Ukraine live briefing: Zelensky tells Turkey’s Erdogan reopening Black Sea grain routes is a priority


A person stands amid the debris of a farm storage building destroyed during a Russian attack on Ukraine’s Odessa region on Friday. (Libkos/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan it was an “absolute priority” to restore the Black Sea corridor, where ships carry Ukrainian grain to the world, according to the Ukrainian leader’s office. Turkey’s presidential office acknowledged the two held a phone call Friday and discussed the grain deal from which Russia withdrew this week.

Brokered by Turkey and the United Nations last year, the agreement allowed the safe passage of ships carrying grain from Ukraine, a major exporter. “Due to Russia’s actions, the world is once again on the brink of a food crisis,” Zelensky said.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said millions of people are at risk of hunger after Russia’s withdrawal from the grain deal.Global grain prices … have spiked this week,” he told the U.N. Security Council. “This potentially threatens hunger and worse for millions of people.”

UNESCO condemned Russian attacks on the “historic center of Odessa,” which is protected under the World Heritage Convention. The U.N. cultural organization reported damage to sites including the Odessa maritime and literature museums. Russian strikes have in recent days hit Ukrainian port regions on the Black Sea, where the Russian navy also conducted a firing drill. The attacks follow Moscow’s pledge to retaliate after Kyiv’s strike on the Crimean Bridge on Monday.

Zelensky described the Crimean Bridge as a target for Ukraine that must be “neutralized.” “This is not just a logistical road, this is the road used to feed the war with ammunition,” he said at the Aspen Security Forum. “And any target that is bringing war, not peace, has to be neutralized.” Ukrainian forces struck the bridge connecting mainland Russia to the Crimean peninsula — which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014 — in Monday’s attack that killed two people.

Radar imagery appears to show newly arrived vehicles and equipment in Belarus, at a rumored base for fighters from the Wagner Group. The images, provided to The Washington Post by Maxar Technologies and Umbra, show that “dozens, if not hundreds, of vehicles and equipment have recently arrived at the facility,” according to Stephen Wood, senior director at Maxar. The images show an increase in materiel compared with previous imagery gathered on July 16.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive operations are expected to “gain pace,” Zelensky told attendees at the Aspen Security Forum, as Ukrainian forces try to retake ground from entrenched Russian troops. “We are already going through some mines’ locations and we are demining these areas,” Zelensky said.

The United States is planning to announce a new $400 million military assistance package for Ukraine, Reuters reported, citing three unidentified American officials. The Post could not independently verify the report.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Ukraine’s use of cluster munitions was “having an impact” on Russian defenses. Human rights groups have criticized the U.S. provision of the widely banned munitions, and some NATO allies said they disagreed with the move. The Post reported this week that Ukraine has begun using the U.S.-provided munitions in the southeast.

President Biden elevated CIA Director William J. Burns to his Cabinet. The symbolic move does not give Burns new authority, but it will be read as a victory for the CIA and it reflects the central role the spy chief has played in the administration’s foreign policy and his key role as a messenger to Russia, The Post’s Shane Harris reports.

Russia and China are conducting naval drills in the waters between South Korea and Japan that conclude Sunday. The exercises involve anti-submarine warfare maneuvers, “ensuring the security of communications in the waters and airspace” and joint artillery firing, according to Russian news agencies.

Zelensky has dismissed Ukraine’s ambassador to Britain, according to the BBC. Kyiv did not announce a reason for the removal of Vadym Prystaiko, who criticized the president’s response after British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace suggested Ukraine should show gratitude for security assistance. Zelensky replied that “we can wake up in the morning and thank the minister. Let him write to me and tell me how to thank him.” Prystaiko had described the remarks as “unhealthy sarcasm.”

Russia arrests Igor Girkin, ex-security officer who led operations in Ukraine: Girkin, a former Russian commander in Ukraine, was detained on charges of promoting extremism. This marks the first time Moscow has taken action against a supporter of the war, but one who has voiced criticism of the top brass and their often botched military strategy, Mary Ilyushina reports.

Girkin is an ex-officer of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, and played a role in Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. He is now being accused of “public calls for extremist activities” online, Russian state news agencies reported.


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