Live: US approves $89 million to help Ukraine clear landmines, unexploded ordnance

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The US State Department said Tuesday it has approved $89 million to help Ukraine equip and train teams to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance for one year. The approval for the funds comes a day after the US Defence Department said it would provide $1 billion in new military aid for Ukraine. Follow our live updates for all the latest developments on the war in Ukraine. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).  


9:22pm: Biden signs US ratification of Finland’s and Sweden’s bids to join NATO

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed the US ratification of bids by Finland and Sweden to enter NATO, taking expansion of the Western alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine one step closer.

The White House said that ahead of the signing ceremony, Biden talked by telephone with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto.

“President Biden congratulated them on the US Senate‘s swift, bipartisan ratification of their NATO accession protocols, and welcomed Finland and Sweden moving one step closer to becoming NATO allies,” the White House said.

The Senate voted 95-1 earlier this month in favor of the Nordic states’ accession, making the US the 23rd of the 30 NATO countries to give formal endorsement. Unanimous support is needed for new membership in the alliance.

9:05pm: Macron and UK’s Johnson reaffirm commitment to support Ukraine, Élysée says

French President Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson reaffirmed their commitment to support Ukraine for as long as necessary, the French presidential palace said on Tuesday.

8:50pm: US to give Ukraine $89 million for mine-clearing equipment and training

The US State Department has approved $89 million worth of assistance to help Ukraine equip and train 100 teams to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance for a year, an official said on Tuesday.

The funding is the largest US de-mining programme yet in Ukraine, and the official compared Ukraine’s challenge to attempts to disarm unexploded ordnance in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos following the US war of the 1960s and 70s in Southeast Asia.

“If you look at some conflicts in the not-so-distant past, the Vietnam War for example, we’re still clearing ordnance in Southeast Asia 50 years after that war ended. This may be on par with that,” the official said.

The approval for the funds comes a day after the US Defence Department said it would provide $1 billion in new military aid for Ukraine, including more surface-to-air missiles and anti-armour rockets.

The US is the top financial supporter of conventional weapons destruction, according to Karen Chandler, the director of the office of weapons removal and abatement at the State Department, and has provided more than $4.2 billion in assistance to over 100 countries from 1993 through 2021.

The United States is also the world’s largest weapons exporter.

8:30pm: Launch of Iranian satellite follows allegations that Russian plans to use it to surveil military targets in Ukraine 

An Iranian satellite launched by Russia blasted off from Kazakhstan Tuesday and reached orbit amid controversy that Moscow might use it to boost its surveillance of military targets in Ukraine.

Speaking at the Moscow-controlled Baikonur cosmodrome in the Kazakh steppe, Russian space chief Yury Borisov hailed “an important milestone in Russian-Iranian bilateral cooperation, opening the way to the implementation of new and even larger projects”.

Iran’s Telecommunications Minister Issa Zarepour, who also attended the launch of the Khayyam satellite, called the event “historic” and “a turning point for the start of a new interaction in the field of space between our two countries”.

Iran, which has maintained ties with Moscow and refrained from criticism of its invasion of Ukraine, has sought to deflect suspicions that Moscow could use Khayyam to spy on Ukraine.

Last week, The Washington Post quoted anonymous Western intelligence officials as saying that Russia “plans to use the satellite for several months or longer” to assist its war efforts before allowing Iran to take control.

The space agency stressed on Sunday that Iran would control the satellite “from day one” in an apparent reaction to the Post’s report.

6:48pm: Russian pipeline firm says oil deliveries via Ukraine to Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic halted due to sanctions

The supply of Russian oil to three European countries through Ukraine has been halted as the transit payment cannot be processed due to sanctions, Russian pipeline firm Transneft said Tuesday.

“On August 4, the delivery of Russian oil via the territory of Ukraine was halted,” the oil pipeline operator said in a statement, adding that this had affected deliveries to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic through the southern leg of the Druzhba pipeline.

The company said the Ukrainian side stopped the oil transport “due to not receiving funds for these services”.

However, deliveries to Poland and Germany via Belarus were continuing “as usual”, Transneft added.

A spokesman for Slovak refinery Slovnaft confirmed that the transportation of oil through the Druzhba pipeline had been suspended for several days.

“According to our information, there were technical problems at the bank level in connection with the payment of transit fees from the Russian side,” Anton Molnar said in a statement.

Molnar also said that Slovnaft had initiated talks with Ukraine and Russia about the possibility of Hungarian refinery MOL and Slovnaft paying the transit fees, which would enable the resumption of oil supplies.

5:34pm: Explosions at air field in Crimea killed one person, Russian governor says

One person was killed by a blast at a military air base at Saki in Russia-annexed Crimea on Tuesday, the Russian governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said on social media.

The region’s top health official said earlier Tuesday that five people, including a child, had been injured.

Konstantin Skorupsky said one of the injured was being operated on, while the rest had received medical aid before returning home.

Russia’s defence ministry had earlier said the detonation of aviation munitions had caused an explosion, Russian news agencies reported, but that there had been no injuries.

4:46pm: Russia says blasts at air base in Crimea result of ‘aviation munitions’ detonating

Ammunition detonated at an air base in Moscow-annexed Crimea on Tuesday but there were no victims, the Russian defence ministry said.

The blasts at the Saki airfield took place on the 167th day of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Several aviation munitions detonated” near the settlement of Novofyodorovka, the defence ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

The Russian defence ministry said it was looking to establish the reason for the explosions but indicated that the airfield was not targeted in an attack.

According to dramatic footage on social media, holidaymakers left the local beach in panic as large plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky. Cars rushed to leave Novofyodorovka as ambulances were dispatched to the scene.

Crimea borders the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, which is now controlled by Moscow, and the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia, which is partially occupied by Russian forces, is also nearby.

In a video statement, Russian governor of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov, speaking from the scene, said the affected area had been cordoned off.

“All necessary measures have been tightened to ensure the safety of infrastructure facilities and the population,” he said.

3:49pm: France says Russian visitors to Paris-region castle should have been allowed in

France said Tuesday that a ban on Russian nationals entering military installations had been applied too rigidly when two Russian visitors were turned away at the Château de Vincennes, a medieval fortress and tourist attraction on the edge of Paris.

The former fortress houses part of the French armed forces’ historical archives, to which access is restricted.

Technically therefore a military installation, it is covered by a French ban on Russian nationals entering army territory that was issued after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Applying the rule, security guards there denied two Russian women access on July 28.

After media coverage and social media comment, the French defence ministry contacted AFP on Tuesday to say that the guards had “indiscriminately applied a rule established in February concerning all military installations”.

“This rule cannot be applied in the same way for strategic sites and for sites accessible to the public, such as museums,” a spokesman said. Security staff would now be informed of the distinction “to avoid any further incidents of this kind”.

3:44pm: Witnesses report loud explosions and smoke plumes in Russia-annexed Crimea

Three local witnesses told Reuters they had heard loud explosions and seen black smoke rising from the direction of a military airbase at Novofyodorovka on the Russia-annexed Crimean peninsula on Tuesday.

At least 12 explosions of varying intensity were heard in the course of a minute around 3:30pm local time (1230 GMT), two witnesses said. Three were particularly loud, triggering sparks and smoke.

Around 30 minutes later, one more blast, described by witnesses as the loudest of all, triggered two more plumes of smoke and dust. In the nearby town of Saki, sirens blared.

The Russian governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said in a post on his Telegram channel that he had gone to the area and that the “circumstances are being clarified”.

An advisor to Aksyonov confirmed that explosions had occurred but declined to comment on the possible cause, Russian news agencies reported.

1:10pm: Fresh shelling hits town near Russian-held nuclear plant

At least three Ukrainian civilians were killed and 23 others were wounded by Russian shelling in 24 hours, including an attack not far from a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant, the office of Ukraine’s president said Tuesday.

The Russians fired over 120 rockets from Grad multiple rocket launchers at the southern town of Nikopol, which is across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Dnipropetrovsk Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said. Several apartment buildings and industrial facilities were damaged, he said.

Ukraine and Russia have in recent days accused each other of shelling the nuclear plant, which is the largest one in Europe, and increasing the risks of a nuclear accident.

1:06pm: More than 10.5 million people have fled Ukraine, UNHCR says

More than 10.5 million people have crossed the border from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on February 24, the United Nations Refugee agency UNHCR said on its website on Tuesday.

12:46pm: Russians under sanctions fail to declare assets in Germany

None of the Russians targeted by European Union sanctions have declared their assets to German authorities as they are required to do under Germany’s sanctions law, the German government said, prompting a call for the transparency regime to be tightened.

Some 4.28 billion euros in assets belonging to sanctioned oligarchs have been frozen in Germany since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including 2.3 billion euros in deposits at German banks, according to the economy ministry.

Under Germany’s sanctions law, targets of EU sanctions have a duty to declare their assets immediately, under penalty of a fine or up to a year in prison. But in a letter to Left party legislator Christian Goerke, the ministry said that none had yet done so.

Goerke said the failure of the transparency regime showed that the rules needed to be tightened. “The duty of transparency should be extended to people who do business with oligarchs, like notaries, brokers, used car dealers, art dealers and banks,” Goerke said in a statement. “It’s not enough to put the names of oligarchs on sanctions lists.”

12:40pm: France bans Russians from chateau over Ukraine war

The French military has banned Russian nationals from visiting the Chateau de Vincennes, a mediaeval fortress and tourist attraction on the edge of Paris, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, officials told AFP.

Once the residence of French kings and among Europe’s best-preserved monuments of its kind, the castle is for the most part open to the public, including for tours, concerts, theatre plays and other events. It also houses part of the French armed forces’ historical archives, to which access is restricted.

Contacted by AFP, the defence ministry confirmed that it had, indeed, “restricted access to military installations to Russian nationals” because of the invasion.

Some 150,000 people visit the chateau every year.

12:36pm: Russia says it has destroyed HIMARS ammunition depot in Ukraine

Russia’s defence ministry said on Tuesday that Russian forces had destroyed an ammunition depot near the central Ukrainian city of Uman storing US-made HIMARS missiles and M777 howitzers.

In its daily briefing, the ministry said it had destroyed more than 300 rockets in the strike.

Kyiv has hailed the arrival of the advanced, long-range HIMARS from the United States as a possible gamechanger, while Moscow has accused the West of “dragging out” the conflict by arming Ukraine.

10:04am: Anti-aircraft defence to be beefed up around Zaporizhzhia plant

Anti-aircraft defences around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant will be strengthened following days of reported shelling on the site, the RIA Novosti news agency quoted a Russian-installed separatist official as saying on Monday.

Yevgeny Balitsky, head of the Russian-backed administration in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region also said the nuclear station, Europe’s largest, was working normally and damaged power lines have been restored.

Both Kyiv and Moscow have blamed each other for attacks on the power station, located in Russian-controlled territory, over recent days.

08:36am: Russia launches Iranian satellite from Kazakhstan

A Russia-launched Iranian satellite blasted off from Kazakhstan Tuesday, according to a live feed from Russian space agency Roscosmos.

Footage showed the Soyuz-2.1b rocket carrying the Khayyam satellite blasting off from the Russia-controlled Baikonur cosmodrome at the scheduled time of 0552 GMT.

Iran has sought to deflect suspicions that Moscow could use Khayyam to improve its surveillance of military targets in Ukraine.

Last week, US daily The Washington Post quoted anonymous Western intelligence officials as saying that Russia “plans to use the satellite for several months or longer” to assist its war efforts before allowing Iran to take control.

08:11am: Russia starts stripping jetliners for parts as sanctions bite

Russian airlines, including state-controlled Aeroflot, are stripping jetliners to secure spare parts they can no longer buy abroad because of Western sanctions, four industry sources told Reuters.

The steps are in line with advice Russia’s government provided in June for airlines to use some aircraft for parts to ensure the remainder of foreign-built planes can continue flying at least through 2025.

Sanctions imposed on Russia after it sent its troops into Ukraine in late February have prevented its airlines from obtaining spare parts or undergoing maintenance in the West.

Most of Russia’s fleet of aircraft consists of Western passenger jets.

08:07am: Two more grain ships sail from Ukraine

Two more grain-carrying ships sailed from Ukraine’s Chornomorsk port on Tuesday, Turkey’s defence ministry said, as part of a deal to unblock Ukrainian sea exports.

The Ocean Lion, which departed for South Korea, is carrying 64,720 tonnes of corn, it said, while the Rahmi Yagci is carrying 5,300 tonnes of sunflower meal to Istanbul.

5:15am: Ukraine reports heavy Russian shelling near eastern city of Donetsk

Ukraine reported heavy Russian shelling in frontline towns near the eastern city of Donetsk, where Ukrainian officials said Russian troops were launching waves of attacks as they try to seize control of the industrialised Donbas region.

“The situation in the region is tense – shelling is constant throughout the front line … The enemy is also using air strikes a great deal,” Donetsk regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told Ukrainian television.

“The enemy is having no success. Donetsk region is holding.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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