UKRAINE WRAP | Turkey says Russia, Ukraine to sign UN grain export deal Friday

21 July 2022 - 06:20 By TimesLIVE
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People stand near a crater left by a Russian missile strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Dnipro, Ukraine, on July 16 2022.
People stand near a crater left by a Russian missile strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Dnipro, Ukraine, on July 16 2022.
Image: REUTERS/Mykola Synelnykov

July 21 2022 - 20:59

Turkey says Russia, Ukraine to sign UN grain export deal Friday

- Russia, Ukraine and Turkey will gather on Friday to sign a deal proposed by the United Nations to free up grain exports from Ukraine's besieged Black Sea ports, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's office said on Thursday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who earlier announced that he was heading to Istanbul on Thursday, will attend the event along with Erdogan at the Dolmabahce Palace offices at 1330 GMT, the statement said.


July 21 2022 - 19:38

Putin discusses oil market with Saudi crown prince, who hosted Biden last week

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke by phone on Thursday and underlined the importance of further cooperation within the OPEC+ group of oil producers, the Kremlin said.

The conversation took place six days after U.S. President Joe Biden visited the prince in Saudi Arabia - highlighting the kingdom's importance to both Washington and Moscow at a time when Russia's war in Ukraine is roiling global energy markets.

"The current situation on the world oil market was considered in detail. The importance of further coordination within the framework of OPEC+ was emphasized," the Kremlin said.

"It was noted with satisfaction that the countries participating in this format are consistently fulfilling their obligations in order to maintain the necessary balance and stability in the global energy market."

OPEC+ brings together the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries with a group of other producers led by Russia.

The Kremlin said the two leaders also discussed expanding trade and economic ties, and exchanged views on the situation in Syria. 


July 21 2022 - 16:38

Russia moves to annex occupied Ukrainian land by September

The Kremlin is in a dash to hold referendums in Ukrainian territories occupied by its troops to give grounds for President Vladimir Putin to absorb them into Russia as early as September, according to people familiar with the strategy.

Officials are preparing to organise votes in areas currently controlled by the Russian military and any others its troops are able to seize in coming weeks, three people said. The goal is to conduct referendums on joining Russia by September 15, two of the people said, asking not to be identified because the issue is sensitive. 

The project is directed by Sergei Kiriyenko, the Kremlin’s first deputy chief of staff, according to the people, with attention focused on the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Ukraine’s east as well as the southern territories of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Kiriyenko, who is under US and EU sanctions, regularly visits occupied territories to oversee officials preparing for the referendums, they said.

With its military struggling to advance in recent months, annexation would give the Kremlin a sign of apparent progress in the operation to show Russians and signal its unwillingness to discuss giving up the territories in any potential future peace talks. Still, it’s far from clear what votes Russia could hold after millions of Ukrainians fled their homes following Putin’s February 24 order to invade, though the Kremlin has years of experience of rigging results in domestic elections. While Russia has set up occupation authorities in some areas, introduced the ruble for transactions and begun to distribute passports, many remaining residents denounce its troops as occupiers.

The international community would likely reject any referendums as illegal, as it did when Russia held a vote in Crimea after Putin seized the peninsula in 2014, though it could do little in practice to stop them. 

The Kremlin denies publicly it’s planning votes in occupied regions even as officials on the ground are working on them. “The determination of the future destiny of those people is in their hands,” Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, said in a message. “If they are going to make any referendums, it will be their decision.”

Russia has begun preparations for a referendum in occupied Luhansk, though there’s “no need for them because the occupation authorities may count however they like,” the region’s Ukrainian governor Serhiy Haidai said in TV comments Thursday.  “The true referendum result is that more than 100,000 people have left the regional centre” of Sievierodonetsk that was almost completely destroyed when Russian troops seized the city in June, he said.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday the goals of its military operations have expanded to include the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions and “other territories”, as well as the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics that Putin recognised as independent days before the invasion. He blamed US and European weapons supplies to Ukraine for the shift, in the transcript of an interview with state media published on the foreign ministry’s website.

Russia declared it had taken Luhansk region in early July, a claim rejected by Ukraine which says its troops continue to fight there. Fierce battles are taking place in neighboring Donetsk and Ukraine has said it’s amassing forces for a counter-offensive in the south, where it’s been challenging Russian troops that occupied Kherson region early in the war. Russian forces occupy about 60% of Zaporizhzhia region.

The territories represent Putin’s “basic goals”, said Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of political consultancy R.Politik. “He continues to seek the capitulation of Ukraine as part of a broader confrontation with the West and “without this he will never declare victory.”


July 21 2022 - 15:23

Russia moves to shut down Jewish Agency, fuelling Israel tension

Russian authorities have asked a Moscow court to liquidate a prominent group handling the emigration of Jews to Israel in a move likely to raise tensions with Tel Aviv.

The Basmanniy court scheduled a preliminary hearing for July 28 in the case, which was brought by the justice ministry for alleged violations of Russian law, according to court spokesperson Yekaterina Buravtsova.

Russia’s justice ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The Jewish Agency and Israel’s foreign ministry declined to comment.

The foreign ministry said earlier this month it was following the situation and would help the Jewish Agency, which is private but has close ties to the government. At the time, the group said it was continuing to operate even as Russian authorities said they found violations in a recent inspection. Israel sought clarification from the Russian foreign ministry of the situation last week, Israeli news site Walla! reported Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s relations with Israel have become increasingly strained since his invasion of Ukraine in February, which sparked unprecedented US and European sanctions. Tel Aviv has criticised Russia’s move, drawing anger from Moscow. The Jewish Agency has helped refugees from Ukraine resettle in Israel since the invasion.

“This lawsuit is disappointing news whatever the basis is and appears to be a step back in relations between Russia and Israel,” said Borukh Gorin, a spokesperson for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia.


July 21 2022 - 15:10

LISTEN | Co-operating with Russian business equates to funding the war, says Ukrainian Association of SA

The Ukrainian Association of SA, which picketed outside a closed door Russian-SA investment meeting in Sandton yesterday, has urged South African businesses to cease all co-operation with their Russian counterparts in the private sector and in government.

The association’s secretary, Anastasia Korpeso, said co-operating with Russian business equated to directly funding the Russia’s war with Ukraine.

“The Ukrainian association feels responsible to inform SA communities and government officials that are doing business with Russia at the moment means financing missile strikes on the residential areas, hospitals, schools, shopping malls, infrastructure all over Ukraine, killing thousands of civilians, including hundreds of children,” said Korpeso.

July 21 2022 - 15:07

Pandemic, war and 'crazy' prices threaten SA's move away from coal

SA, where daily blackouts are a fact of life, knows better than most that it cannot rely on coal power.

But just when it plans to shift to renewable energy to help drive the economy, rising costs linked to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine threaten further delay.

After a six-year hiatus, the country in 2021 held a bidding round for companies to operate wind and solar projects, attracting aggressive offers from more than 100 companies, eager to make up for the shortfalls of state power generator Eskom.

July 21 2022 - 13:02

Kremlin says Putin is fine, denying health rumours

The Kremlin said on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was in good health, dismissing what it called false reports he was unwell.

"Everything is fine with his health," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in reply to a question at his daily briefing. "You know that Ukrainian information specialists, and American and British ones, have been throwing out various fakes about the state of the president's health in recent months - these are nothing but fakes," he added.

Putin coughed during a public appearance on Wednesday, when Interfax news agency quoted him as saying he had caught a slight cold during a visit to Iran the previous day.

"It was very hot in Tehran yesterday, plus 38 (degrees Celsius), and the air conditioning was very strong there. So I apologise," Putin, 69, was quoted as saying.

International scrutiny of his health has intensified over recent months, including when he was photographed meeting foreign and Russian officials while seated at opposite ends of long tables as a precaution against Covid-19. At times he has also appeared to walk stiffly.

Since launching Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24 he has frequently been in public view, maintaining a full schedule of meetings and calls including two foreign trips within the past month.

CIA director William Burns was asked about the issue during a security forum in the US on Wednesday, where he said that Putin was "entirely too healthy".


July 21 2022 - 12:45

Britain to supply over 1,600 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine

Britain will send scores of artillery guns and more than 1,600 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine in the latest supply of Western arms to help bolster its defence against Russia, UK defence secretary Ben Wallace said on Thursday.

The uplift comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month promised another 1-billion pounds ($1.2bn) of military support to Ukraine.


July 21 2022 - 12:15

Kremlin: We hope new British PM will be more ‘balanced’ towards Russia

The Kremlin said on Thursday that Moscow hopes that Britain's next prime minister will adopt a level-headed position towards Russia.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: "We hope that the future Prime Minister of Great Britain will lean towards more balanced rhetoric towards our country.

"Former finance minister Rishi Sunak and foreign secretary Liz Truss will battle it out to become Britain's next prime minister after they won the final lawmaker vote, setting up the last stage of the contest to replace Boris Johnson.


July 21 2022 - 11:55

Kremlin says even harshest sanctions have never made countries change their position

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its actions in Ukraine would not cause it to change course. In a call with reporters, Peskov said: "Even the harshest sanctions have never made countries change their position."


July 21 2022 - 11:25

Russian foreign ministry: no contact with US on Ukraine peace talks

Russian foreign ministry spokespersonn Maria Zakharova said on Thursday there had been no contact with the United States over peace talks with Ukraine.

"The American administration forbids its wards in Kyiv to even think about talks with us, and evidently forces them to fight to the last Ukrainian," Zakharova told reporters.

Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have been frozen since early April, when ceasefire talks brokered by Turkey in Istanbul collapsed.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has played down the prospect of peace talks while Russian troops still occupy Ukrainian territory. On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that peace talks with Ukraine made "no sense".

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on July 7 that his country had not "started anything yet in earnest" in Ukraine, and dared the West to try to defeat it on the battlefield. 


July 21 2022 - 10:20

Two killed, 19 wounded in Russian shelling of Ukrainian city of Kharkiv - governor

Two people were killed and 19 wounded in Russian shelling of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Thursday, the regional governor said.

Oleh Synehubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, said four people were in a serious condition. Russia, which invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what it calls a special military operation, denies deliberately targeting civilians though its attacks have devastated Ukrainian towns and cities. 


July 21 2022 - 09:55

Ukraine's central bank devalues hryvnia by 25% against US dollar

Ukraine's central bank devalued the hryvnia currency by 25% against the US dollar on Thursday because of the impact of the war with Russia. It said it had set the new hryvnia rate at 36.5686 to the dollar.

The bank said in a statement that it had acted "in view of the change in the fundamental characteristics of Ukraine's economy during the war and the strengthening of the US dollar against other currencies."

The bank also said that the devaluation would aid the "competitiveness of Ukrainian manufacturers ... and support the stability of the economy in wartime conditions."

The devaluation comes a day after Ukraine asked its creditors for a two-year payment freeze on its international bonds in an attempt to focus its dwindling financial resources on repelling Russia. At the end of 2020, Ukraine had $130bn in external debt outstanding, according to World Bank data.

Ukraine has earmarked nearly $20bn in international dollar and euro-denominated bonds maturing from 2022 to 2030 to be subject to the debt freeze. Due to the effects of the war, Ukraine's economy is expected to contract in the range of 35-45% for 2022. 


July 21 2022 - 08:45

Germany's Deutsche Bahn plans trains for Ukraine’s grain exports

German national railways Deutsche Bahn (DB) plans to start freight train services to carry Ukrainian grain exports to German ports for loading on ships, DB said.

Grains will be brought by rail to German ports including Rostock, Hamburg and Brake, DB said.

Details of capacity were not given but several trains a week are planned, largely picking up Ukrainian grain in Romania.

The DB has been running trains from Germany loaded with aid cargoes for Ukraine and it is planned that freight trains will load grain on their return journeys.

Ukrainian agricultural exports were about 2.5-million tonnes in June against up to 6 million tonnes of grain per month before Russia invaded the country on February 24. Moscow calls its action a "special military operation".

UN agencies have warned that lack of Ukrainian grain, which typically goes to the Middle East and Africa, is threatening starvation and mass migration on an "unprecedented scale".

Much of Ukraine’s current grain exports are moved by truck and river ships to neighbouring countries including Romania and Poland for loading on ocean ships but the different gauge of Ukrainian railway tracks means most EU trains cannot be used inside Ukraine.

Ukraine urgently needs to export grain as its harvest starts this summer with farmers facing a lack of storage capacity, with hopes talks about establishing a safe ocean shipping corridor in the Black Sea for Ukrainian exports could continue this week. 


July 21 2022 - 07:51

Britain says Russia closing in on Ukraine's second biggest power plant

Russian forces are likely closing in on Ukraine's second biggest power plant at Vuhlehirska, 50km northeast of Donetsk, British military intelligence said on Thursday.

"Russia is prioritising the capture of critical national infrastructure, such as power plants," Britain's defence ministry said in a regular bulletin.

The ministry also added that Russia is probably attempting to break through at Vuhlehirska, as part of its efforts to regain momentum on the southern pincer of its advance towards the key cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.


July 21 2022 - 06:50

US hopes for global price cap on Russian oil by December

The United States hopes to see a global price cap on Russian oil introduced by December, US Deputy Treasury Wally Adeyemo said on Wednesday.

"We are following on what the Europeans have done," he told the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. "They introduced the idea of looking to do a price cap but they also said by December, they plan to put in place their insurance ban.

"Our goal is to make sure that as that insurance ban is going into place, we're in a position where there's a price cap that can be joined onto that that is a global one that helps to drive down global energy prices and also allows Russian energy to flow into the market place." 


July 21 2022 - 06:30

Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline nominations show rise for July 21 -operator website

Nominations on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline for gas flows from Russia into Germany were at 29,284,591 kwh/h for 0600-0700 CET, from zero previously, data from the operator's website showed.

Data for actual physical flows for the same time period have not been updated, and are at zero for the 0400-0500 CET period.

Europe is on edge about the restart of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline from Russia after annual maintenance was set to end on Thursday, with governments bracing for possible further supply cuts. 


July 21 2022 - 06:00

Russia expands Ukraine war goals beyond east

Moscow's military goals in Ukraine now go beyond the eastern Donbas region, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said, as the Kremlin's forces shelled eastern and southern Ukraine.

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