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July 25, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

Retired general: Ukraine's next move could put Russia in a dilemma
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What we covered here

  • Ukrainian officials are hopeful that grain exports could resume this week, despite Russian missile strikes that hit the southern port of Odesa Saturday, just one day after Kyiv and Moscow agreed a deal to allow shipments.
  • US officials said they were “deeply concerned” by the Odesa attack and are working with Ukraine on a “Plan B” to get grain exports out of the country.
  • Ukrainian officials say they are confident of progress on the battlefield in the southern region of Kherson, as strikes against Russian command posts and ammunition depots impede the invading force’s defensive capabilities.
  • Russia and Turkey will use “military naval forces” to escort vessels carrying Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea into the Bosporus, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Egypt, as he tours Africa to rally support for Moscow.
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US official: Odesa attack "flies in the face" of Russia's claim they're good-faith participants in grain deal

John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communication, called reports Russia hit the Ukrainian port city of Odesa just 24 hours after signing a deal committing to the safe passage of grain through the port “pretty disconcerting” on Monday.

He told CNN the move “sure flies in the face of what they say is their commitment to be good-faith participants in this arrangement to get — to get grain out.” 

“We have some indications that they certainly got close to some grain terminals — whether they damaged those grain terminals or not, we haven’t seen exact battle damage assessment,” Kirby told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview. “So we’re going to be watching this very, very closely. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this out of the Russians before — you can go back, even into the war in Syria, where they were hitting humanitarian aid shipments that were meant for Syrian citizens and Syrian refugees. So, this is just something unfortunately, we seen out of their playbook. And hopefully, this won’t happen again, and that they will actually participate in good faith in Istanbul.”

Some context: Ministers from both Ukraine and Russia signed an agreement, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in Istanbul that would allow the resumption of vital grain exports from Ukrainian Black Sea ports, a major diplomatic breakthrough aimed at easing a global food crisis sparked by the war. However, just one day later, two missiles hit the infrastructure of the port, while two were shot down by Ukraine’s air defense, according to officials.

Kirby said officials are in talks with the Ukrainians “literally every day,” and are “continuing to explore with Ukrainians in near real-time what their capabilities are and trying to get them those capabilities as fast as we can,” touting delivery of an additional four Highly Mobile Advanced Rocket Systems (HIMARS) missile systems, which he told Wolf “are being used very, very effectively by the Ukrainians in the field.”

It's past 2 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday urged Russia and Ukraine to act responsibly and honor agreements they signed in Istanbul last week regarding the export of Ukrainian grains.  

“We expect everyone to own their signatures on the agreement and act according to their responsibilities they undertook. We want everyone to avoid actions that are against the spirit of the agreement,” he said, speaking to Turkish state broadcaster TRT. 

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told the Ukrainian infrastructure minister that it is important grain shipments begin as soon as possible, according to a readout of a call between both officials. Akar also vowed Turkey would continue to do live up to its part of the deal, and assured Kyiv “the work of the Joint Coordination Center continues intensively.”

Their comments come after Russian missile strikes hit the southern Ukrainian port of Odesa on Saturday, just one day after Ukraine and Russia had agreed on the grain export deal.

Here’s a look at other developments in Russia’s war in Ukraine and the grain export deal:

  • UN spokesperson says parties recommitted to Black Sea initiative to transport Ukrainian grain: The first shipment of grain under the Black Sea initiative is expected to move within a few days, the UN secretary general spokesperson said Monday. Parties to the initiative have reaffirmed their commitment as of Sunday, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson, said — despite strikes in the Ukrainian port of Odesa. “On the Black Sea Initiative, we can tell you that since the signing of the agreement, parties to the initiative, and the UN, have been in frequent contact, including yesterday. All parties have reconfirmed their commitment to the Initiative,” Haq said.
  • US expects food exports deal “will be implemented”: The US State Department said that despite the Russian attack on the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, they “continue to expect” that the agreement to allow Ukraine to export grain and fertilizer “will be implemented.” “Despite these attacks, we do understand that the parties are continuing preparations to open Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for food and fertilizer exports,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. “We are clear-eyed going forward, but we also continue to expect that the Black Sea agreement will be implemented.”
  • Ukraine says it hopes to resume grain exports from Odesa despite Russian strike: The Ukrainian government is hoping to resume exports of grain from the Black Sea port of Odesa despite a Russian missile strike on Sunday, said Markiyan Dmytrasevych, the deputy minister for agrarian policy and food. “We expect that, as announced, despite the incident that happened on Saturday, [export of grain] will start in the coming days. Hopefully we’ll see some early results this week,” Dmytrasevych told journalists on Monday. President Volodymyr Zelensky pointed to the role of UN and Turkey to ensure security given their involvement in mediating the deal.
  • Ukraine’s General Staff admits small Russian advances in the Donetsk region: The Ukrainian General Staff conceded Monday that Russian forces have been able to make small advances in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. “The enemy carried out airstrikes near Soledar, Pokrovske, New York, and on the territory of the Vuhlehirska TPP. It led assault operations in the directions of Klynove — Pokrovske, and Volodymyrivka — Pokrovske, suffered losses and withdrew,” the General Staff update read. “In the area of ​​the Vuhlehirska TPP, individual units of the enemy have partial success.” According to the General Staff, intense shelling was reporting along the frontline in the entire Donetsk region, especially near Siversk, Sloviansk, Bakhmut and Kramatorsk. Ukraine says Russia also made a push towards Spirne and Ivano-Dariivka. CNN could not independently verify the claims made by the Ukrainian military.
  • EU’s bank approves $1.62 billion in financial assistance for Ukraine: European Investment Bank (EIB), also known as the European Union’s bank, is providing an additional 1.59 billion euros ($1.62 billion) of financial assistance for Ukraine amid the devastating impact from the Russian invasion, the European Commission said Monday in a statement. Of the new amount pledged, 1.05 billion euros ($1.07 billion) will be made available immediately, it said. This is the second financial package provided by the bloc since the invasion began and will help Ukraine “repair the most essential damaged infrastructure and resume critically important projects addressing the urgent needs of Ukrainian people,” the commission said.
  • Russia’s Gazprom announces reduction of gas flow through Nord Stream 1 pipeline again: Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom says it will have to further reduce gas flow through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline on Wednesday as it halts another turbine for repairs. This comes days after Gazprom resumed gas shipments through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, a vital artery linking Russia’s vast gas reserves to Europe via Germany. The pipeline had been shut 10 days for scheduled maintenance, and many had feared Russia would not resume deliveries once the work was done. The head of Germany’s gas regulator, Klaus Muller, confirmed the move in a tweet on Monday. “According to our information, there is no technical reason for a reduction in gas deliveries via Nord Stream 1,” the German Ministry of Economy insisted in a tweet on Monday. 

Turkey's president urges all sides in Ukraine grain deal to act responsibly 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a press conference in Ankara, Turkey on June 6.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday urged Russia and Ukraine to act responsibly and honor agreements they signed in Istanbul last week regarding the export of Ukrainian grains.  

“We expect everyone to own their signatures on the agreement and act according to their responsibilities they undertook. We want everyone to avoid actions that are against the spirit of the agreement,” he said, speaking to Turkish state broadcaster TRT. 

Reacting to Russian missile strikes that hit the southern Ukrainian port of Odesa just one day after Kyiv and Moscow signed a deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations to allow shipments, Erdogan said that Istanbul has increased its diplomatic efforts to avoid any fallout from the attack in Odesa. 

“It saddens us that something like that happened. This kind of failure would be harmful for all of us. We’re determined to implement this agreement with all of its components and our efforts in this regard continues,” he underlined. 

During the interview with TRT, the Turkish president also reiterated his threat to block Sweden and Finland’s bid for NATO accession, if the Nordic countries don’t comply with the agreements signed in Madrid in late June between Istanbul, Stockholm and Helsinki. The trilateral memorandum led Turkey to conditionally agree to their accession bid, following which, Sweden and Finland made the historic decision to formally apply for NATO membership, ending decades of neutrality. Their bid now requires ratification from all 30 member states’ parliaments and legislatures. 

Ankara had said Helsinki and Stockholm agreed to not provide support to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, also known as YPG, and the separatist militant Kurdistan’s Workers Party, also known as PKK, both of which Turkey considers as a terrorist organizations. 

“What happened in Madrid is an invitation, not an approval. Result of that invitation will depend on their actions. If you continue to allow these terrorists to march on your streets with protection, well we follow that,” Erdogan said on Monday.  

“It’s not just about Sweden and Finland; Germany, France, England, Italy, all of the Scandinavian states are all the same. I told these things to their leaders in my bilateral meetings. For instance, I asked Emmanuel (Macron) what are you going to do, will you continue like this and he laughed. If it is going to be like this, sorry but our parliament wouldn’t look positively on this issue,” he warned. 

UN spokesperson: Parties recommit to Black Sea Initiative to transport Ukrainian grain

The first shipment of grain under the black sea initiative is expected to move within a few days, the UN Secretary General spokesperson said Monday.

Parties to the initiative have reaffirmed their commitment as of Sunday, Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq said, despite strikes in the Ukrainian port of Odesa.

“On the Black Sea Initiative, we can tell you that since the signing of the agreement, parties to the initiative, and the UN, have been in frequent contact, including yesterday. All parties have reconfirmed their commitment to the Initiative,” Haq said.

He continued, “The Government of Turkiye has generously provided a physical space for the Joint Coordination Centre, where operations are being established now. By tomorrow, all parties and the UN will have a presence in the Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul. We expect that the first ship may move within a few days. The Joint Coordination Centre will be liaising with the shipping industry and publishing detailed procedures for ships in the very near future.”

Russia waging "overt gas war" against Europe, Zelensky says

Sunrise over the gas receiving station of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline is seen in Lubmin, Germany on July 21.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russia is waging an “overt gas war” against Europe. 

“Even despite the concession regarding the Nord Stream turbine, Russia is not going to resume gas supplies to European countries, as it is contractually obligated to do. All this is done by Russia deliberately to make it as difficult as possible for Europeans to prepare for winter,” Zelensky said in his nightly address. “This is an overt gas war that Russia is waging against a united Europe — this is exactly how it should be perceived.”

Zelensky went on to say the latest move by Moscow was part of a wider scope of actions he said were “forms of terror.”

“They don’t care what will happen to the people, how they will suffer — from hunger due to the blocking of ports or from winter cold and poverty… Or from occupation,” Zelensky said. “These are just different forms of terror.”

US State Department expects Russian agreement on Ukrainian food exports "will be implemented"

The US State Department said that despite the Russian attack on the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, they “continue to expect” that the agreement to allow Ukraine to export grain and fertilizer “will be implemented.”

“Despite these attacks, we do understand that the parties are continuing preparations to open Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for food and fertilizer exports,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. “We are clear-eyed going forward, but we also continue to expect that the Black Sea agreement will be implemented.”

Price said that the attack on Odesa “undermines the credibility of Russia’s commitments to the other parties to this deal,” and that the US “will be working with our partners around the world to see to it that Moscow is held accountable for the agreement it reached.”

Zelensky thanks Guatemalan president's support during visit to Ukraine

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and President of Guatemala Alejandro Giammattei hold a joint press conference on July 25 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei for his support during his visit to Ukraine on Monday.  

“I am grateful to Guatemala for its clear and consistent support to our state, for the protection of our sovereignty, for its firm position on protecting human rights and the fundamental right of every nation to freedom and independence,” Zelensky said. 

During a news conference on Monday, Zelensky said the cost of living in dozens of states and Latin America is unfairly increasing “just because one state, the Russian Federation, decided to undermine existing political and economic relations in the world.” 

The leaders also announced an agreement to remove visa requirements between the two countries that, according to Zelensky, will contribute to developing commercial and social ties between both nations.

“Guatemala confirmed its interest in buying Ukrainian agricultural products and establishing industrial relations,” Zelensky said. 

Guatemala’s president said his country feels “disturbed by the pain and devastation that Ukraine is currently suffering, which I have witnessed when visiting the places where they have felt the horrors of this confrontation.”

“In one of the darkest moments of this century. We wanted to come here to reiterate our absolute support for President Zelensky, who, with his leadership, courage, and great dignity, keeps this nation united,” he added.

Giammattei called on the world’s nations to join and put aside their differences, “Nations of the world, what if we join? What if we put our differences behind us and stop dividing ourselves? If instead of facing each other, we face the causes that are putting humanity at risk?”

Giammattei’s visit is the first of Guatemala’s head of state to Ukraine in the history of their bilateral relations, according to Zelensky, and it’s “generally the first visit of a Latin American leader since Feb. 24 and in the last 12 years.”

Turkey's defense minister tells Ukraine it's important grain shipments begin as soon as possible

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has told the Ukrainian Infrastructure minister that it is important grain shipments begin as soon as possible. 

“[Minister Akar] expressed his satisfaction with the announcement that the grain shipment will start this week, it is important that the first ship starts sailing as soon as possible,” the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a readout of the call. 

Akar also vowed Turkey would continue to do live up to its part of the deal, and assured Kyiv “the work of the Joint Coordination Center continues intensively.”

Ukrainian General Staff admits small Russian advances in the Donetsk region

Russian air strikes continue increasingly in the Donetsk region, and the school seen in the photo is hit by attack on July 25.

The Ukrainian General Staff has conceded that Russian forces have been able to make small advances in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

“The enemy carried out airstrikes near Soledar, Pokrovske, New York, and on the territory of the Vuhlehirska TPP. It led assault operations in the directions of Klynove — Pokrovske, and Volodymyrivka — Pokrovske, suffered losses and withdrew,” the General Staff update read. “In the area of ​​the Vuhlehirska TPP, individual units of the enemy have partial success.”

According to the General Staff, intense shelling was reporting along the frontline in the entire Donetsk region, especially near Siversk, Sloviansk, Bakhmut and Kramatorsk. Ukraine says Russia also made a push towards Spirne and Ivano-Dariivka.

“[Russian forces] received a tough fight back and withdrew,” the General Staff said. 

The Ukrainian military also said Russian forces are demoralized and “the Russian command in some directions is throwing manpower into the attack without being covered by armored vehicles.”

CNN could not independently verify the claims made by the Ukrainian military.

EU's bank approves $1.62 billion in financial assistance for Ukraine 

Flags are seen behind the sign of the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg in 2017.

European Investment Bank (EIB), also known as the European Union’s bank, is providing an additional 1.59 billion euros ($1.62 billion) of financial assistance for Ukraine amid the devastating impact from the Russian invasion, the European Commission said Monday in a statement. 

Of the new amount pledged, 1.05 billion euros ($1.07 billion) will be made available immediately, it said.

This is the second financial package provided by the bloc since the invasion began and will help Ukraine “repair the most essential damaged infrastructure and resume critically important projects addressing the urgent needs of Ukrainian people,” the commission said.

The European Union continues to stand by Ukraine and its people in the face of Russia’s brutal aggression,” Valdis Dombrovskis, EU executive vice president for an economy that works for people, said in the statement.

He added that the commission “will keep working with EU Member States and our international partners to support Ukraine on every level — for as long as it takes.”

Serhii Marchenko, Ukraine’s minister of finance, expressed his gratitude to the EIB and the European Union for their support.

“With this financial support, we will keep working on restoring damaged infrastructure, resuming the provision of municipal services, including transport services, and preparing for the coming heating season,” Marchenko said.

Ukrainian government calls Russian foreign minister's trip to Africa "the quintessence of sadism"

The Ukrainian government has criticized Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s trip to Africa, with a senior official calling it “the quintessence of sadism.”

“You arrange an artificial hunger and then come to cheer people up,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian President’s chief of staff, tweeted on Monday. “With one hand you sign the Istanbul initiative, with the other attack Odessa sea port.” 

“Whether Moscow wants or not, grain will get to the world,” Podolyak promised. “We know well what an artificial famine prescribed by scriptwriters in the Kremlin is, so we responsibly fulfil agreements. All needed is for to stop lying and start fulfilling the commitments made in Istanbul.”

Russia's Gazprom announces reduction of gas flow through Nord Stream 1 pipeline again

Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom says it will have to further reduce gas flow through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline on Wednesday as it halts another turbine for repairs.

This comes days after Gazprom resumed gas shipments through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, a vital artery linking Russia’s vast gas reserves to Europe via Germany. The pipeline had been shut 10 days for scheduled maintenance, and many had feared Russia would not resume deliveries once the work was done.

“Due to the expiration of prescribed time before overhaul (in line with the Rostekhnadzor notification and taking into account the technical condition of the relevant machine), Gazprom is shutting down one more gas turbine produced by Siemens at the Portovaya [compressor station],” the company said in a statement on Monday. 

“The daily throughput of the Portovaya CS from 7:00 am (Moscow time) July 27 will be up to 33 million cubic meters,” the statement added.

The head of Germany’s gas regulator, Klaus Muller, confirmed the move in a tweet on Monday. 

“According to our information, there is no technical reason for a reduction in gas deliveries via Nord Stream 1,“ the German Ministry of Economy insisted in a tweet on Monday. 

“If Russian gas deliveries via Nord Stream 1 continue at this low level, a storage level of 95% by November is hardly achievable without additional measures,“ Germany’s regulatory office for gas and electricity said in a statement Monday.  

The country’s Economics Minister Robert Habeck had previously called on Germans to reduce gas consumption in order to get the gas storage facilities as full as possible for the winter. 

Germany’s current total gas inventories are at 65.9%, according to the daily figures provided by the government. 

The reduction in the gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline will also affect the transfer of gas to other European countries such as France, Austria and the Czech Republic.

Wholesale prices have risen noticeably as a result of the reduction in gas supplies and have recently settled at a higher level, Germany’s regulatory office said, warning that “businesses and private consumers must prepare for significantly high gas prices.”

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline delivers 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year, or nearly 40% of the bloc’s total pipeline imports from Russia.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Pesko said on Monday that a repaired gas turbine for Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline will be installed after all the technical procedures are fulfilled, after which the gas flow to Europe will resume “to the extent that is technologically possible.” 

Peskov insisted that the issues with gas supply have nothing to do with politics.

“There is no politics here. These are the consequences of the restrictions that the Europeans themselves have introduced, and the Europeans themselves suffer from these restrictions,” he said, adding that Russia does not want Europe to give up Russian gas.

Moscow will continue to be a “reliable gas supplier,” he said.

Read more here on why it matters.

Ukraine says it hopes to resume grain exports from Odesa despite Russian strike

The Ukrainian government is hoping to resume exports of grain from the Black Sea port of Odesa despite a Russian missile strike on Sunday, said Markiyan Dmytrasevych, the deputy minister for agrarian policy and food.

“We expect that, as announced, despite the incident that happened on Saturday, [export of grain] will start in the coming days. Hopefully we’ll see some early results this week,” Dmytrasevych told journalists on Monday.

On Friday, Ukraine and Russia agreed to a deal that would allow the resumption of vital grain exports from Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Ministers from both countries signed an agreement brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in Istanbul. Just 24 hours after the deal, Russian missile strikes hit the southern Ukrainian port of Odesa.

President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday pointed to the role of UN and Turkey to ensure security given their involvement in mediating the deal.

“We trust UN and Turkey, who with we signed the corresponding documents with,” Zelensky said at a press conference. “This is a very important moment to control the security of the corridors for the grain exports. And further down, there’ll be questions to Turkey and United Nations: how they can control Russian Federation who showed it could strike with rockets … That shows their attitude to their agreements and Turkey.”

Zelensky said Ukraine will start exports “in order to prove to the world that it’s not Ukraine who is blocking the exports,” but said Turkey and the UN “should look after the security.”

Separately, Deputy Minister Dmytrasevych said the Russian strike had reduced the “enthusiasm” that local farmers had over the deal signed with the UN and Turkey in Istanbul last week. 

“Scepticism towards this agreement was also felt by farmers and security experts even before the signing of the agreement. It is clear that no one trusts the Russians, no one believes them,” Dmytrasevych said. “Let’s see how this initiative will work in practice, and for how long. Because we understand that this work can be interrupted.”

Ukrainian defense minister welcomes German anti-aircraft guns

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov has welcomed the arrival of three German self-propelled anti-aircraft systems, just days after a missile struck the port of Odesa. 

“Our capabilities to protect our sky will be strengthened. Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft systems began to arrive in Ukraine,” Reznikov tweeted on Monday, thanking Germany and the country’s defense minister for the delivery.

Reznikov also addressed the arrival of the new weaponry on Ukrainian television, explaining that the first delivery included three of these machines, with “a few thousand rounds of ammunition.” A total of 15 are expected, he added.

The Ukrainian defense minister went on to ask for additional equipment from western countries and called on companies involved in the defense industry to test their products in his country.

“I have already said this and I will repeat: we invite all the manufacturers of the military-industrial complex of various countries to give us modern weapons and we will show you how it works on the battlefield against the enemy that is the main threat in the world today,” he said. “I would say that we got more than just a hint, there are already some ongoing discussions with my colleagues, the defense ministers of various countries. And I already have some information that they have placed orders at their enterprises and some things will continue to be supplied to us and accordingly modernized.”

Russia says grain deal does not exclude strikes on military targets in Odesa

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow’s strike on the port of Odesa did not break any of the commitments it agreed to in a deal to guarantee the export of Ukrainian grain. 

“If we talk about the episode that took place in Odesa, there is nothing in the obligations that Russia has taken on — including within the framework of the agreements signed on July 22 in Istanbul — which would prohibit us from continuing the special military operation, destroying military infrastructure and other military targets,” Lavrov told journalists during a press conference in Congo. 

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, shake hands prior to their talks in Brazzaville, Congo, on July 25.

Lavrov went on to repeat Moscow’s claims it only struck military targets. 

“As for the targets of those high-precision strikes, they are located in a separate part of the Odesa port, in the so-called military part of the Odesa port,” he said. “These targets were the combat boat of the naval forces of Ukraine and the ammunition depot, where the Harpoon anti-ship missiles were recently delivered. They were brought there to pose a threat to the Russian Black Sea Fleet.”

“The experts also confirmed that the grain terminal of the Odesa port is located at a considerable distance from the military unit, there are no obstacles for grain to be delivered to customers in accordance with the agreements signed in Istanbul, we did not create them,” he added.

The Russian foreign minister is visiting several African countries to try and drum up support for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. African nations have been the worst affected by the restrictions on Ukrainian grain exports. 

It's 3:30 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

A Ukrainian official said the country was preparing to resume grain exports soon despite Russia’s attack on Odesa, while Russia’s foreign minister has started a tour of various African nations aiming to shore up alliances. Fighting continues in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, while Ukrainian officials say they have carried out “very successful strategic operations” in southern Kherson region.

Here are the latest headlines:

  • Ukraine hopes first grain shipment will happen this week: A Ukrainian official said Monday he hoped vital grain exports from Ukrainian Black Sea ports would resume as soon as this week. His comments come after one of the ports, Odesa, was hit by Russian missile strikes on Saturday, a day after the countries agreed on a deal that would allow the resumption of grain exports. Despite the attack, Kubrakov said preparations for the first grain shipments were underway.
  • US working on “Plan B” if grain deal collapses: US and Ukrainian officials are working on a backup plan to get grain exports out of the country if the deal with Russia falls apart, United States Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power told CNN. “Plan B involves road and rail and river and sending in barges and adjusting the rail systems so that they’re better aligned with those in Europe so that the exports can move out more quickly,” said Power, who spoke to CNN after Russia’s strikes on Odesa.
  • Ukraine celebrates successes in Kherson: Ukrainian officials say they are confident of progress on the battlefield in the southern region of Kherson, as strikes against Russian command posts and ammunition depots impede the invading force’s defensive capabilities. Serhii Khlan, an adviser to the head of the Kherson civil military administration, said that last week Ukrainian forces carried out “very successful strategic operations, as bridges that helped supply ammunition and equipment to the enemy’s network were hit.”
  • Russian forces attacking in Kharkiv and Donetsk: Russian forces continue to attack Ukraine’s Donetsk region and Kharkiv region, but there are conflicting reports about whether any territory has been won or lost. Fighting continues around the Vuhlehirska power plant south of Bakhmut, said the Ukrainian military, but pro-Russian officials in occupied Donetsk claimed that the power plant was surrounded.
  • Lavrov embarks on Africa tour: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Africa this week to demonstrate Russian commitment to the region and shore up alliances amid the war in Ukraine. He visited Egypt on Sunday and will also travel to Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo.
  • Russia charges Ukrainians with crimes against humanity: Russia has charged 92 members of Ukraine’s military high command with crimes against humanity, according to Alexander Bastrykin, head of Russia’s Investigative Committee. In total, Moscow has opened more than 1,300 criminal cases against Ukraine’s military and political leadership, Bastrykin said in an interview with government news site Rossiyskaya Gazeta published Monday. 

Ukraine hopes at least one port will resume grain export this week

Ukrainian farmer Oleksandr Chubuk stands with wheat grain in the village of Zhurivka, Ukraine, on July 23.

Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Yurii Vaskov said that he hopes the first convoy will leave from the port of Chornomorsk this week after Russia and Ukraine signed a deal Friday that would allow the resumption of vital grain exports from Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

Within the next two weeks, three Ukrainian ports, including Odesa, will be ready to export grain, Vaskov added. He said that the agreement with Russia also included the import and export of fertilizers, which are crucial for future harvests.

A Coordination Center is being set up in Istanbul, Turkey, to oversee the maritime caravans, Vaskov said, adding that representatives from the countries involved are “already” in Istanbul and the center should be ready to function “by Wednesday.”

There is no limit on the volume of exports of grain under the agreement, according to Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, who signed the deal.

Underlining the importance and the urgent need for these exports, Kubrakov said, “Clearly, the situation is dire and it’s crucial for us to receive hard currency from our exports.”

The exports should mean “at least $1 billion in monthly export revenue” for Ukraine, he noted.

“We will lose a lot” if sowing for next year’s harvest doesn’t go ahead as planned, he added. “It’s a matter of survival.”

All of the maritime caravans will be escorted by Ukrainian ships, he explained.

“It was very crucial to us that — in the Ukrainian territorial waters — we will be controlling everything. The Ukrainian Navy will be controlling and not any other countries nor United Nations representatives or any other countries. That will be only the Ukrainian Navy,” Kubrakov said.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed the timeline of exports. The timeline came from Ukraine’s deputy infrastructure minister.

Ukraine claims it has successfully targeted 3 bridges in Kherson region

A view of the Antonivskyi bridge across the Dnipro river in the Russia-controlled Kherson region of southern Ukraine, on July 23.

Ukrainian forces have hit three bridges in Kherson region as part of its campaign to hamper Russian logistics in occupied areas.

Two bridges over the Dnipro river were hit, as well as another bridge further north, according to Dmytro Butriy, a Ukrainian official who is acting head of Kherson military administration.

The Ukrainian military “work very precisely on the enemy’s warehouses and manpower accumulation and very effectively on the enemy’s logistics chains,” Butriy told a news briefing.

Butriy said the strikes on Antonivskyi bridge, Dariivskyi bridge and Kakhovskyi bridge mean “the movement of the heavy equipment and vehicles is very complicated.”

“They [Russian forces] are making the attempts to repair these bridges. There is information that they are planning to organize a pontoon crossing,” he said.

Russia has charged 92 Ukrainian military members with crimes against humanity, top official says

Russia has charged 92 members of Ukraine’s military high command with crimes against humanity, according to Alexander Bastrykin, head of Russia’s Investigative Committee.

In total, Moscow has opened more than 1,300 criminal cases against Ukraine’s military and political leadership, Bastrykin said in an interview with government news site Rossiyskaya Gazeta published Monday. He did not name any of those charged.

CNN has not independently verified the claims made by Bastrykin.

“In the course of the preliminary investigation, more than 220 people have been identified as involved in crimes against the peace and security of humanity that do not have a statute of limitations, including representatives of the high command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as well as commanders of military units that fired at civilians,” Bastrykin told Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

“A total of 92 commanders and their subordinates have been charged. 96 people were put on the wanted list, in particular 51 commanders of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” he said.

The head of the Investigative Committee also suggested creating a separate international tribunal for crimes in Ukraine.

“Taking into account the position of the ‘collective West,’ which openly sponsors Ukrainian nationalism and supports the Kyiv regime, the creation of such a tribunal under the auspices of the UN in the current perspective is extremely doubtful,” he said.

“The establishment of the court and its charter could be formalized by an agreement between Russia, the member countries of these organizations, the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics.”

Some background: Bastrykin’s claims come as Ukraine is investigating more than 20,000 war crimes, according to now former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova.

Venediktova had previously said that Ukraine has identified more than 600 Russian war crime suspects and has started prosecuting around 80 of them. Two Russian soldiers have already been convicted under Ukrainian criminal law.

Earlier this month, prosecutors from Ukraine and the International Criminal Court (ICC) met in The Hague to share expertise on investigating global war crimes and apply it to the atrocities committed in Ukraine.

ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan had called Ukraine a “crime scene” after visiting the Ukrainian towns of Bucha and Borodianka in April, where mass graves and murdered civilians were discovered following the Russian withdrawal.

Dance of defiance in Odesa

Barricades in front of Odesa Opera house, Ukraine, on March 8.

There is great beauty in Ukraine, amid the pain and suffering. In the port city of Odesa, dancers in rehearsal try to tune out Russia’s deadly war.

At the city’s famous opera house, performance is more than just a beautiful expression of art and culture. Against the terrible backdrop of Russia’s invasion, the ballet dancers here offer a symbol of defiance. A sign that Ukrainians are not giving up.

Chief Conductor Viacheslav Chernukho-Volich says this expression of humanity is why the country must fight.

“Just listen,” he says, as the music of Chopin rises from the orchestra pit.

Odesa was struck on Saturday by two Russian Kalibr missiles, hitting crucial infrastructure needed to get Ukraine’s grain harvest out to the world.

Not far from the port stands the 135-year-old theatre, the jewel in the crown of this cultural capital. Inside, opera and ballet performances are back. CNN visited a Friday night performance of Les Sylphides, punctuated by air raid sirens.

Moments before the show, performers and the audience are forced down to the basement bomb shelter. There, two soloist ballerinas stretch to stay limber. 

Kateryna Kalchenko admits she’s afraid, “though we’re getting accustomed to these threats and that in itself is horrible,” she said.

After a delayed start, the show goes on. “Glory to Ukraine” sounds over the tannoy as the curtains raise.

An hour into the show, Kalchenko crosses herself as she enters stage right. But her performance only lasts a few steps before the sirens sounds again.

Down in the basement again, Kalchenko has a message.

“I want the whole world to start screaming,” she says. “To stop this horror, so that innocent children stop dying.”

Watch CNN’s Ivan Watson’s full report:

03:58

Conflicting reports over Russian claims of territorial gains in Donetsk region

Damage after a Russian airstrike hits a school in Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on July 23, 2022.

Russian forces continue to attack Ukraine’s Donetsk region and Kharkiv region, but there are conflicting reports about whether any territory has been won or lost.

Ukrainian officials say that “shelling continues along the entire front line, with the most active shelling in the Bakhmut district,” where Russian forces are trying to cut off Ukrainian defenders.

Mortar fire against Bakhmut injured one person, officials said, without providing details of any military casualties.

Some civilians remain in Bakhmut even though the area has been shelled almost every day for nearly two months. One person was killed in nearby Soledar. 

The cities of Kramatorsk and Kostiantynivka have also been under Russian fire, and the head of the military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, posted a photograph of a rocket embedded in the sitting room floor of an apartment.

On the ground, the Ukrainian military said its soldiers had repulsed assaults toward the village of Ivano-Dariivka “and forced the invaders to pull back.”

Fighting continued around the Vuhlehirska power plant south of Bakhmut, it added.

On Sunday night, pro-Russian officials in occupied Donetsk claimed that the power plant was surrounded.

“The territory of the plant is completely blocked. But not cleared yet,” said Ivan Prikhodko, head of Horlivka Administration, on Telegram.

The Ukrainian military say there is still fighting going on to the southeast of the plant, which its forces have been defending for several weeks in a pocket of gradually shrinking territory.  

To the north, in the Kharkiv region, the town of Chuhuiv was shelled again by Russian artillery.

Several people were feared trapped under the rubble of a house, according to authorities.

US working on "Plan B" for Ukrainian grain exports after Odesa bombing, USAID administrator says

The United States is working with Ukraine on a “Plan B” to get grain exports out of the country following Russia’s attack on the port of Odesa, according to United States Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power. 

“Plan B involves road and rail and river and sending in barges and adjusting the rail systems so that they’re better aligned with those in Europe so that the exports can move out more quickly,” Power told CNN’s Larry Madowo in an interview in Nairobi, Kenya on Sunday, after visiting drought-stricken areas of Kenya and Somalia last week.

“We have been living the contingency plan because there’s no way you can trust anything that Vladimir Putin says,” she continued. 

Power stressed that despite the security afforded by a contingency plan, “there is no substitute for Putin allowing the blockade to end and the grains being sent out the most efficient way possible.”

On Friday, Russia and Ukraine signed a deal allowing for the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea after months of tough negotiations, mediated by Turkey and the United Nations.

However just one day later, Russia carried out a missile strike on the southern Ukrainian port of Odesa, where vital grain stocks have been lying in storage. 

More than half of Somalia’s wheat imports come from Ukraine, said Power, adding that 20 million metric tons of wheat and corn are still trapped at the port of Odesa.

Power said she hopes that that the grain deal “somehow sticks” despite Russia’s move to “immediately turn its back” on it by bombing the port.

Ensuring the supply of grain will help drive down prices, Power said.

“Even the specter of this deal working and being enforced and the grains leaving the port brought prices down, even in a 24-hour period,” she said. “So, more supply with the same amount of demand is going to mean lower prices.”

Last week, the US announced an additional $1.3 billion in humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa, with unprecedented drought across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. 

Power called on countries that play “leadership roles in the international system, such as the People’s Republic of China clearly aspires to do,” to “dig deeper” to prevent the food crisis “from becoming a catastrophe.”

Russian FM Sergei Lavrov aiming to rally support on Africa tour

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry, right, attend a joint news conference following their talks in Cairo, Egypt, on July 24.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Africa this week to demonstrate Russian commitment to the region and shore up alliances amid the war in Ukraine.

On Sunday, Lavrov visited Egypt, meeting with top officials including Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri and Arab League secretary general Ahmed Aboulgheit, discussing the issue of grain exports from Ukraine and claiming that Moscow is open to negotiations with Kyiv.

Egypt is the world’s biggest importer of wheat, relying heavily on Ukraine and Russia for supplies to feed a population of 100 million. 

Lavrov will also travel to Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo.

Most African countries have not condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine as they seek to maintain balance in their relationships with Russia and western countries.

“The Africans are reciprocating. They are interested in having us. We never engaged in teaching them anything, but helped them overcome their problems so that they could live in their country the way they wanted to,” Lavrov told Russian state media in an interview before he started his tour.

“To this day, we are not lecturing them, unlike the Americans who go around Africa telling everyone ‘do not talk with the Chinese or the Russians,’” he said. “All they care about is their selfish interests, even when they trade with you.”

Ukrainians talk up progress against Russian forces in southern Kherson region

Ukrainian officials say they are confident of progress on the battlefield in the southern region of Kherson, as strikes against Russian command posts and ammunition depots impede the invading force’s defensive capabilities.

Serhii Khlan, an adviser to the head of the Kherson civil military administration, said that last week Ukrainian forces carried out “very successful strategic operations, as bridges that helped supply ammunition and equipment to the enemy’s network were hit.”

Khlan said the success was down to the coordination of the resistance movement in the occupied territories with Ukrainian forces.

“These are very precise hits on the ammo warehouses, elimination of the command posts and personnel, radio-location systems and yesterday a whole bunch of S-300 systems, which had been shelling Mykolaiv were destroyed,” Khlan said.

CNN is unable to confirm the claims.

Bridges destroyed: Khlan said civilians and passenger vehicles were still able to use damaged bridges that cross the Dnipro River, but the structures were not stable enough for heavy vehicles and trucks.

Images and video circulating last week showed the Antonivskyi bridge still standing but with substantial holes puncturing its surface after they were hit in Ukrainian strikes last week.

The bridge was a key element in the supply of a group of Russian troops to Kherson through the left bank of the river, according to Khlan.

He said the armed forces had also hit a bridge across the Inhulets river, a tributary of the Dnipro River.

Russian counterattacks fail: Ukraine’s Operational Command South reported Monday that two Russian counterattacks in Kherson had been unsuccessful and they had retreated with losses.

It also said that Ukrainian combat aircraft and helicopters had carried out several strikes in the Beryslav district of Kherson. It claimed that several tanks and howitzers had been destroyed, and the command post of Russia’s 785th National Guard unit and two warehouses with ammunition were also destroyed.

Russian missiles hit Ukraine's Odesa port just a day after a grain export deal was agreed. Here's what we know

Firefighters work at the site of a Russian missile strike in a sea port of Odesa, Ukraine, on July 23.

Less than 24 hours after agreeing to allow grain exports to resume from Ukraine, two sea-launched Russian Kalibr cruise missiles struck Odesa — the main port named in the deal signed in Istanbul on Friday.

The Russian attack on Saturday has cast doubt on the future of the agreement, which aims to ease the global food crisis sparked by war and Moscow’s months-long blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

Here’s the latest:

  • What Russia said: Initially, Moscow denied involvement in the strikes, with the Kremlin telling Turkey — which helped broker the grain deal — that “in no uncertain terms” it had “nothing to do with this attack.” But 12 hours later, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed the Russian strikes, saying they had destroyed “military infrastructure” with “high precision” missiles.
  • What Ukraine and its allies said: Serhii Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa military administration, said two missiles hit the infrastructure of the port and two were shot down by Ukraine’s air defense. Ukraine officials are still working to prepare ports to export grain, but US officials said they were “deeply concerned” and were working with Ukraine on a “Plan B” to get grain exports out of the country. USAID administrator Samantha Power said she hoped the grain deal “somehow sticks” despite Russia’s move to “immediately turn its back” on the agreement. Meanwhile, UK Foreign Minister Liz Truss said the attack “shows not a word [Russian President Vladimir Putin] says can be trusted.”
  • Why the deal matters: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that the agreement would spare billions of people from hunger. The UN, leaders and experts have warned of a catastrophic food crisis as grain shipments have not been able to reach the global market. The Kremlin has previously rejected accusations that Russia is obstructing the export of grain from Ukraine and instead blamed the West and Kyiv.
  • Some context: Around 20 million metric tons of grain are held up in Ukraine, where the summer harvest is now well underway. The deal would allow 5 million metric tons of grain exports per month from three Ukrainian ports, a senior UN official said Friday.
  • What’s in the deal? No ceasefire was explicitly agreed, though Russia “committed to facilitate the unimpeded export of food, sunflower oil and fertilizers,” according to a statement from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ office. In exchange, Guterres agreed to effectively ease some sanctions against Russia for food and fertilizer.
  • When will grain exports resume? Speaking in Istanbul after the strike, Ukrainian deputy infrastructure minister Yurii Vaskov said technical meetings to implement the deal were ongoing. Turkey’s Defense Ministry said “coordination between authorities continues for the first ship loaded with grain to start sailing from Ukrainian ports as soon as possible.” Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed Russian military vessels would help escort the cargo ships once grain exports restart.

Analysis: Russia's Odesa attack shows its true colors after grain export deal

Firefighters work at the site of a Russian missile strike in a sea port of Odesa, Ukraine, on July 23.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres looked simultaneously relieved and apprehensive as the grain export deal he brokered was signed in front of him in Istanbul on Friday.

Immediately following the signatures by Russia, Ukraine, and intermediary Turkey, the UN secretary general said the deal offered a “beacon of hope,” heralding food relief for the developing world.

Sadly for Guterres and all those counting on the much-needed food, his months of diplomatic slog — including visits to Moscow and Kyiv to nail the deal — ultimately illuminated the limitations of trusting Russia.

There is no explicit ceasefire in the deal, but Russia’s obligations were clearly spelled out: “The Russian Federation has committed to facilitate the unimpeded export of food, sunflower oil and fertilizers,” a statement from Guterres’ office said.

Less than 24 hours after its signing, the post-deal calm in Odesa — the principle port named in the accord — was shattered as two sea-launched Russian Kalibr cruise missiles slammed into the harbor.

Russia’s apparent coda to the grain agreement it had signed has been deplored by Ukraine and its allies — and widely held as proof of its duplicity.

Putin’s weakness: Russia’s invasion of one of the world’s breadbaskets has caused global food insecurity, yet Moscow got concessions through the deal in order to allow Ukraine’s grain to flow. That’s usually called extortion.

To get Russia to release the grain by ending blockades on Ukrainian ports, Guterres had to strike a parallel deal on the side with Russia, effectively easing some sanctions on food and fertilizer. UN officials explained the diplomacy as “based on the principle that measures imposed on the Russian Federation do not apply to these products.”

Clearing those sanctions will bring money into Moscow’s coffers — which is perhaps the enduring takeaway of Guterres’ deal: Putin will make limited compromises for cash.

But in doing so, Putin has perhaps revealed, like Tolkien’s Smaug, a potentially fatal vulnerability in his defenses. The mythical dragon’s weakness was a missing scale, and Putin’s appears to be the economic bite of international sanctions. Whatever his other reasons for agreeing to the deal, the need to pay for the war likely weighs heaviest.

Read the full analysis here.