Ukraine war live updates: Russia says it views all Ukraine-bound ships as military cargo carriers; Odesa under attack again

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State Department approves $2.9 billion missile sale to Germany

Military personnel walk past the Raytheon Missile stand.

Carl De Souza | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. State Department approved a potential foreign military sale worth $2.9 billion to Germany for 969 AIM-120C-8 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air missiles.

Raytheon is the principal contractor named in the deal and the defense titan’s facility in Tuscon, Arizona, will carry out the work.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally that is an important force for political and economic stability in Europe,” the release added.

— Amanda Macias

‘It feels unreal sometimes,’ detained WSJ reporter’s sister says of her brother’s imprisonment in Russia

The National Press Club in Washington, D.C., hosted detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich’s sister for a discussion on press freedom.

“It still feels unreal sometimes,” Danielle Gershkovich said of her brother’s detention in a Russian prison. “We’re just trying to learn everything we can, stay strong and try to keep the spotlight on Evan’s case,” she added.

The panel also included WSJ Washington bureau chief Paul Beckett, general counsel for Dow Jones Jason Contin and Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who was previously detained in Iran for 544 days.

Gershkovich, a Moscow-based journalist, was arrested in March on allegations that he was a U.S. spy operating in Russia. His detention has been extended until Aug. 30. The U.S. and The Wall Street Journal have denied claims that Gershkovich is a spy.

— Amanda Macias

U.S. approves $1.3 billion weapons package for Ukraine

A member of the Ukrainian special force engages in zeroing his weapon prior to a mission, amid Russia?s attack on Ukraine, in the region of Bakhmut, Ukraine, April 6, 2023. 

Kai Pfaffenbach | Reuters

The Biden administration approved a new security assistance package for Ukraine worth $1.3 billion.

“This package includes more critical air defense capabilities such as national advanced surface-to-air missile systems and additional systems to help Ukraine shoot down Russian and Iranian drones,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a news briefing.

“The package also includes additional artillery rounds and mine clearing equipment as well as unmanned aerial systems and equipment that will help Ukraine better protect exports. These latter capabilities will become increasingly important, especially now that Russia has pulled out of the grain deal,” she said, referencing new Russian attacks on Ukrainian port cities.

Here’s what is included in the latest arms package, according to the Pentagon:

  • Four National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems and munitions
  • 152mm artillery rounds
  • Mine clearing equipment
  • Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided missiles
  • Phoenix Ghost and Switchblade Unmanned Aerial Systems
  • Precision aerial munitions
  • Counter-UAS and electronic warfare detection equipment
  • 150 fuel trucks
  • 115 tactical vehicles to tow and haul equipment
  • 50 tactical vehicles to recover equipment
  • Port and harbor security equipment
  • Tactical secure communications systems

— Amanda Macias

Russia says all vessels sailing to Ukrainian ports will be considered military cargo carriers

An aerial view of a dry cargo ship transporting grain from Ukraine under the U.N.-brokered Black Sea deal.

Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russia’s Ministry of Defense said on its official Telegram channel that all vessels sailing toward Ukrainian ports will be considered military cargo carriers.

The announcement follows Moscow’s exit from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a maritime humanitarian corridor used for agricultural exports.

Russia’s military also said that all vessels transiting this waterway “will be considered to be involved in the Ukrainian conflict on the side of the Kyiv regime.”

— Amanda Macias

U.S. Senate holds hearing on Switzerland’s role in enabling Russian sanctions evasion

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) offices ahead of the bank’s rate announcement news conference in Zurich, Switzerland, on Thursday, March 23, 2023.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The U.S. Senate held a hearing spotlighting Switzerland’s role in enabling Russia to skirt Western sanctions.

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, held the hearing titled “Russia’s Alpine Assets: Money Laundering and Sanctions Evasion in Switzerland.” It focused on Switzerland’s financial secrecy and accusations that the country, while condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, simultaneously plays a key role in laundering Russian money.

Speakers at the hearing also honed in on Russia’s ability to obtain sanctioned goods via Switzerland. According to a study by the Kyiv School of Economics, Switzerland is in the top five source countries whose companies’ components are still being used in Russian military production.

“The principle of neutrality does not allow Switzerland to supply weapons to help Ukraine. However, this principle does not prevent its companies from supplying components for missiles and drones for Russia to commit genocide and war crimes in Ukraine,” Olena Tregub, secretary general of Ukraine’s Independent Defense Anti-Corruption Committee, said.

U.S. lawmakers have urged Swiss officials to take a harder line on Russian money and trade of certain goods.

The Swiss government rejects the criticism, saying that the sheer speed and volume of the sanctions make it a challenge to effectively implement them.

— Natasha Turak

Wagner’s Prigozhin says his forces will no longer fight in Ukraine, but prepare for Africa

A screen grab captured from a video shows Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin making a speech after Headquarters of the Southern Military District surrounded by fighters of the paramilitary Wagner group in Rostov-on-Don, Russia on June 24, 2023. (Photo by Wagner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Wagner | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The head of the Russian private mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in a video that his forces would no longer fight in Ukraine, calling the situation at the Ukrainian front a “disgrace.”

“We fought honorably,” Prigozhin said in a video released by his press service on Telegram, in a translation provided by Reuters. “You have done a great deal for Russia. What is going on at the front is a disgrace that we do not need to get involved in.”

NBC has not immediately verified the authenticity of the video, but it was released by Prigozhin’s official press account on Telegram.

The footage, if confirmed, is the first video of Prigozhin released since his short-lived mutiny against the Russian government in late June, which ended in the Wagner chief agreeing to a deal with Putin that would see him leave Russia for Belarus.

“Welcome lads … welcome to Belarusian soil,” Prigozhin said in the video. He then said that his troops must train in Belarus and prepare for a “new journey to Africa.” Wagner is already active in a number of African countries.

— Natasha Turak

Russian attack on Odesa port destroyed 60,000 tons of grain, agriculture minister says

Farmers use harvesting vehicles to harvest grain in Stavropol Krai, one of Russia’s most important agricultural lands is seen in Stavropol, Russia on July 16, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russia’s missile and drone attack on Ukraine’s southern port of Odesa and the surrounding area over the last two days destroyed 60,000 tons of grain as well as crucial infrastructure, Ukraine’s minister of agriculture said Wednesday.

“The night-time attack put a considerable part of the grain export infrastructure in the port of Chornomorsk out of operation,” Mykola Solsky said via the Telegram app, according to a Google translation.

The port of Chornomorsk, in the Odesa region, has been a key port for the export of Ukraine’s grain and other agricultural products like corn and sunflower seeds. Before the war, Ukraine and Russia together accounted for 25% of the world’s grain exports.

The two days of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s ports immediately followed Russia’s withdrawal from a U.N.-brokered grain deal that allowed the safe passage of Ukrainian export ships out of the Black Sea. They also followed an explosion on Crimea’s Kerch Bridge that Moscow blames on Kyiv, though Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for it.

The U.N. and Western and Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of essentially attacking all those who rely on Ukraine’s grain exports, and of risking a hunger crisis. A large portion of Ukrainian grain and food products go to the Middle East and Africa.

— Natasha Turak

Putin will not attend BRICS summit in South Africa

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the BRICS summit in South Africa, ending months of speculation over whether the leader would travel to a country where he would be subject to an International Criminal Court warrant for his arrest.

“By mutual agreement, President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation will not attend the summit, but the Russian Federation will be represented by Foreign Minister Mr (Sergei) Lavrov,” Vincent Magwenya, a spokesman for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, said in a statement.

The ICC issued arrest warrants for Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, in March of this year after concluding in an investigation that the two were responsible for the unlawful deportation and transfer of children during Russia’s war in Ukraine. The Kremlin does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Kyiv alleges that more than 20,000 Ukrainian children were kidnapped and deported by Russian forces, while an investigation by the Yale Humanitarian Lab puts the figure at around 6,000.

South Africa’s president has a friendly relationship with Putin and has refused to implement Western-led sanctions on Russia, but has been under pressure domestically and internationally to honor the ICC warrant or disinvite Putin. He said on Tuesday that arresting Putin if he traveled to South Africa would amount to a “declaration of war” by his country.

The decision by Russia followed “a number of consultations” held by Ramaphosa in recent months, the most recent of which took place “last night,” Magwenya said.

— Natasha Turak

Ukraine presidential advisor says Russia deliberately targeted Odesa grain stock

Russia’s latest attacks against Ukrainian port Odesa intentionally targeted its grain stocks, Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter, according to a Google translation.

“The Russian Federation deliberately and purposefully struck grain terminals and other port facilities. The main task is to destroy the possibility of sending Ukrainian grain,” he said, adding these are “blows on the global food program.”

Russia has fortified its offensive against Odesa, launching aerial strikes for a second consecutive night in retaliation for what it calls a recent “terrorist attack” against the Crimean bridge.

Ukraine’s grain supplies are in international focus this week after Moscow withdrew from a U.N.-brokered agreement facilitating Kyiv’s grain exports to global markets.

Ruxandra Iordache

Crimea military base fire forces 2,000 people to evacuate

A large fire on a Russian training facility in Crimea prompted a large evacuation and forced a nearby highway to close, Russian officials said.

“It is planned to temporarily evacuate residents of four settlements – this is more than 2,000 people,” Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-installed governor of Crimea, said in a Telegram post, according to a Google translation.

No reason was given for the fire. Ukrainian media reported that an ammunition depot had caught fire after a Ukrainian air attack overnight. CNBC could not independently verify those reports, and there was no official comment from Kyiv.

— Natasha Turak

Senior Ukraine official calls for long-range weapon donations after Odesa attack

“The Russian terror of Odessa proves once again that they need hunger and problems in the countries of the Global South. They want to create a refugee crisis for the West,” Andriy Yermak said on Telegram, according to a Google translation.

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential staff, has reiterated calls for long-range missile weapon donations from the West, in the wake of a bolstered Russian offensive against key Ukrainian port Odesa.

“The Russian terror of Odessa proves once again that they need hunger and problems in the countries of the Global South. They want to create a refugee crisis for the West,” he said on Telegram, according to a Google translation. 

“Everything is done in order to weaken allies and politically intervene in the internal affairs of these countries.”

Moscow has renewed air hostilities against Ukraine for the second consecutive night, in a retaliatory strike following what it characterized as Kyiv’s “terrorist attack” against the Crimean bridge.

“The answer to terror is force. Weapons, aviation, long-range missiles – this is what Ukraine needs. We must expel the Russian Federation from our territory,” Yermak said.

The request for long-range missiles echoes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call for donations from NATO allies during the summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, last week.

Ruxandra Iordache

Russia resumes attacks against Ukrainian capital Kyiv

Russian troops launched another overnight attack against Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the city’s military administration said on Telegram, according to a Google translation.

The Russian forces once more deployed Iranian-made Shahed drones, but the offensive did not result in damage or injuries, said Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv military administration.

Much of last night’s military offensive was concentrated in key Ukrainian port Odesa, which Moscow has been targeting in retaliation for what it calls a recent “terrorist attack” against the Crimean bridge.

Russia has bolstered its hostilities against Kyiv since the start of last week, coinciding with a Ukraine-focused summit of the NATO military alliance in Vilnius, Lithuania.

CNBC could not independently confirm the reports.

Ruxandra Iordache

Russia launches another missile offensive against major Ukraine port Odesa

Russian forces launched an overnight missile attack on major Ukrainian port Odesa, where Kyiv holds its navy, for the second consecutive night, regional governor Oleh Kiper said in Google-translated comments on Telegram.

Ukraine’s air force also noted Russian missile strikes against Odesa last night, according to a Google translation.

The Russian troops injured three people, while they targeted “the port and critical infrastructure,” the governor added.

A grain and oil terminal was hit, tanks and loading equipment were damaged, a fire started, all competent services are working to eliminate the consequences,” Kiper said.

CNBC has not independently verified developments on the ground.

The Russian offensive against Odesa and fellow port Mykolaiv intensified this week, as Moscow carried out retaliatory strikes after what it has called a “terrorist attack” against the Crimea bridge in recent days.

Ruxandra Iordache

South African leader says arresting Putin if he comes to Johannesburg next month would be ‘war’

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa

MICHELE SPATARI | AFP | Getty Images

South Africa’s president said Tuesday that arresting Russian President Vladimir Putin — should he show up at an economic summit next month in Johannesburg — would amount to a “declaration of war” by his country, according to the Associated Press.

The August summit is bringing together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — a bloc of developing economies known as BRICS. Officials have said that Putin wants to attend the gathering but have been trying to persuade him to stay away to avoid the legal and diplomatic fallout over his international arrest warrant.

Putin is the subject of a warrant of arrest by the International Criminal Court related to alleged war crimes during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, South Africa would be obligated to arrest Putin if he visits the African nation.

South Africa’s biggest political opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has tried to compel President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government to pledge to arrest Putin in an action before the High Court in Pretoria.

But in a strongly worded affidavit to the court, made public on Tuesday, Ramaphosa reiterated his past statement that such an action against Putin could also derail any efforts to end the war in Ukraine.

“I must highlight, for the sake of transparency, that South Africa has obvious problems with executing a request to arrest and surrender President Putin,” he said. “Russia has made it clear that arresting its sitting president would be a declaration of war.”

“It would be inconsistent with our Constitution to risk engaging in war with Russia,” Ramaphosa added.

— The Associated Press

More than 9,200 civilians have died due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, UN says

Ukrainian flags are placed on the graves of soldiers at a Khrakiv cemetery on January 24, 2023 in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Office, or OHCHR, said that more than 16,300 civilians have been injured since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine last year. The agency also said that more than 9,200 civilians have died due to the war.

The OHCHR added that death and injuries are likely higher due to an inability to access cities under Russian occupation as well as delays in reporting because of the armed conflict.

— Amanda Macias

Ukraine cargo insurance policy is suspended after Russia quits landmark grain deal

A cargo insurance facility providing cover for Ukraine grain shipments via a safe sea corridor has been suspended after Russia quit the United Nations-backed agreement, broker Marsh told Reuters.

Moscow has withdrawn from the year-old grain export deal in a move the United Nations said risked creating hunger around the world.

The marine cargo and war facility provided cover up to $50 million per cargo and was led by Lloyd’s of London insurer Ascot, together with other underwriters.

“It is currently on pause,” said David Roe, head of UK cargo at Marsh, which acted as the facility’s broker. “It is suspended effectively due to the agreement not being extended.”

“Without the corridor being in place, there is a greater degree of uncertainty attached to the risk.”

Ascot declined to comment.

Insurance has been vital to ensure shipments through the corridor.

Reuters

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