First Ukrainian grain shipment en route to Lebanon
A cargo ship carrying the first delivery of grain from Ukraine since the Kremlin’s invasion is en route to its final destination in Tripoli, Lebanon, after a Russian and Ukrainian team on Wednesday completed an inspection of the vessel in Istanbul. Read about the day’s events as they unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
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2:00am: Zelensky reportedly seeking ‘direct talks’ with China to help end Ukraine war
Ukraine is seeking an opportunity to speak “directly” with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help end its war with Russia, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.
In an interview with SCMP, the Ukrainian leader urged China to use its outsize political and economic influence over Russia to bring an end to the fighting.
“It’s a very powerful state. It’s a powerful economy … So (it) can politically, economically influence Russia. And China is [also a] permanent member of the UN Security Council,” the report quoted Zelensky as saying.
12:34am: US Senate passes resolution ratifying Sweden and Finland’s membership to NATO
The US Senate ratified the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO Wednesday, strongly backing the expansion of the transatlantic alliance in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Senate voted 95 to 1 in favor of the two Nordic countries’ accession, making the United States the 23rd of the 30 NATO countries to formally endorse it so far, after Italy approved it earlier Wednesday and France on Tuesday.
6:52pm: UN to launch fact-finding mission into Ukraine prison attack
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he will launch a fact-finding mission into an attack in the front-line Ukranian town of Olenivka that killed prisoners held by Moscow-backed separatists.
Russia and Ukraine both requested an investigation, Guterres told reporters. He said the terms of reference for the mission, which would need agreement from Russia and Ukraine, were being prepared.
4:37pm: Ukraine increases wartime grain harvest forecast
Ukraine’s forecast for its wartime 2022 harvest has increased to 65-67 million tonnes of grain from 60 million tonnes, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said on Wednesday.
In a Telegram message, he praised farmers for pressing ahead with the harvest despite the war, even in areas where shelling continues.
12:15pm: Russia’s Putin told ex-German chancellor Schroeder Nord Stream 2 pipeline ready for use
Russian President Vladimir Putin told former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder during their meeting last week that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was ready to be used to help with supplies to Europe, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.
Peskov said that Putin told Schroeder that Russian gas supplies have fallen to around 30 million cubic meters per day from 167 million cubic meters after Poland sanctioned the Yamal-Europe pipeline and Ukraine stopped flows via one of the routes.
11:55am: Inspection of first Ukraine grain shipment completed in Turkey
A Russian and Ukrainian team on Wednesday completed an inspection in Istanbul of a cargo ship carrying the first delivery of grain from Ukraine since the Kremlin’s invasion, Turkish officials said.
The team of 20 inspectors, which also included UN and Turkish officials, has “completed its inspection work aboard the Razoni”, allowing the Sierra Leone-flagged vessel to sail on to its final destination in Lebanon, the Turkish defence ministry said.
11:49am: Finland seizes goods with military use on Russian border
Finland‘s customs service said Wednesday it had caught several travellers carrying drones and other sanctioned goods across the border with Russia that could boost Moscow’s “industrial and military capabilities”.
The seizures came as Finland debates restrictions on Russian visas following Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
The increasing number of Russian tourists in Finland has spurred discontent as many think tourism should be restricted due to the war in Ukraine. Finland’s conservative opposition party last week proposed a halt to new tourist visas for Russians.
President Sauli Niinisto is due to discuss the issue with the government on Thursday and the proposal appears to have wide backing in parliament. Last week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia “would react very negatively” if there was a curb on Russian visas.
After Russia lifted Covid travel restrictions on July 15, the number of Russian tourists heading to Finland has steadily increased. Although the numbers are still below pre-Covid levels, there have been more than 185,000 border crossings in July, up from the 125,000 in June.
11:00am: Russia says it destroyed weapons depot in Ukraine’s Lviv region
Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday its missiles had destroyed a depot containing weapons supplied by Poland in Ukraine’s Lviv region.
9:37am: Zelensky says he would like to see China join countries opposed to Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday that China was balancing and maintaining neutrality over Russia’s war in Ukraine, but that he would like to see China join the countries opposed to Moscow over the invasion.
9:17am Inspection team heads for first Ukraine grain ship off Turkish coast
He made the comments by video link at an event organised at the Australian National University.
A team of inspectors headed off on a boat to check the first grain-carrying ship to leave Ukrainian ports in wartime on Wednesday, footage on state broadcaster TRT Haber showed, a day after it anchored in the Black Sea off Turkey’s coast.
The ship Razoni, carrying 26,527 tonnes of corn to Lebanon, departed Ukraine’s Odesa port on Monday and was to be inspected by Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN personnel who are working at a Joint Coordination Centre in nearby Istanbul.
7:46am: Russia’s Lavrov: US has not offered Moscow to resume talks on New START
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that the United States had made no approaches to resume talks on a new strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty to replace the so called 2011 “New START” deal.
U.S. President Joe Biden said he was ready to “expeditiously negotiate a new arms control framework” to replace New START when it expires in 2026, while President Vladimir Putin said there could be no winners in any nuclear war.
“It has become their habit to announce things over the microphone and then forget about them,” Lavrov said. “There have been no approaches to us to restart the negotiation process.”
7:12am: UK military intelligence says it is highly unlikely the rail link between Kherson and Crimea remains operational
The rail link connecting Russian-occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine with Crimea is highly unlikely to be operational due to a Ukrainian strike against a Russian ammunition train, Britain said on Wednesday.
Russian forces are likely to repair the railway line in a few days, although it will remain a vulnerability for Russian forces and their logistical resupply route from Crimea into Kherson, Britain said in an intelligence update on Twitter.
It is likely there will be an increase in civilians attempting to flee Kherson and surrounding areas, as hostilities continue and food shortages worsen, according to the update.
2:05am: US Senate will hold a vote Wednesday on Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO
The US Senate will hold votes on Wednesday on approving both Finland and Sweden’s accession into NATO, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Tuesday.
Schumer said the debate will begin at 1:30pm ET (1730 GMT).
1:35am: French parliament ratifies accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO
France’s National Assembly voted to ratify the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO on Tuesday after the historic decision by the two countries to give up their neutrality. The measure passed by a vote of 209 in favor and 46 against.
France joins “twenty allies” who “have already ratified the protocols”, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said.
All thirty NATO member states need to formally ratify the measure before Sweden and Finland can enjoy the full protection of Article 5 of the NATO Charter in the event of an attack. Meanwhile, Turkey is threatening to “freeze” the process, accusing the two Scandinavian countries of aiding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its allies that Ankara considers terrorist organisations.
12:30am: Woman believed to be Putin’s ‘girlfriend’ hit in latest round of US sanctions
The United States blacklisted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s purported girlfriend and the tycoon owner of the second-largest estate in London Tuesday in the latest round of sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.
Also hit with US business bans were several other oligarchs believed to be close to Putin, four officials Russia has named to administer occupied territories in Ukraine, and around two dozen high technology institutes and companies, including key state-backed electronics entities.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)