Sat, 20 Aug 2022

The first shipment of Ukrainian grain since Russia's invasion reached Turkish territorial waters on Tuesday near the entrance to the Bosphorus Strait. The number of border crossings from Ukraine has surpassed 10 million, the UN Refugee Agency reported. Follow FRANCE 24's live blog for the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

9:30pm: Fighting in Donbas is 'hell' due to Russian artillery advantage, Zelensky says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday said that despite US supplies of rocket artillery, Kyiv's forces could not yet overcome Russian advantages in heavy guns and manpower.

"This is very much felt in combat, especially in the Donbas... It is just hell there. Words cannot describe it," he said in a late-night address

6:25pm: Ukrainian grain ship reaches Turkey

The first official shipment of Ukrainian grain since Russia's invasion reached Turkish territorial waters on Tuesday near the entrance to the Bosphorus Strait, according to an AFP team on site.

The Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni is due to be inspected Wednesday near Istanbul by a team that includes Russian and Ukrainian officials before delivering its cargo of 26,000 tonnes of maize to Tripoli, Lebanon.

4:25pm: Russian strike on evacuation bus kills three in Kherson region, Ukraine says

Three people were killed and five others were wounded when Russian forces fired mortars that hit an evacuation bus in the southern Kherson region, a Ukrainian military spokesperson said on Tuesday.

The incident happened on August 1 as the bus was heading from the village of Starosilya, which is under Russian control, to the Ukrainian-held city of Kryvyi Rih.

Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for the southern command of Ukraine's military, said the vehicle came under mortar fire near the village of Dovhove.

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.

4:06pm: Russia accuses US of 'direct involvement' in Ukraine conflict

Russia on Tuesday said that the United States was directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine because U.S. spies were approving and coordinating Ukrainian missile strikes on Russian forces.

Russia's defence ministry said Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine's deputy head of military intelligence, had admitted to the Telegraph newspaper that Washington coordinates HIMARS missile strikes.

"All this undeniably proves that Washington, contrary to White House and Pentagon claims, is directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine," the defence ministry said.

"It is the Biden administration that is directly responsible for all Kiev-approved rocket attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure in populated areas of Donbas and other regions, which have resulted in mass deaths of civilians," the Russian ministry added.

U.S. President Joe Biden has said he wants Ukraine to defeat Russia and has supplied billions of dollars of arms to Kyiv but U.S. officials do not want a direct confrontation between U.S. and Russian soldiers.

2:22pm: Russia claims deadly strikes in Mykolaiv and Kharkiv regions

Russia said on Tuesday it had carried out deadly strikes against Ukrainian forces in Ukraine's southern Mykolaiv region and eastern Kharkiv region.

The defence ministry also said it destroyed seven ammo depots in the east and south of the country, including in the Zaporizhzhia region.

Ukraine, which has stepped up its drive to retake Russian-controlled regions in the south, said last week it saw evidence Moscow was redeploying its forces to defend the captured territory.

1:10pm: Russia's supreme court designates Ukraine's Azov regiment a 'terrorist' group

Russia's supreme court on Tuesday designated the Azov regiment - a former volunteer battalion that was incorporated into Ukraine's army - a "terrorist" group, allowing for lengthy jail terms for its members, Russian news agencies and a Reuters correspondent in the courtroom reported.

The court ruled to "recognise the Ukrainian paramilitary unit Azov as a terrorist organisation and to ban its activities on the territory of the Russian Federation", the judge said as reported by the TASS state news agency, adding that the decision takes immediate effect.

The Azov regiment, which has far-right and ultra-nationalist roots, has been one of the most prominent Ukrainian military formations fighting against Russia in eastern Ukraine. Previously based in the port city of Mariupol, many of the regiment's personnel were captured by Russian forces when the city fell in May after an almost three-month-long siege.

Officials in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, the Russia-backed separatist entity that claims Mariupol as part of its territory, said in May that captured Azov regiment fighters could face the death penalty under the entity's laws.

12:49pm: Russia may have 'mixed feelings' about UN-backed grain deal

The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain left the port of Odesa on Monday following the signing of a UN-backed deal meant to ensure safe passage for grain shipments. Russia may favour the deal from a diplomatic standpoint, but it is not in Moscow's military interests. FRANCE 24's Ankara correspondent Jasper Mortimer explains.

11:30am: Border crossings from Ukraine pass 10 million mark since war began, UN says

The number of border crossings from Ukraine has surpassed 10 million for the first time since Russia invaded the country, the UN Refugee Agency reported on Tuesday. A total of 10,107,957 border crossings from Ukraine have been recorded since February 24, the agency's tally showed.

9:56am: Turkey expects one grain ship per day to depart from Ukraine if deal on safe passage holds

Turkey expects roughly one grain ship to leave Ukrainian ports each day as long as an agreement that ensures safe passage holds, a senior Turkish official said on Tuesday after the first wartime vessel safely departed Odesa on Monday.

The exports from one of the world's top producers are intended to help ease a global food crisis.

"The plan is for a ship to leave ... every day," the senior Turkish official, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters, referring to Odesa and two other Ukrainian ports covered by the deal. "If nothing goes wrong, exports will be made via one ship a day for a while."

9:30am: First shipment of Ukrainian grain expected in Istanbul 'after midnight'

The first shipment of Ukrainian grain to leave Odesa is expected in Istanbul "after midnight" on Tuesday, the Turkish defence ministry said.

The Sierra Leone-registered ship, the Razoni, set sail on Monday for the city of Tripoli in Lebanon from Ukraine's southern city of Odesa just after 8am Paris time (6am GMT) carrying 26,000 tonnes of maize. It had originally been expected to arrive in Istanbul early on Tuesday afternoon.

The vessel made its way along the Romanian coast overnight, but switched off its automatic identification system AIS at around 1am Paris time (11pm GMT), meaning it could no longer be tracked, according to the Marine Traffic website. Ankara did not immediately provide any explanation for the move.

6:18am: US corn, wheat prices fall as Ukraine resumes grain shipping, but Zelensky warns against celebrating too soon

US corn and wheat futures fell on Monday as the first ship carrying grain left a Ukrainian port using a newly agreed safe shipping channel, raising hopes that Ukraine's seaborne exports can resume on a large scale after being blocked by war.

Chicago Board of Trade December corn ended down 10-1/4 cents at $6.09-3/4 a bushel and CBOT September wheat fell 7-1/2 cents to end at $8.00-1/4. November soybeans settled down 62-1/2 cents at $14.06 per bushel.

The five-month halt of deliveries from Ukraine - one of the world's biggest grain exporters - has contributed to soaring food prices, hitting the world's poorest nations especially hard.

Kyiv said the departure of the Razoni cargo ship would bring "relief for the world" - if Moscow respected its side of the accord - but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cautioned it was too soon to celebrate.

"At this time, it is too early to draw any conclusions and make any forecasts," Zelensky said in his daily video address.

"Let's wait and see how the agreement works and whether security will be really guaranteed."

5:49am: US accuses Russia of using Ukraine power plant as 'nuclear shield'

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday called Russia's actions around Ukraine's largest nuclear power plant "the height of irresponsibility", accusing Moscow of using it as a "nuclear shield" in attacks on Ukrainian forces.

Russia in March was accused of firing shells dangerously close to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as its forces took it over in the first weeks of the invasion of Ukraine.

Washington is "deeply concerned" that Moscow is now using the plant as a military base and firing on Ukrainian forces from around it, Blinken told reporters after nuclear nonproliferation talks at the United Nations in New York.

"Of course the Ukrainians cannot fire back lest there be a terrible accident involving the nuclear plant," he said.

Russia's actions went beyond using a "human shield", Blinken said, calling it a "nuclear shield".

The Russian mission to the United Nations in New York strongly rejected Blinken's accusations.

"We repeatedly stated that actions of our armed forces in no way undermine Ukraine's nuclear security or impede routine operation of the NPP (nuclear power plant)," the Russian UN mission said in a statement.

3:36am: World Bank surveys 'extreme' food price hikes in poor countries

According to a Food Security Update published by the World Bank on Monday, Lebanon faces the world's worst food inflation, with prices rising 332 percent over the last year. (Lebanon is the destination of the first grain-carrying ship to leave Ukraine's Odesa port under a UN-backed deal.)

Zimbabwe and Venezuela have also seen triple-digit increases, with Turkey, Iran, Sri Lanka and Argentina next-worst hit. The World Bank highlights the war in Ukraine as a key factor behind the rising prices and food insecurity, alongside a historic drought in the Horn of Africa.

FRANCE 24's Kate Moody breaks down some of the World Bank's key findings:

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

Originally published on France24

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