Ukraine war: What you need to know this weekend
‘Spit in the face’: Ukraine accuses Russian of attacking Odesa Port – one day after landmark grain deal
Russian missiles hit a key Ukrainian port on Saturday, just one day after Moscow and Kyiv signed a breakthrough deal to unblock grain exports, according to a local MP.
Oleksiy Goncharenko, Odesa MP, claimed four “Russian Kalibr missiles” were fired at the southern port one hour ago, two of which were intercepted by Ukrainian forces.
He said there had been six explosions in the city and there are wounded, without specifying how many people or how serious their injuries were.
Ukraine and Russia signed a breakthrough agreement on Friday, designed to help relieve a global food crisis caused by blocked Black Sea grain exports.
Under the agreement, “safe corridors” will allow the movement of cargo ships in the Black Sea, which “both sides have committed not to attack,” said a UN official who requested anonymity.
There were hopes that the deal – one of the first between the warring sides since the war began – would help alleviate soaring food prices and help the world’s poorest countries, some of which are facing starvation.
By striking Odessa, Putin “spit in the face of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who have made enormous efforts to achieve this agreement,” said foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko.
Ukraine immediately warned that Russia would take “full responsibility” if the grain export deal failed.
Odesa is the largest city and the most important port on the Black Sea. It is an essential staging post for Ukrainian grain exports to resume.
Multiple Ukrainian military personnel targetted in missile strike
Nine Ukrainian servicemen were injured and one soldier killed Saturday when a Russian missile hit railway infrastructure and a military airfield in central Ukraine, according to the governor of Kirovograd.
The lives of two other people were lost in the strike, both guards of an electrical substation were killed,” said Andriy Raikovych, head of the Kirovograd region.
Russian attacks on central Ukraine have resumed following a lull due to Russia focusing on the eastern Donbas region, whose territory is now mainly controlled by Moscow forces.
In a statement posted earlier on social media, Raikovych said 13 Russian cruise missiles launched from the sea fell near the town of Kropyvnytskyi in the Kirovograd region.
“Infrastructure facilities [located] outside the regional centre were targeted, in particular the military airfield in Kanatove and a facility linked to Ukrainian railways,” Raikovych said.
Before the Russian invasion, the city of Kropyvnytskyi was home to some 220,000 people. It is located about 300 km south of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
Lithuania ends ban on sending goods to Kaliningrad
Lithuania has lifted its ban on bringing sanctioned goods in and out of Russia’s Kaliningrad via railway.
Kaliningrad, on the Baltic Sea, is a Russian enclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. Lots of goods are brought into the territory by train through Lithuania, as it is not connected to Russia.
Lithuania previously banned the transit of steel and other ferrous metals under EU sanctions last month, which enraged Russia and it threatened to respond.
But now Lithuanian Railways says it will resume transporting goods to the exclave.
The European Union last week said the transit ban only affected road, not rail, transit, and Lithuania should allow Russia to ship concrete, wood and alcohol across EU territory to Kaliningrad.
Russia’s Tass news agency cited a Kaliningrad government official as saying 60 wagons of cement would soon be shipped into the territory.
Russia annexed Kaliningrad after World War Two in 1945 and roughly one million people live there.
For supplies, Kaliningrad has been heavily reliant on transit routes through Lithuania. But last month Lithuania began implementing EU sanctions on certain Russian goods – including construction materials – in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It would not allow the goods to transit through Lithuanian territory to Kaliningrad.
This angered Moscow, and Russian security council chief Nikolai Patrushev threatened a “serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania”.
Lavrov to visit Africa as Kremlin looks for allies outside of Europe and the West
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will begin an African tour in Egypt on Sunday, seeking to draw on demand for non-Western alliances as Moscow pushes back against international censure over the war in Ukraine.
In Egypt, Lavrov will meet officials trying to square deep links to Russia with their close relationship with the United States, which along with other Western powers, sought to isolate Russia with tough sanctions after its 24 February invasion of Ukraine.
After meeting Arab League members in Cairo, he will travel to Ethiopia and Uganda, two countries whose relations with the West have come under strain, as well as Congo Republic.
Egypt has significant strategic and economic ties with Russia, which has been a key source in recent years of wheat, weaponry and – until the war complicated travel – tourists.
This week, Russian state-owned energy corporation Rosatom started long-delayed construction on Egypt’s first nuclear plant, the largest Russian-Egyptian project since the Aswan High Dam on the Nile was completed in 1970.
Those ties have caused angst with Western states, a group of which petitioned the Egyptian government and the Arab League ahead of Lavrov’s visit not to play into Russia’s version of events in Ukraine, diplomats said.
Moscow claims it destroyed half of US-supplied HIMARS rocket systems, Kyiv denies it
Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday its forces had destroyed four US-supplied high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) in Ukraine earlier this month.
Between 5-20 July, “four launchers and one reloading vehicle for the US-made multiple launch rocket systems (HIMARS) were destroyed,” it said in a daily briefing.
Kyiv rejected Moscow’s claims, calling them “fakes” designed to undermine the West’s support for Ukraine.
Kyiv has hailed the arrival of eight HIMARS in Ukraine as a possible gamechanger for the course of the war, now about to enter its sixth month.
The advanced weapons are more precise and offer a longer range than other artillery systems, allowing Kyiv to strike Russian targets and weapons depots further behind the front lines.
Donetsk and Luhansk separatist territories ban Google
The authorities in Ukraine’s two Moscow-backed separatist territories have announced that they have blocked the world’s biggest internet search engine, Google, accusing it of “promoting” violence against Russians.
Google “promotes terrorism and violence against all Russians, especially the population of the Donbas (…) We have decided to block Google on the territory” of the Donetsk region, separatist leader Denis Pushilin said in a statement Friday.
On Thursday, the leader of the neighbouring separatist region of Lugansk, Leonid Pasechnik, announced that he had taken the same step.
The Kremlin-supported and armed separatist authorities in eastern Ukraine, like Russia, have been seeking to tighten their control over information since Moscow launched its offensive against Ukraine in late February.
In Russia, new laws have been passed that allow courts to dole out heavy prison sentences to those who publicise what the authorities deem to be “false information” about the army or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, demanding it to be labelled as “special military operation”.
Russia has blocked major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The country, which has its own search engine, Yandex, has been trying for years to develop a sovereign internet, like China.