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Latest Developments in Ukraine: July 21

A young woman strokes a cat before a boarding a train to Dnipro and Lviv during an evacuation effort from war-affected areas of eastern Ukraine, amid Russia's invasion of the country, in Pokrovsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine, July 20, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT.

9:55 p.m.: 'We Get Scared When It's Quiet’: Life Under Russian Bombardment In Eastern Ukraine.

Kyiv has urged Ukrainians living in the Zaporizhzhya region to evacuate. While many have fled, some residents, including pensioners and farmers, remain in hotly contested frontline villages. They face daily attacks by the Russian Army. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports.

9 p.m.: London is losing its allure as a destination for corrupt Russian elites and other kleptocrats with the aid of new powers and a crackdown on "enablers" who help them channel their illicit money into Britain, British police said, according to Reuters.

The British capital has long been the Western city of choice for Russian and other oligarchs, with authorities estimating $119 billion of dirty money is laundered through its financial institutions each year.

In March, Britain passed an Economic Crime Act to target illicit money, and then subsequently sanctioned hundreds of Russian individuals and entities. It is planning further legislation to empower authorities to act more quickly and easily seize and recover crypto assets.

"As a result of our work in this space, we've already seen some corrupt Russian elites divesting of their U.K. assets," a spokesman for Britain's National Crime Agency told reporters. "Our intelligence shows us that some individuals are choosing not to invest corrupt funds in the U.K. and this is about starting to push back on this concept of Londongrad, that people were free to come regardless of their money and do whatever they liked."

8:25 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has reassured his country's citizens that he is well after what he said was a fake news report about his health distributed by Russian hackers, RFE/RL reports.

Zelenskyy, 44, made his remarks on July 21 in a video posted to Instagram from his office.

The post appeared just hours after the Kremlin denied rumors that Russian President Vladimir Putin was suffering from health problems and after a Ukrainian media company said hackers had broadcast a false report about Zelenskyy's health on one of its radio stations following a cyberattack.

7:45 p.m.:

6:25 p.m.: Russia's foreign ministry objected to the European Union’s latest round of sanctions, saying they would have "devastating consequences" for security and parts of the global economy, Reuters reported.

European Union diplomats on Wednesday agreed on a new round of sanctions against Moscow for invading Ukraine, including a ban on importing gold from Russia and freezing the assets of the country's top lender Sberbank.

"The European Union is continuing to drive itself into a dead end with enviable persistence," ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement. "The devastating consequences of EU sanctions on various segments of the global economy and security ... are becoming increasingly obvious.”

Zakharova noted the 27-nation bloc proposed to ease some earlier sanctions in a bid to safeguard global food security and said Moscow hoped this would create conditions for the unhindered export of grain and fertilizers.

5:35 p.m.: Italy's caretaker government must continue dealing with emergencies related to the war in Ukraine, inflation, the cost of energy and COVID-19, Prime Minister Mario Draghi told his Cabinet on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Earlier in the day, President Sergio Mattarella called snap elections after Draghi lost the support of three key coalition parties and handed in his resignation.

4:52 p.m.: Russia's Ministry of Justice has requested the liquidation of the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency, a non-profit organization that promotes immigration to Israel, according to a Moscow court.

The move against agency follows criticism by Israel of Russia's war in Ukraine. In April Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid accused it of carrying out war crimes, Reuters reported.

4 p.m.: The European Union widened its sanctions net on Thursday to add 10 Syrian men to its asset freeze and travel ban list over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, saying they were responsible for recruiting mercenaries to fight alongside Russian forces, Reuters reported.

The EU announced the new sanctions against Moscow, targeting top lender Sberbank, Russian gold and more companies and people as well as increased export controls.

The new sanctions include Muhammad al-Salti, the commander-in-chief of the Palestine Liberation Army, two commanders from the pro-Syrian National Defense Forces militia, a former Syrian military officer as well as the director and co-owner of al-Sayyad Company for Guarding and Protection Services.

The European Union says the company, operating under the name "ISIS hunters," is supervised by Russian private military contractor Wagner Group, protects Russian interests and is active in recruiting Syrian mercenaries to Libya and Ukraine.

There are also one further commander and three businessmen on the list.

3:15 p.m.:

2 p.m.: The spokesperson for Russia's Foreign Ministry lashed out Thursday at the United States characterizing basketball star Brittney Griner's jailing on drug charges as "wrongful detention," saying it shows disrespect for Russian law, The Associated Press reported.

Griner has been jailed since she was arrested in mid-February at a Moscow airport after vape canisters containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage. The Phoenix Mercury standout and two-time Olympic gold medalist acknowledged in court this month that she had the canisters, but said she had no intent to break the law.

The State Department in May designated Griner as wrongfully detained.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday that the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational use in parts of the U.S. has no bearing on what happens in Russia.

12:55 p.m.: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will arrive in Istanbul Thursday night, said his spokesman, for talks on resuming crucial food exports cut off by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Guterres’ spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that the U.N. chief “will travel to Istanbul this evening as part of his efforts to ensure full global access to Ukraine’s food products and Russian food and fertilizer,” reports VOA’s U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer.

Haq told reporters that he could not yet say who Guterres will meet with in Turkey.

Many African and Middle Eastern countries usually import large amounts of grain from Ukraine and/or Russia. But Russia has blockaded Ukraine’s Black Sea ports since the invasion in February and tightened its own food exports, in an effort to influence countries’ stances toward the war.

The cutoff has contributed to shortages and price hikes in many regions, especially in East Africa, which is already suffering from a severe, prolonged drought.

The United Nations and Turkey have been negotiating with Russian and Ukrainian officials in hopes of ending the crisis.

Asked if an agreement is imminent, Haq said, “The situation remains a little bit fluid. So, I can’t really say when something will be signed.”

He added, “As you’re aware, the secretary-general spoke to you last week, and at that point he said that we’d taken a critical step forward to ensuring the safe and secure export of Ukrainian food products through the Black Sea. He said at that point that work remains to be done. I can’t honestly say at this point that all the work has ended. But as you can see from the fact that he’s traveling to Istanbul, we are moving ahead with this.”

11:28 a.m.: Britain’s spy chief predicts that Russia’s war effort in Ukraine “is about to run out of steam.”

VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports that MI6 head Richard Moore, speaking Thursday to the Aspen Security Forum, said Russians will soon experience difficulties in reinforcing their troops. He said that should give Ukraine an opportunity to launch its own attacks.

11:00 a.m.: The European Union has imposed more sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. The newest sanctions include a ban on Russian gold imports and tighter export controls on some high-tech goods.

10:42 a.m.: Ukraine’s military says it used airstrikes and artillery to attack dozens of Russian military targets in and around southern Kherson province Wednesday and Thursday, reports The New York Times.

According to the report, Ukraine said it carried out 10 airstrikes using attack helicopters and fighter jets and attacked more than 200 targets in all using long-range missiles and artillery.

The military said its forces blew up six ammunition depots, five Russian troop strongholds and several command posts. The Times said there was no independent confirmation of the claims, although some of the attacks were captured on video.

Analysts say Ukraine is preparing to launch a counteroffensive aimed at retaking Kherson province, which Russian forces captured in March.

9:50 a.m: Russian shelling struck parts of Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv Thursday, killing at least two people and injuring more than 20 others, the Associated Press reports. The barrage reportedly struck a mosque, a medical facility and a shopping area, among other sites.

8:47 a.m.: Residents of Nova Kakhovka, a city in southern Ukraine occupied by Russian troops in February, say they see creeping signs their city is being absorbed into Russia.

The residents tell Reuters a statue of original Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin has been erected in the city center and that internet traffic is now routed through Russia. Police cars are marked in the Russian language rather than Ukrainian.

The city sits in Ukraine’s Kherson region. The deputy head of Moscow’s administration for the region, Kirill Stremousov, says “We've decided - the people of Kherson region have decided - that we need to hold a referendum and vote to join the Russian Federation.”

The official also said the Russian telecommunications network would cover Kherson within weeks and that he hopes to have the Russian rouble in full circulation by next year.

8:30 a.m.: Britain will send scores of artillery guns and more than 1,600 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine in the latest supply of Western arms to help boost its defenses against Russia, Reuters reported Thursday, citing Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.

The announcement comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month promised another $1.2 billion of military support to Ukraine.

8:03 a.m.: A Bloomberg report says the Kremlin is laying the groundwork to formally annex the Ukrainian territories occupied by its troops.

The report says the Kremlin plans to hold referendums on joining Russia in the areas controlled by Moscow’s forces, to give grounds for President Vladimir Putin to absorb them into Russia.

The report, which cites unnamed sources said to be familiar with the Kremlin’s strategy, says the goal is to conduct the referendums by September 15.

The project is said to be directed by Sergei Kiriyenko, the Kremlin’s first deputy chief of staff, with attention focused on the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions bordering Russia as well as the southern territories of Kherson and Zaporizhzia.

The international community would likely reject any referendums as illegal, as it did when Russia held a vote after seizing the Crimea region from Ukraine in 2014.

6:57 a.m.: The Kremlin said on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is in good health, dismissing rumors that he is unwell.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters there had been speculation in the West about the president's health in recent months, but reports that he is ill were "nothing but fakes."

Asked about Putin during a security forum in the U.S. on Wednesday, CIA Director William Burns joked that Putin was "entirely too healthy.”

6 a.m. The Guardian reports that Russian forces destroyed two schools in the Donetsk towns of Kramatorsk and Kostiantynivka overnight.

The head of the Donetsk regional military administration shared photos of the destruction in a Telegram post.

5:15 a.m.: The National Bank of Ukraine devalued the hryvnia currency by 25% against the U.S. dollar on Thursday to help the country cope with the economic impact of the war with Russia, according to Reuters.

The central bank set the rate for the hryvnia at 36.5686 to the dollar. At the time Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the hryvnia was valued at 29.25 to the dollar.

4:45 a.m.:

4:15 a.m.: After a 10-day interruption for maintenance, Russia resumed the flow of natural gas through the Nord Stream pipeline to Europe on Thursday

Klaus Mueller, head of Germany's energy regulator, tweeted that gas flows had reached 40% of capacity, the same level as before the shutdown.

Russia’s state-owned Gazprom blamed the reduction on the absence of a gas turbine being repaired in Canada.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted Gazprom would meet its delivery obligations, while warning that work on another turbine later this month could bring more reductions.

European Union leaders have warned of the potential for Russia to cut off supplies in response to Western pressure on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

The EU has asked member countries to voluntarily reduce their use of gas, both to seek alternative options and to save existing supplies for winter months.

3:45 a.m.: British foreign secretary and leadership candidate Liz Truss said on Thursday she did not support the direct involvement of British troops in Ukraine.

Asked during an interview on BBC Radio whether she would support the use of British forces in Ukraine if she becomes prime minister, Truss said: "We are doing all we can to support Ukraine. We've led the international coalition on sending weapons, we're putting the sanctions in place, but I do not support the direct involvement of UK troops."

3 a.m.: Russian forces are likely closing in on Ukraine's second biggest power plant at Vuhlehirska, 50 kilometers (31 miles) north-east of Donetsk, British military intelligence said on Thursday.

"Russia is prioritizing the capture of critical national infrastructure, such as power plants," Britain's defense ministry said in a regular bulletin.

The ministry also added that Russia is probably attempting to break through at Vuhlehirska, as part of its efforts to regain momentum on the southern pincer of its advance towards the key cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

2:12 a.m.:

1:30 a.m.: Nominations on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline for gas flows from Russia into Germany were at 29,284,591 kwh/h for 0600-0700 CET, from zero previously, data from the operator's website showed, Reuters reported.

Data for actual physical flows for the same time period have not been updated, and are at zero for the 0400-0500 CET period.

Europe is on edge about the restart of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline from Russia after annual maintenance was set to end on Thursday, with governments bracing for possible further supply cuts.

1:10 a.m.: The head of Germany's energy regulator said the Nord Stream 1 pipeline would resume at around 30% capacity when its maintenance period ends on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Federal Network Agency chief Klaus Mueller said Russia's Gazprom had renominated the gas flows to around 530 gigawatts hour per day.

"That would be about 30% utilization. It's better than nothing but of course not what is contractually agreed," Mueller said in an interview with ZDF broadcaster, according to Reuters.

Mueller said the flows could be changed upwards or cut further. "If we would get the 30%, then this would help in saving but ... we must first wait for what will be actually delivered," he added.

12:15 a.m.: European Union diplomats meeting in Brussels agreed a new round of sanctions against Moscow for invading Ukraine, including a ban on importing gold from Russia and freezing the assets of the country's top lender Sberbank, Reuters reported.

The sanctions, due to take effect on Thursday, include blacklisting more individuals and entities held responsible for the war, said the Czech Republic, which now presides over talks among the EU's 27 nations.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed them as inadequate.

Some information in this report came from Reuters, The Associated Press, or Agence France-Presse.