- Saudi Arabia is to host talks in Jeddah on August 5-6 about Ukraine. The meeting would include Western officials and representatives from up to 30 countries, including India, Brazil, Indonesia, Egypt, Mexico, Chile and Zambia. Ukraine and Western officials hope that the talks, which exclude Russia, can lead to international backing for peace terms favoring Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reports.
- About 100 soldiers from the Russian Wagner group have moved closer to the Polish border, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Saturday. Poland, a NATO member, is worried that any skirmishes on its border could lead to a spillover of war on its territory.
- Ukrainian soldiers have used North Korean rockets they claim were seized by a "friendly" country before being delivered to Ukraine, the Financial Times reported Saturday. Ukraine’s defense ministry suggested the arms were captured from the Russians.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that higher grain prices, which have risen since Russia’s exit from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, will benefit Russian companies as well as the world’s poorest countries.
In his effort to woo African leaders, Putin said during a news conference Saturday in St. Petersburg that Russia will share its profits from spiking grain prices with Africa and other poor countries. Russia, like Ukraine, is a major grain exporter.
He also said that Russia did not oppose peace talks based on the African or Chinese peace initiatives.
His comments came a day after several African leaders, who came to St. Petersburg for a summit, urged him to end the war on Ukraine and renew the United Nations-brokered grain deal.
"We feel that we have a right to call for peace,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told Putin, because “the ongoing conflict also negatively affects us."
Ukraine’s grain is vital to Africa despite Putin’s promises Thursday that Moscow can replace Ukrainian grain exports to Africa, and he would give tens of thousands of tons of grain to six countries within months.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday that a "handful of donations" won't correct the adverse consequences of the canceled Black Sea grain deal.
Under the Black Sea agreement, the World Food Program purchased and shipped 725,000 metric tons of grain to Afghanistan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen over the past year. The pact has allowed the WFP so far to procure 80% of its wheat purchases this year from Ukraine — up from 50% in 2021 and 2022.
Overall, nearly 33 million metric tons of grain were exported by Ukraine under the deal, which aimed to combat a global hunger exacerbated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Global wheat prices have risen about 9% since Russia exited the agreement on July 17 and began pounding Ukrainian ports and grain infrastructure on the Black Sea and Danube River.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive, which began June 5, appears to be gaining momentum.
On Wednesday, Ukraine started throwing its reserves onto a large-scale attack south of Orikhiv in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, where Russian defensive lines are at their strongest.
On Thursday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted a video in which Ukrainian soldiers said they had taken Staromaiorske in the Donetsk region. That’s the fifth in a string of villages along the Mokri Yaly River in western Donetsk Oblast, about 75 kilometers (47 miles) east of the battles near Orikhiv.
Meanwhile, Russian military bloggers said artillery fire at the Ukrainian troops had effectively razed Staromaiorske, and they reported more barrages Friday.
Recent fighting has taken place at multiple places along the more than 1,000-kilometer (621-mile) front, where Ukraine deployed its recently acquired Western weapons to push out the Kremlin's forces. It is attacking without vital air support, however, and Russia is deeply dug in.
Russia is trying to hold on to the territory it controls in the four provinces it illegally annexed in September — Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Kherson and Luhansk.
In his news conference Saturday, Putin said there were no serious changes and no intensification of actions on the Ukrainian front for now.
At least two people died, and buildings were damaged in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia after a Russian missile attack Saturday, Anatoliy Kurtiev, secretary of the city council, said on Telegram. "Unfortunately, a man and a woman died. Another woman was injured,” he noted.
Rescue crews were seen carrying the victims away in body bags while investigators were examining pieces of shrapnel next to a crater on the ground several meters wide caused by the attack.
"The blast wave knocked out windows in high-rise buildings and damaged the building of an educational institution and a supermarket," Kurtiev said.
Another Russian rocket attack killed one civilian and injured five more in the northeastern city of Sumy late Saturday, Ukraine's interior ministry said.
Russian forces crossed into the Sumy region shortly after Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022 last year, but Ukrainian forces took back control of the region a few weeks later.
Reuters could not verify the details of the report.
Some information in this report came from Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.