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What The Grain Deal To End Russia’s Blockade Will And Will Not Include

The accord between Kyiv and Moscow has been in the works all week, signing today in Istanbul.

What The Grain Deal To End Russia’s Blockade Will And Will Not Include

Wheat harvest in Kherson

Cameron Manley and Emma Albright

The Kremlin has confirmed that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is in Istanbul today to sign a UN-backed deal with Ukraine over grain exports that could put an end to what the West has called Moscow’s “weaponizing” of food in the war against Kyiv.

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Both Ukraine and Russia have sent their infrastructure and defense ministers to a signing ceremony in Istanbul slated Friday for 4:30 p.m. local time (9:30 a.m. ET). U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will also be present.

A member of the Ukrainian delegation in the grain export negotiations says three Ukrainian ports will be included in the agreement on exporting agricultural produce through agreed corridors in the Black Sea.

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, leaders and experts have been warning of a food crisis as millions of tons of Ukrainian grain are unable to reach the global market.

Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Oleh Nikolenko told Novoe Vremya news agency that Kyiv would only sign a grain deal on the condition that it ensures the safety of Ukraine’s southern regions, strong military positions in the Black Sea, and the safe export of Ukrainian products to global markets.

Beyond what stipulations are laid out in Istanbul, the resolution to the crisis in food supplies will only be seen once implementation begins. Outside enforcement is next to impossible and Russia has reversed course on promises made in the past — and knows that commerce is always a potential weapon of war if deemed necessary.

Still, as with prisoner exchanges, any step taken to move Kyiv and Moscow toward a compromise can help lay the groundwork for future agreements. A truce to end the fighting though still appears very far away.

Google Banned In Ukraine’s Occupied Regions By Pro-Russian Regime

Google Mountain View California


Authorities in the two pro-Russian separatist territories in eastern Ukraine have announced that they have blocked the search engine Google, accusing it of "promoting" violence against Russians.

Denis Pushilin, president of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" ("DPR"), declared on the Telegram messaging app that "inhuman propaganda of Ukraine and the west has long crossed all boundaries. There is a real persecution of Russians, the imposition of lies and disinformation." He added that “If Google stops pursuing its criminal policy and returns to the mainstream of law, morality and common sense, there will be no obstacles for its work.”

For the moment, Russia, Syria and North Korea are the only UN member states to recognise the DPR as a legitimate authority.

Lukashenko Calls For End Of War In Ukraine, Warns Of Nuclear Threat

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko

Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS/Zuma

Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko called for an agreement to end the war in Ukraine to avoid the “abyss of nuclear war." Despite striking out autonomously from the Kremlin, Lukashenko still pins the blame for the war on the West and says any peace agreement depends entirely on Kyiv.

Mr. Lukashenko said that attacks on Ukrainian military facilities had been launched from Belarusian territory, but claims the Russian military did this "in order to protect their units" and not without his permission.

New Round Of EU Sanctions Against Russia Targets Moscow Mayor And Sberbank

Sberbank headquarters


The EU has released a seventh package of economic sanctions against Russia, which includes measures targeting the mayor of Moscow Serhiy Sobyanin, First Deputy Director of the Federal Security Service Serhiy Korolev, Commander-in-Chief of the National Guard Viktor Strygunov, as well as organizations like the state bank Sberbank, against which the sanctions already in place were extended further, the FORSS group of companies operating in the shipbuilding markets, the rocket and space industry enterprise Kvant, and the Avlita company operating ports.

Quoted in Moscow daily Kommersant, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded by saying that with the sanctions the European Union (EU) "continues to drive itself into a dead end."

Russia’s Plans For New Rail Line In Crimea


The Office of the Presidential Representative of Ukraine in Crimea reports that Russia is set to construct a new rail track that will run through ancient Crimean burying grounds and archaeological sites. The archaeological findings will supposedly be sent to Russian museums for display.

What Turkey Thinks It Can Squeeze Out Of The War In Ukraine

Iranian and Turkish delegations start the summit on the Syrian war in Tehran on July 19

Iranian Presidency/ZUMA

Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan is garnering credit for helping to orchestrate Friday’s deal between Kyiv and Moscow to end the grain blockade.

But with Russia focused on its Ukraine invasion, Erdoğan sees an opening in Syria, where Moscow had been the main foreign military presence for the past five years.

For weeks, the Turkish president has been talking about a new offensive in northern Syria. He wants to create a 30-kilometer-wide buffer zone there and push back the Kurdish militia YPG, which Erdoğan sees as an extension of the PKK, the guerrilla movement based in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq that Europe classifies as a terrorist organization.

At the same time, such a zone would allow him to settle Syrian refugees from Turkey there. This is an issue creating more and more domestic political pressure for the Turkish president. Read more about it in this Die Welt piece in English via Worldcrunch.

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How Iran's Supreme Leader Is Short-Circuiting Diplomacy To Forge Alliances In Arab World

Iran's Supreme leader Ali Khamenei recently sent out a special envoy to ease tensions with wealthy Arab neighbors. He's hoping to end the country's international isolation and dismal economic conditions that contributed to last year's mass protests.

Image of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei smiling, a portrait of himself behind him.

Ayatollah Khamenei on March 21st, 2023, delivering his annual speech in the Imam Reza's (pbuh) shrine, on the first day of 1402 Persian New Year.



Needing to revive its diplomatic options and financial ties with the Middle East, Iran's embattled regime recently sent a senior security official and former defense minister — instead of members of the diplomatic corps — to talk business with regional powers that have been keeping Iran at arm's length.

After a surprise deal in mid-March to restore diplomatic ties with the Saudi monarchy, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, traveled to the United Arab Emirates, meeting with officials including the federation's head, Sheikh Muhammad bin Zaid Al Nahyan. His meetings are expected to ease the flow of regional money into Iran's economy, which is practically on pause after years of international sanctions. After Abu Dhabi, Shamkhani went to Baghdad.

Shamkhani was effectively acting as an envoy of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and supplanting the country's diplomatic apparatus. This wasn't the first time an Iranian foreign minister has been sidelined in crucial international affairs.

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