Cautious optimism reigns amid reports of progress on a "Ukrainian grain deal". Meanwhile, Russian forces keep shelling cities across Ukraine, hitting several civilian targets.
Yesterday in Istanbul, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the UN jointly agreed to allow the passage of ships with Ukrainian grain from ports on the Black Sea. Russia’s blockade of the ports had stopped the export of wheat and grain, sending food prices skyrocketing and pushed many developing countries to food security. Now the UN will ensure the safety of ships at sea.
A the Istanbul meeting, the parties agreed that Russia will allow Ukrainian merchant ships accompanied by a convoy to Turkey, where the Turkish side will check them for smuggling. Earlier, Russia insisted on conducting these checks themselves.
While Western media generally hailed the meeting as "progress," the reaction to the talks in Ukraine has been somewhat muted. Ukrainian news source Livy Bereg stressed that the deal could still fall apart and that no specific details had been announced yet.
The total amount of losses and damages during the war to the Ukrainian agricultural sector has been a staggering $27.6 billion. This has mostly come from indirect losses due to the naval blockade of Ukrainian ports, although $1.4 billion alone has been lost from unharvested winter crops.
Further blockade of Ukrainian grain could have grave consequences for the world, as it would affect not only bread but also meat and dairy, as Ukraine's grain exports are a major component of farm animal feed.
Hotels, Shopping Malls And Schools: Russia Continues Indiscriminate Strikes In Ukraine
Dutch daily de Volkskrant's Thursday front page
The Russian army continues its active use of artillery weapons and strikes on Ukrainian cities, regularly hitting non-military targets. Residential buildings, schools, and shopping centers are being hit as part of Russia’s relentless shelling of the country, with strikes happening not only on the occupied territories but also in cities far from the front line.
On the night of July 13-14 and the morning of July 14, Mykolaiv, in southern Ukraine, suffered multiple attacks, with one missile strike destroying a hotel in the center of the city and damaging a nearby shopping mall.
The center of the city of Vinnytsia in the west of the country became the next target, just a couple of hours later. Civilian buildings were shelled, and so far eight people have been reportedly killed, including a child.
The night before, rockets flew into Zaporizhzhya in the southeast of the country, killing 16; rescue efforts are still underway. Meanwhile, a school was destroyed in Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region.
Russia Considers Creating “Volunteer Battalions”
The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its July 13 report that Russia has called upon its various regions to create "volunteer battalions," using high pay and benefits as incentives. The move is an attempt to continue war efforts while avoiding a general mobilization.
Each region must provide at least one unit’s worth of volunteers, composed of men up to 50 years old who sign up for a six-month contract. The experts cited Russian media, which confirmed the creation or deployment of volunteer battalions in 10 regions in late June and early July.
IMF Revises Growth Forecast Due To Ukraine War
"It is going to be a tough 2022 — and possibly an even tougher 2023," says IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reduced its expectations for global economic growth due to inflation, COVID and, most notably, the war in Ukraine. Kristalina Georgieva, head of the IMF, said in a statement: "It is going to be a tough 2022 — and possibly an even tougher 2023, with increased risk of recession."
Georgieva added that "the human tragedy of the war in Ukraine has worsened. So, too, has its economic impact, especially through commodity price shocks that are slowing growth and exacerbating a cost-of-living crisis that affects hundreds of millions of people."
Intercepted Call Suggests Low Russian Troop Morale
"It’s been like this for a week..."
An intercepted call was published by the Security Services of Ukraine, revealing a conversation between two Russian soldiers. One soldier, reportedly fighting in the northeastern Kharkiv region, said that their unit continues to suffer heavy losses.
According to the speaker, due to constant attacks from the Ukrainian army, many soldiers refuse to participate in future offensives. ‘"Our people are all in a panic ... No one wants to go on the offensive. The equipment was blown to sh*t, the mortars were blown to sh*t — we were left with f*ck all. This is the ‘offensive’. It’s been like this for a week ..."
This comes as British Intelligence suggests that Russia has made very few territorial advances in the last few days and appears to be losing momentum.
Europe Allows Transport Of Sanctioned Goods To Kaliningrad
The European Commission has allowed Russia to transport sanctioned goods by rail to and from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad through the territory of the EU. However, transporting military goods and technologies remains prohibited.
The transit of some goods to Kaliningrad stopped after the EU sanctions came into effect. Representatives of Lithuania and the European Commission held consultations after Russia’s indignation grew over the restrictions.
Lithuania and Russia had been engaged in a tense standoff, with the small Eastern European country refusing Moscow’s demands to resume transportation. As German daily Die Welt reports, Berlin had been in favor of allowing the transport of some goods, as Russia threatened to retaliate strongly.
Serbian President Expresses “World War” Worries On TV
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić called the hostilities in Ukraine a "world war" pitting Western countries against Russia. Vučić said he anticipates the military conflict to last more than a year: “We must understand that in the conditions when a world war is going on, stop talking about the fact that this is a regional or local war. The entire Western world is at war with Russia through the Ukrainians. This is a global conflict. The only thing missing is a significant conflict in Asia,” Vučić said in an interview with Serbian TV Pink.
According to the Serbian president, his country will continue its "European path" while maintaining friendly relations with Russia and China. He also stated that Serbia must avoid a possible military conflict on its territory at all costs.
France’s Bastille Day Parade Sends Message To Putin
Front page of French daily La Croix
The military forces of nine countries that border Russia paraded on Paris’ Champs Elysées, as part of France’s annual Bastille Day celebrations. As La Dépêche reports, this send a clear message to Putin about the country’s “unwavering” military commitment to its allies: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.
In an address to his country’s military chiefs, on the eve of the traditional parade, French President Emmanuel Macron praised Ukraine’s resilience in the face of Russian aggression: “Each and every one of us was struck by the Ukrainian nation’s moral strength that allowed it to hold on, despite an initially unfavorable balance of power." And today, in his first TV interview since he was reelected, Macron blamed Russia for “using gas supply as a weapon."
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