in Crimea. #ATACMS would help us 🚀

— Kira Rudik (@kiraincongress) July 24, 2023



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