Latest news from Russia and the war in Ukraine

First grain transport from Ukraine in months reaches Turkey safely

The first grain ship to leave Ukraine in months has arrived safely in Turkish waters, where it will be inspected before continuing its journey to Lebanon.

The shipment comes after Turkey and the United Nations signed a deal between Russia and Ukraine to resume the country’s vital exports after a blockade that has contributed to global shortages of wheat and cooking oil, of which Ukraine is a major producer and exporter.

The ship was carrying more than 26,000 tons of corn and will undergo an inspection in Istanbul before proceeding to Tripoli.

An aerial view of the Sierra Leone-flagged dry cargo vessel Razoni departing from the port of Odessa on Monday and arriving at the Black Sea entrance of the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Turkey, on Aug. 3, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The UN-led Joint Coordination Center has requested all parties to inform their militaries of the ship’s movements to ensure the safe passage of Ukraine through the Black Sea, where much of the coast has been reclaimed by both Russia and Ukraine during the invasion, to ensure Turkish waters in the Bosphorus.

The agreement, which was reached after much negotiation between the warring countries, has been hailed as a rare success for international diplomacy, with some officials hoping it can be built on to potentially reach a ceasefire.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday after the merchant ship, the Razoni, left Odessa’s port that it was “full of two scarce commodities: maize and hope”.

“Hope for millions of people around the world who depend on the smooth functioning of Ukrainian ports to feed their families. The ship’s departure is the first concrete result of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. It has been a long journey since I propose to the leaders of the Russian Federation and Ukraine at the end of April,” he said. The Razoni’s departure was, he added, a “huge collective achievement.”

— Holly Ellyatt

‘It’s just hell’: President Zelenskyy describes the situation in the Donbas

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the situation in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine, the epicenter of the war in Ukraine, is “just hell”.

Zelenskyy described Russia’s “fire superiority” in his nightly video message, saying that Ukrainian troops “still cannot completely break the Russian army’s advantage in artillery and manpower, and this is very much felt in the battles, especially in Donbas – Pisky, Avdiyivka, Other Directions.”

“It’s just hell. It can’t even be described in words,” he added.

Firefighters attempt to extinguish a blaze after Russian shelling of a house in Bakhmut in Donetsk, Ukraine, on July 27, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Fierce fighting in the Donbas has forced Ukraine to evacuate residents of one of its regions, Donetsk, while Kiev discusses the need for more weapons with its international allies. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke to President Zelenskyy about increasing military aid to Ukraine, tweeting on Wednesday that “it is vital that NATO and allies help Ukraine even faster”.

People board the evacuation train from the Donbas region to western Ukraine on August 2, 2022, at the train station in Pokrovsk.

Bulent Kilic | Afp | Getty Images

He said the two also discussed the first shipment of grain since the Russian invasion in late February and the subsequent naval blockade of Ukrainian ports.

Zelenskyy also commented on the initial success of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal between Russia and Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations, to resume exports of essential products from Ukraine by sea.

“Our goal now is to have regularity: so that when one ship leaves port, there should be other ships as well – both those loading and those on the approach to port. Continuity and regularity is the necessary principle. All consumers of our agricultural products need it,” he said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Read CNBC’s previous blog here:

Two Republican senators propose amendments ahead of vote to add Finland and Sweden to NATO

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (C), Finland Foreign Ministers Pekka Haavisto (L) and Sweden Foreign Minister Ann Linde (R) give a press conference after meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on January 24, 2022.

John Thys | AFP | Getty Images

Two Republican senators have proposed amendments to the vote to add Sweden and Finland to NATO.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, both want changes to the treaty vote as Congress prepares for recess.

Paul told NBC News that his amendment states that “nothing in the Article Five portion of the NATO treaty replaces the congressional directive that we should declare war.” The NATO provision then applies that an attack on one member of the alliance is an attack on all members.

Sullivan told NBC News that his amendment requires every member of NATO, including now Sweden and Finland, to commit to the 2% of GDP spending on defense set at the NATO summit in Wales in 2014 .

The vote to include Sweden and Finland in NATO is expected to be passed by an overwhelming majority.

— Amanda Macias

US imposes more sanctions on Russian officials and oligarchs

Red Square, Moscow

Mike Hewitt | Getty Images

State Secretary Antony Blinken announced new sanctions against Russian oligarchs and state-owned companies.

Below is the factsheet from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the sentences imposed for the following Russian oligarchs:

  • Alexander Ponomarenko “for operating or having worked in the aerospace sector of the Russian economy. He is an oligarch with close ties to other oligarchs and the construction of Vladimir Putin’s seaside palace.” He is sanctioned by the UK, European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Dmitry Pumpyanskiy “for operating or having practiced in the financial services sector of the economy of the Russian Federation.” The UK, the European Union and New Zealand have also appointed him. Pumpyanskiy has ties to the yacht “Axiom”, which is now identified as blocked property.
  • Andrey Melnichenko “for operating or having practiced in the financial services sector of the economy of the Russian Federation.” Like Pumpyanskiy, he has also been designated by the UK, the European Union and New Zealand.

“We are also imposing additional costs on the Russian war machine by designating 24 Russian defense and technology-related entities,” Blinken wrote in a statement.

“Russia has systematically focused on exploiting high-tech research and innovations to advance Moscow’s warfare — the same defense capabilities the Russian military uses in its vicious attacks on Ukraine’s population centers and resulting in the death of civilians, including children.” he added.

— Amanda Macias

March was the deadliest month of Russia’s war in Ukraine, UN says

The United Nations High Commissioner’s Human Rights Office said March was the deadliest month so far in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

More than 3,100 civilians and 2,400 were injured in the conflict in March, according to UN data.

Total number of civilian casualties from February 24 to July 31, 2022 as prepared by the United Nations.

UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner

The United Nations has confirmed 5,327 civilian deaths and 7,257 injured in Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24.

“Most of the recorded civilian casualties were caused by the use of high-area-effect explosive weapons, including shelling from heavy artillery, multiple missile systems, missiles and air strikes,” the UN agency wrote in a report.

The human rights agency added that most of the casualties and injuries were reported in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

— Amanda Macias

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