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Latest in Ukraine: Putin Remains Mum on Grain Deal Renewal


FILE - Workers load grain at a grain port in Izmail, Ukraine, April 26, 2023.
FILE - Workers load grain at a grain port in Izmail, Ukraine, April 26, 2023.


  • Ukrainians have quickly learned how to counter Russian information attacks since Russia’s invasion in the country, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar wrote on her official Telegram channel Saturday.
  • Since last July, the U.K. has trained 18,000 Ukrainian volunteer infantrymen under the Operation Interflex training program, U.K. defense ministry said Saturday. Ukrainian soldiers have been trained to "survive and be lethal in their fight against the illegal invasion of their homeland" it reported.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin could be arrested if he attends the BRICS summit scheduled in South Africa because of an arrest warrant issued against him last March by the International Criminal Court, which accused him of the war crime of deporting Ukrainian children to Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is remaining silent about a possible extension of the Black Sea grain deal that’s set to expire Monday.

In a phone call Saturday with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Putin discussed "the need for a permanent and sustainable solution to the movement of grain from Russia and Ukraine to the international markets," according to the office of the South African president. No further details were provided on the topic.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked Putin to extend the Black Sea deal in return for connecting a subsidiary of Russia's Agricultural Bank, Rosselkhozbank, to the SWIFT international payment system, but he has not received a reply, according to a U.N. spokesperson Friday.

“Discussions are being had, WhatsApp messages are being sent, Signal messages are being sent and exchanged. We're also waiting for a response to the letter," U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters when asked about the negotiations.

Earlier Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had urged Russia to extend the Black Sea grain deal.

If Moscow follows through on its threat, developing countries, including in the region, will pay the price, including quite literally with higher food prices, as well as greater food scarcity," Blinken told reporters after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations talks ended in Jakarta, Indonesia. Top diplomats from China, the United States and Russia were among those who gathered for diplomatic discussions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly said Friday he was in agreement with Putin that the deal allowing the export of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea corridor should be extended. However, Reuters reports that Erdogan's comments were misconstrued as suggesting an extension deal had been reached when there is no confirmation that it has.

Russia has said it would agree to extend the deal only if its conditions are met regarding its implementation.

Ukraine-S. Korea

In a display of support for war-torn Ukraine, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Saturday made a surprise visit to Kyiv, his first ever, announcing that Seoul will increase aid to Ukraine to $150 million in 2023, following an $100 million aid package in 2022. Yoon also said that Seoul will cooperate with Kyiv on infrastructure projects in Ukraine.

In a news conference Saturday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Yoon said South Korea aims to provide "a larger scale of military supplies" to Ukraine this year, after last year supplying non-lethal military inventory, such as body armor and helmets. He did not provide details. Zelenskyy thanked the South Korean president for his country’s “powerful” support.

Earlier this month, Yoon told The Associated Press that supplies of de-mining equipment, ambulances, and other non-military materials “are in the works” after a request from Ukraine, adding that South Korea already provided support to rebuild the Kakhovka Dam, which was destroyed last month.

South Korea, a key U.S. ally in Asia, has joined in the international sanctions against Russia and has provided Ukraine with humanitarian and financial support to Ukraine. So far, though, it has not provided weapons, in line with its long-standing policy of not supplying arms to countries actively engaged in conflict.

Yoon’s visit to Ukraine comes on the heels of NATO’s two-day summit in Lithuania earlier this week.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, delivers a statement as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy listens during his surprise visit in Kyiv, Ukraine, July 15, 2023.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, delivers a statement as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy listens during his surprise visit in Kyiv, Ukraine, July 15, 2023.

The South Korean president and his wife toured Bucha and Irpin, two small cities near Kyiv where mass graves were discovered after Russian troops retreated from the area last year. The South Korean president laid flowers at a monument to the country's war dead.

In his address Saturday, Zelenskyy called Yoon’s visit to Ukraine “very important” and “a very important direction of our international work.” He also thanked a slew of countries, leaders and organizations for supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression.

Wagner in Belarus

Both Ukraine and Poland Saturday confirmed the arrival of Wagner Group forces in Belarus, one day after Minsk said the mercenaries were training its troops.

"There may be several hundred of them at the moment," Stanislaw Zaryn, Poland's deputy minister coordinator of special services, said on Twitter.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner chief, has not been spotted in Belarus – he has not been seen in public since June 24

Zaporizhzhia shelling

Russia and Ukraine traded blame Saturday for shelling that injured three civilians in a village the Zaporizhzhia region. The region is one of four Moscow said it annexed last year, but it does not control it.

Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine's presidential administration, said Russian forces shelled the village of Stepnohirske, where the three people were injured. The city of Zaporizhzhia was also targeted and 16 buildings were damaged, said Anatoliy Kurtiev, secretary of the city council. Both men spoke via the Telegram messaging app.

Meanwhile, the Moscow-installed official who oversees the parts of Zaporizhzhia Russia controls said Ukrainian forces destroyed a school in the village of Stulneve, while air defense intercepted a drone over the city of Tokmak.

Reuters could not independently verify either report.

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

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