Several killed, more than 20 wounded in Russian strike in central Ukraine
A Russian strike on a flight school killed five people and wounded 25 in the Ukrainian city of Kropyvnytskyi on Thursday, the regional governor said. Ukraine’s counteroffensive is gathering momentum in the Russian-controlled southern city of Kherson, Britain’s defence ministry said. Read abotu the day’s events as they unfolded on our live blog. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
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July 29, 04:32am: Russia steps up strikes on Ukraine amid counterattacks — recap
Strikes hit Kharkiv, Chuhuiv, several locations in eastern Ukraine and a military base outside Kyiv Thursday, in what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called a renewed offensive on the country as it marks a national holiday. FRANCE 24’s Sinead McCausland reports.
11:30pm: US State Dept approves potential sale of F-35 fighters, munitions to Germany
The US State Department approved a possible foreign military sale to Germany of F-35 fighter jets, munitions and related equipment for an estimated cost of $8.4 billion, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
The potential deal for the advanced stealth fighter came after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged an upgrade to his country’s military following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The principle contractors for the deal include Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co and Raytheon Technologies Corp, the Pentagon said.
Despite approval by the State Department, the notification does not indicate a contract has been signed or that negotiations have concluded. The notice of a potential sale is required by law.
Germany said in March it would buy 35 US F-35 fighter jets to replace its aging Tornado.
9:39pm: Syrian ship carrying ‘stolen’ grain docked in Lebanon, Ukraine says
A Syrian cargo ship, sanctioned by the United States and carrying what Ukraine says is stolen barley from the eastern European country, has docked in Lebanon, the Ukrainian diplomatic mission in Lebanon said Thursday.
According to the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut, the cargo vessel Laodicea docked in the port of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city. It was carrying 5,000 tons of flour and 5,000 tons of barley, the embassy said.
The US Treasury Department sanctioned the Laodicea in 2015 for its affiliation with the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.
Ukraine has accused Russia of plundering grain and steel from its territory since Moscow invaded the country in late February. The embassy in Beirut did not elaborate or say how the barley was purportedly stolen from Ukraine.
Marine Traffic, which monitors vessel traffic and location of ships on seas, also confirmed the ship’s docking in Tripoli on Thursday. The Laodicea was initially heading to Tartus Port in Syria, and was expected to arrive there earlier this week.
Earlier Thursday, Ukrainian Ambassador Ihor Ostash met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and warned the Lebanese leader that purchasing stolen goods from Russia would “harm bilateral ties”, according to the embassy statement. Kyiv had previously praised Lebanon for condemning Russia for its war in Ukraine.
9:12pm: Independent news website Novaya Gazeta under threat in Russia
Russia’s communications regulator has demanded that the website of top independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta be stripped of its licence, the media outlet said Thursday.
Novaya Gazeta, whose chief editor last year won the Nobel Peace Prize, suspended publication in late March until the end of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The announcement was made after the newspaper received two warnings over alleged violations from the state communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor.
The temporary suspension was designed to save the publication from shutdown amid draconian laws that have essentially banned any criticism of Russia‘s war in Ukraine.
Novaya Gazeta said on Thursday that Roskomnadzor went to court demanding that the media licence of the newspaper’s website be cancelled.
A similar lawsuit concerning the print version of Novaya Gazeta has already been registered with a Moscow court, the statement from the newspaper added.
The media outlet said it would fight for its rights in court. “We are not saying goodbye,” the newspaper said.
6:10pm: First grain shipments could leave Ukraine Friday, UN says
UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said on Thursday he was hopeful that the first shipment of grain from a Ukrainian Black Sea port could take place as early as Friday, but “crucial” details for the safe passage of vessels were still being worked out.
Griffiths said Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian military officials were working with a UN team at a joint coordination centre in Istanbul to hammer out standard operating procedures for the deal agreed by the four parties last Friday.
“That is a detailed negotiation based on the agreement,” Griffiths told UN member states in a briefing on Thursday. “But without those standard operating procedures we cannot manage a safe passage of vessels.”
Shipping companies and the insurers that cover vessels need to be assured that the journey is secure with no threat of mines or attacks to both the ships and their crews. These are typically covered in accepted maritime practices known as standard operating procedure.
“It’s not just a matter of whether there is a ship, or two, or three available in the ports ready to move out. They need to move safely and that means that we have to be clear where exactly the channel is,” Griffiths said.
3:23pm: Russian strike kills five in central Ukraine, governor says
Five people were killed and 25 wounded in a Russian missile strike on a flight school in the central Ukrainian city of Kropyvnytskyi on Thursday, the regional governor said.
Andriy Raikovych, governor of the Kirovohrad region, told a news briefing that two missiles had struck hangars at the National Aviation University Flight Academy around 12:20pm (0920 GMT).
“There are victims, dead and wounded. Twenty-five have already been taken to medical institutions – they were wounded.
Five were killed, one of them from the military,” he said. “There are material losses – two civilian aircraft and one AN-26 aircraft.”
3:07pm: Russian court fines former state TV journalist for anti-war posts
A Russian court fined former state TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova 50,000 roubles ($822) for “discrediting Russia’s armed forces” in social media posts in which she publicly opposed Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Ukraine-born Ovsyannikova rose to prominence in March after holding up an anti-war placard on the Vremya nightly news programme, where she worked as an editor.
At the time she was fined for flouting protest laws.
She was tried on Thursday over subsequent social media posts in which she wrote that those responsible for Russia’s actions in Ukraine would find themselves in the dock before an international tribunal.
2:14pm: More than 100,000 Ukrainians have arrived in UK since war began, government says
More than 100,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Britain under two schemes set up to help those fleeing the country following Russia’s invasion on February 24, the British government said on Thursday.
Nearly 6.2 million refugees from Ukraine have been recorded across Europe as of July 26, according to United Nations data, with more than half applying for temporary residence schemes.
Britain’s schemes, one for those with family already in the UK and another allowing Britons to offer accommodation to those fleeing the war, initially faced criticism for being overly bureaucratic and leaving some refugees in limbo for weeks.
The government said the process was now fully digital and it aimed to process applications within 48 hours. It will also now allow children under the age of 18 to apply to come to Britain without a parent or guardian if they have proof of parental consent.
12:55pm: Russian strikes hit military base outside Kyiv, says Ukraine army
Ukraine said Thursday that Moscow’s forces had struck a military base north of the capital Kyiv, in a rare admission of a successful Russian attack on Ukrainian military infrastructure.
Senior Ukraine military official Oleksiy Gromov told reporters that Russian forces had fired “six Kalibr cruise missiles on a military base in Lyutizh” at around 0200 GMT.
One building was destroyed and two were damaged, he said, in the attack on the town some 30 kilometres (19 miles) north of the capital.
The missiles — one of which was shot down by Ukrainian air defences — were fired from the Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, he added.
11:07am: Russia says prisoner exchange talks with US ongoing, no concrete results
Russia said on Thursday that negotiations with the United States on exchanging prisoners are ongoing but there is no deal to swap detained US basketball star Brittney Griner for jailed Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “so far there are no agreements in this area”.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova indicated that talks on prisoner exchanges had been going on for some time but without producing results.
They were responding to comments by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Washington had made Moscow a “serious offer” to secure the release of Griner and former US marine Paul Whelan, also detained in Russia.
10:12am: Japan urges Russia not to hold military drills around disputed islands
Japan urged Russia to exclude areas around disputed northern islands from military drills Moscow is planning to conduct in the country’s Far East from late August, a Japanese government spokesperson said on Thursday.
Japan lays claim to the Russian-held southern Kuril islands that Tokyo calls the Northern Territories, a territorial row that dates back to the end of World War Two when Soviet troops seized them from Japan.
“We lodged a firm representation that the Northern Territories should be excluded from the areas for the drills,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told a regular news conference.
9:42am: Russia fines Snapchat owner for data law violation
A Russian court on Thursday fined Snapchat’s owner 1 million roubles ($16,667) for an alleged refusal to localise Russian user data on the country’s territory, the Interfax news agency reported.
Moscow has clashed with Big Tech over content, censorship, data and local representation in a simmering dispute that has erupted into a full-on battle since Russia sent its armed forces into Ukraine on February 24.
8:04am: Britain says Ukraine’s counterattack in Kherson gains momentum
Ukraine’s counteroffensive is gathering momentum in the Russian-controlled southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, Britain’s defence ministry said on Thursday.
“Ukrainian forces have highly likely established a bridgehead south of the lngulets River, which forms the northern boundary of Russian-occupied Kherson,” it said in a regular intelligence bulletin on Twitter.
Russia’s 49th Army, stationed on the west bank of the Dnipro River, now looks highly vulnerable, British military intelligence said, adding that Kherson was virtually cut off from the other territories occupied by Russia.
(1/5) Ukraine’s counter-offensive in Kherson is gathering momentum. Their forces have highly likely established a bridgehead south of the Ingulets River, which forms the northern boundary of Russian-occupied Kherson.
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) July 28, 2022
6:54am: Ukraine moves closer to grain exports, strikes Russian-held bridge
Ukraine on Wednesday said it had restarted operations at its blockaded Black Sea ports as it moved closer to resuming grain exports with the opening of a coordination centre to oversee a UN-backed deal.
Progress towards fulfilling the landmark agreement came as Kyiv’s artillery struck a key bridge in Moscow-controlled territory in south Ukraine, damaging an important supply route as Ukrainian forces look to wrest back the Kherson region.
And as German authorities said Russia drastically reduced gas deliveries to Europe in a move seen as revenge for Western sanctions over the invasion, Ukraine announced plans to increase its electricity imports to Europe.
(FRANCE 24 with Reuters, AP and AFP)