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Latest in Ukraine: Russian Vows Reprisals for Ukraine Drone Naval Attack


Image from video, Aug. 5, 2023, of seaborne drone approaching a Russian tanker on the Black Sea. Ukrainian drones hit a Russian tanker near Crimea, according to Russian officials.
Image from video, Aug. 5, 2023, of seaborne drone approaching a Russian tanker on the Black Sea. Ukrainian drones hit a Russian tanker near Crimea, according to Russian officials.

Latest developments:

  • A 62-meter (203-feet) tall Motherland statue holding a trident, Ukraine’s coat of arms, is towering over the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and replacing the recently dismantled Hammer and Sickle emblem of the Soviet Union.
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan had a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the revival of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, among other topics, a Turkish foreign ministry source said Saturday.
  • The direct channel between the Russian Agricultural Bank and J.P. Morgan, as part of the U.N.-brokered Black Sea grain deal, was closed on Aug. 2, RIA news agency said Friday, citing Russia's Foreign Ministry.

Russia condemned a Ukrainian strike on one of its civilian vessels in the Kerch Strait near the strategic bridge that links Crimea with Russia’s mainland.

Calling it a “terrorist attack,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Saturday that Russia will respond and punish those responsible.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also suggested Saturday that Moscow would launch retaliatory strikes against Ukrainian ports in response to Kyiv's attacks on Russian ships in the Black Sea.

Medvedev, who is deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, threatened to hand Ukraine “an ecological catastrophe" ending any chance for a revival of the grain deal. He did not specify what that “ecological catastrophe" would be.

This is the second such attack in 24 hours by Ukraine on a Russian vessel, both sides said Saturday.

Ukraine has unofficially claimed responsibility for the attack. An anonymous security service source told Agence France-Presse that the operation by a naval drone and explosives was carried out jointly with the Ukrainian navy in the country’s territorial waters.

The source said the SIG tanker is “one of the most powerful oil tankers of the Russian Federation,” adding that “it was well-loaded with fuel, so ‘fireworks’ could be seen from afar.”

Russian maritime officials confirmed Saturday the Ukrainian sea drone attack has damaged the Russian tanker, suspending traffic and ferry transport services in the area.

According to Russian media reports, the tanker was hit by Ukrainian drones as it was approaching the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

“The SIG tanker ... received a hole in the engine room near the waterline on the starboard side, preliminarily as a result of a sea drone attack," Russia's Federal Marine and River Transport agency said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

The chemical tanker was sanctioned by the United States in 2019 for helping provide jet fuel to Russian forces in Syria.

News of the attack follows another that a Ukrainian drone seriously damaged a Russian warship at a Black Sea naval base.

During the night of Aug. 3-4, a Russian warship, the Olenegorsky Gornyak, was seriously damaged in a Ukrainian naval drone attack on the base at Novorossiysk.

A Ukrainian intelligence source said the 113-meter (123-yard) long Russian navy landing ship with about 100 Russian servicemen on board had been hit by a sea drone carrying 450 kilograms of TNT.

According to an intelligence update on Ukraine from Britain’s Ministry of Defense, the Olenegorsky Gornyak was the largest naval vessel damaged since the sinking of the Moskva in April 2022.

Jeddah summit

Chinese Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui would participate Saturday and Sunday in the Saudi Arabia-initiated Jeddah talks on the peaceful settlement in Ukraine, China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said Friday.

"China is willing to work with the international community to continue to play a constructive role in promoting a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in a statement.

Ukraine and Western diplomats hope the meeting in the port city of Jeddah will be an opportunity for officials to agree on key principles to inform any peace agreement that would end Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

About 40 countries are set to be represented at the session, but the biggest diplomatic prize would be an endorsement from China, which has kept close economic and diplomatic ties with Russia — and so far has rejected international calls to condemn the invasion.

China was invited to a previous round of talks in Copenhagen in late June but did not attend.

Ukraine and its allies are optimistic the Jeddah summit will help ramp up global support for a peace plan in Ukraine.

In his nightly video address Friday, Zelenskyy expressed hope the discussions in Jeddah would lay the groundwork for an upcoming “peace summit” with leaders from around the world this fall. The aim is to endorse the principles based on Zelenskyy’s 10-point formula for a peace settlement.

“It is very important that the world sees a fair and honest end to Russian aggression will benefit everyone in the world. Everyone!” said Zelenskyy. “Liberating Ukrainian land from the occupiers means restoring full respect for international law and the U.N. Charter. Eliminating all threats created by Russia to Ukrainian and global security means returning peace to international relations and stability to global life. I am grateful to everyone who supports the peace formula and has already joined the joint efforts for the full implementation of the formula.”

Russia says it will not be involved in this weekend’s talks or the summit planned for the fall.

Beyond its Western backers, Ukraine hopes to garner diplomatic support from more Global South countries, including Brazil, India, South Africa and Turkey.

Part of Ukraine’s strategy to gain support from such countries reportedly will be to emphasize how food prices have risen after Russia quit the U.N.-brokered Black Sea grain deal last month and began attacking Ukrainian port facilities.

That facet of the conflict has been a top priority for U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who pressed all countries Thursday at the United Nations to tell Moscow to stop using the Black Sea as blackmail after Russia killed the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

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

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