Three ships leave Ukrainian ports under Black Sea Grain Initiative
The Malta flagged bulk carrier Zante en-route to Belgium transits the Bosphorus carrying 47,270 metric tons of rapeseed from Ukraine after being held at the entrance of the Bosphorus due to Russia pulling out of the Black Sea Grain agreement on November 02, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Chris Mcgrath | Getty Images
Three vessels carrying 105,500 metric tons of grain and other food products have left Ukrainian ports, the organization overseeing the export of agricultural products from the country said.
The ships are destined for Spain, Turkey and Djibouti and are carrying wheat and corn.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered in July among Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, eased Russia’s naval blockade and saw three key Ukrainian ports reopen.
So far, more than 670 ships have sailed from Ukrainian ports.
— Amanda Macias
State Department reaffirms Finland and Sweden’s ascension to NATO
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price holds a press briefing on Afghanistan at the State Department in Washington, August 16, 2021.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
The State Department reaffirmed U.S. support for Finland and Sweden’s ascension to NATO as Hungary and Turkey consider ratifying the two nations into the alliance.
“You’ve heard this from the administration. You’ve heard this from members of Congress, we strongly support their NATO candidacies, Finland and Sweden are ready to join the alliance. They are ready to join the alliance because of their military capabilities and abilities,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a press briefing.
“We are also cognizant of the fact that those who may be behind what has taken place in Sweden may be engaging in an intentional effort to try to weaken unity across the Atlantic and within and among our European allies and partners. We feel that Finland and Sweden are ready to be NATO allies,” he added.
Price added that Sweden and Finland will have to discuss the next steps with Turkey.
— Amanda Macias
Ukraine’s agricultural minister says Russia waging an economic war on food security
Farmers are seen harvesting wheat in Druzhkivka, Ukraine on 7 August, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
The Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine Mykola Solskyi said that Russia is purposefully delaying the inspection of ships associated with the Black Grain Sea Initiative.
“Russia hides a single goal: to inflict not only a military defeat on Ukraine but also an economic one; to weaken the financial position of our international partners and to cause a migration crisis, which will exacerbate existing problems,” Solskyi said in a speech at the Conference of Agriculture Ministers in Berlin.
“Now Ukraine needs the support of the international community and systemic solutions in the context of Russian sabotage of the grain corridor,” he added.
— Amanda Macias
Norway detains former commander of Russian paramilitary group Wagner
A pedestrian walks past a mural depicting the logo of the Russian mercenary ‘Group Wagner’ and a slogan in Russian by the informal pro-Russia organisation ‘Narodna Patrola (lit.: People Patrol), on January 20, 2023 in Belgrade, Serbia.
Srdjan Stevanovic | Getty Images
Norwegian police have detained a former commander of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group who recently fled to Norway, but denied suggestions that he might be deported to Russia.
A Russian prisoners’ rights group, Gulagu.net, published a recording of a phone interview with Andrei Medvedev in which he urged Norway to let him stay and testify against the private military group, which has been fighting Ukrainian forces in some of the most brutal battles of the war.
Medvedev said he had been detained and handcuffed on Sunday at a hotel where he was staying and taken to a detention center. Gulagu.net said Medvedev had been told he faced deportation.
Asked about the claim, a Norwegian police spokesperson said: “No, this is not correct,” without elaborating.
Medvedev’s Norwegian lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, put the risk of his being deported at “zero,” adding he had been detained due to “disagreement” about measures taken to ensure his safety.
“He is under very strict security measures and we disagree about the way they are applied. These have caused frictions,” Risnes told Reuters.
‘The Russian war against Ukraine is a predatory one,’ Zelenskyy says
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a press conference in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on January 11, 2023, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Yuriy Dyachyshyn | Afp | Getty Images
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy slammed Russia’s war in Ukraine and called it a “robbery.”
“Robbery is reigning. Everything they have not destroyed, they are stealing and shipping to Russia, everything,” Zelenskyy said in an address before the U.S. National Association of State Chambers.
“Russians are stealing grain and agricultural machinery from Ukrainian farmers. The occupiers dismantle the factories and send the equipment to Russia. Warehouses, shops and people’s homes are being looted. And they kidnap people – they see people as a resource,” Zelenskyy added, referencing reports of forced deportation.
Under international law, forced deportations of people are considered a war crime.
— Amanda Macias
Former FBI counterintelligence agent charged for helping Russian oligarch Deripaska
Charles McGonigal, the former head of counterintelligence for the FBI’s New York office.
Charles McGonigal, who once headed the FBI’s counterintelligence operations in New York, was criminally charged for allegedly assisting oligarch Oleg Deripaska in an effort to get off the U.S. sanctions list, and with investigating another Russian oligarch.
McGonigal was charged along with former Russian diplomat Sergey Shestakov, who worked as a U.S. federal courts translator and allegedly participated in efforts to help Deripaska after McGonigal retired in 2018.
Authorities noted that McGonigal had previously investigated Deripaska, who was put on the list of Russian nationals sanctioned by the U.S. due to their nation’s conflict with Ukraine.
— Dan Mangan
Secretary Yellen discusses ways to mitigate impacts of Russia’s war with Zambia’s president
Janet Yellen, US Treasury secretary, speaks during a Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) meeting at the Treasury Department in Washington, DC, US, on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022.
Ting Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will meet with President of Zambia Hakainde Hichilema to discuss ways to mitigate “significant global economic headwinds” caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“President Hichilema and I will discuss how Zambia can help to tackle global challenges that have serious ramifications at the national level, including food security, which has worsened in this country and globally over the past year, as well as investing in healthy populations and preparedness for future health shocks,” Yellen said ahead of the bilateral meeting.
Yellen last held a bilateral with Hichilema in December where the two focused on ways to deepen economic integration.
— Amanda Macias
UN says more than 7,000 killed in Ukraine since start of war
An elderly man walks among the graves of unidentified people, killed during Russian occupation, who were reburied from a mass grave in the small Ukrainian town of Bucha, near Kyiv, on January 12, 2023.
Sergei Supinsky | Afp | Getty Images
The United Nations has confirmed at least 7,068 deaths and 11,415 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor nearly a year ago.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, because the armed conflict can delay fatality reports.
“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects, including shelling from heavy artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, missiles and air strikes,” the international organization wrote in a release.
— Amanda Macias
US Ambassador to the UN will visit Ghana, Mozambique and Kenya to discuss food insecurity triggered by Russia’s war
New US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks after meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the United Nations on February 25, 2021 in New York City.
Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield will travel to Ghana, Mozambique and Kenya to discuss food insecurity triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Last week, Thomas Greenfield demanded Russia cooperate in the Black Sea Grain Initiative and blamed a backlog of ships loaded with crucial food supplies on “Russia’s deliberate slowdown of inspections.”
“This backlog means extra expense and extra delay for millions of tons of grain, a majority of which is destined for developing countries. The backlog means 2.5 million tons of grain are just sitting there, waiting to move,” she said before the U.N. Security Council, adding that some vessels have been waiting for over a month.
Since the deal was signed, more than 670 ships carrying 18.3 million metric tons of grain and other food products have left Ukrainian waters.
— Amanda Macias
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Zelenskyy in Kyiv
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomes former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine January 22, 2023.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Ser | Via Reuters
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“It is a privilege to visit Ukraine at the invitation of president Zelenskyy. The suffering of the people of Ukraine has gone on for too long. The only way to end this war is for Ukraine to win and to win as fast as possible,” Johnson wrote in a statement following the visit.
“This is the moment to double down and to give the Ukrainians all the tools they need to finish the job. The sooner Putin fails, the better for Ukraine and for the whole world,” he added.
Johnson, who was one of the first world leaders to visit Zelenskyy following Russia’s invasion, quickly became one of the most visible Western supporters of Ukraine. He resigned from the prime minister post in July.
— Amanda Macias
UK and Russian national charged with attempting to evade sanctions related to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg’s $90 million yacht
The yacht called “Tango” owned by Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who was sanctioned by the U.S. on March 11, is seen at Palma de Mallorca Yacht Club in the Spanish island of Mallorca, Spain March 15, 2022.
Juan Medina | Reuters
Two businessmen from Russia and the UK were charged in separate indictments for attempting to evade sanctions linked to a $90 million luxury yacht owned by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
Vladislav Osipov, 51, a dual Russian and Swiss national, and Richard Masters, 52, a British national, were charged Friday with conspiracy to defraud and to commit offenses against the United States as well as money laundering.
According to U.S. federal prosecutors, Osipov used a complex web of shell companies to hide Vekselberg’s ownership of the 255-foot seized yacht
“Despite that Vekselberg designed the yacht, was the sole user, and was the ultimate beneficial owner,” prosecutors wrote in a release.
Masters was arrested by Spanish authorities on Friday and awaits extradition to the United States whereas, Osipov’s arrest warrant is outstanding.
— Amanda Macias
Top U.S. spy agency says more security assistance from allies is crucial for Ukraine to prevail
Ukrainian soldiers outside the strategic city of Bakhmut on Jan. 18, 2023, in Bakhmut, Ukraine.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | Getty Images
The director of America’s top spy agency described Russia’s war in Ukraine as a “grinding conflict” that will require the West to continue to provide security assistance packages in order for Kyiv to prevail.
U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum on Sunday that both Ukrainian and Russian militaries are facing significant challenges but the war had not reached a stalemate.
“It’s not a stalemate but really, a grinding conflict where quite literally, we’re talking about hundreds of meters being fought over in the context of the frontlines,” Haines said in Davos, Switzerland.
“It will be extremely important for Ukraine to receive essential military assistance and economic assistance moving forward in order for them to be able to continue to manage what they have been heroically doing,” she added.
Read the full story here.
— Amanda Macias
Lying-in-state ceremony takes place for Ukrainian officials killed in helicopter crash
The portrait of late First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Yevhenii Yenin is pictured during the lying-in-state ceremony of the leadership of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs who perished in the Brovary helicopter crash at the Ukrainian House, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine.
Future Publishing | Future Publishing | Getty Images
Ukrainians attend a lying-in-state ceremony of the leadership of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry who perished in a helicopter crash last week in Brovary, on the outskirts of Kyiv.
The helicopter, which belonged to the State Emergency Service, crashed near a kindergarten and a residential building, killing 14 people, including a child. All those onboard the helicopter died, including Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyy, his First Deputy Yevhenii Yenin and Interior Ministry’s State Secretary Yurii Lubkovych.
An investigation is being carried out into the crash, which President Zelenskyy described as a “terrible tragedy.”
Relatives mourn late First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Yevhenii Yenin during the lying-in-state ceremony of the leadership of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs who perished in the Brovary helicopter crash at the Ukrainian House, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine.
Hennadii Minchenko | Future Publishing | Getty Images
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his spouse Olena Zelenska pay their last respects to the leadership of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs who perished in the Brovary helicopter crash during the lying-in-state ceremony at the Ukrainian House, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine. On Wednesday morning, January 18, a helicopter of the State Emergency Service crashed near a kindergarten and a residential building in Brovary, Kyiv Region.
Yurii Lubkovych | Future Publishing | Getty Images
Ukraine needs hundreds of tanks, official says
Ukraine needs several hundred tanks to combat Russia, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine said Monday.
“We need tanks — not 10-20, but several hundred,” Andriy Yermak said on Telegram, according to a Google translation.
He said Ukraine’s goal was the re-establishment of Ukraine’s borders of 1991 — when the country declared independence from the USSR — and for Russia to be punished for its invasion of Ukraine.
There is still uncertainty over whether European countries will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, after no decision was reached during a defense summit last Friday. Kyiv has repeatedly urged its allies to give it tanks to help it defeat Russia’s ongoing invasion.
A Ukrainian tank fires at Russian positions near Kreminna, Lugansk region, on January 12, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Anatolii Stepanov | Afp | Getty Images
Senior official Yermak said that “the common goal of democracy in the fight against autocracy is to ensure stable development and a clear world order. Without the victory of Ukraine, none of this will happen.”
He added, “That is why every tank capable of fighting must be on our front today. Because this is not only the Ukrainian front. This is the front of civilization against backwardness and barbarism from the swamps.”
— Holly Ellyatt
Conflict between Russia and the West closer to a real war, Russian official says
Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sergei Lavrov speaks during a press conference after his meeting with South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor at the OR Tambo Building in Pretoria on January 23, 2023.
Phill Magakoe | Afp | Getty Images
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the conflict between Russia and the West is playing out in Ukraine and can no longer be defined as a “hybrid war” but is closer to a real one.
“When we talk about what is happening in Ukraine, we are talking about the fact that this is no longer a hybrid war, but a real one, which the West has been preparing for a long time against Russia,” he said at a press conference on Monday following talks with South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor, state news agency Tass reported.
Lavrov claimed the West was “trying to destroy everything Russian — from language to culture, which has been in Ukraine for centuries, and forbidding people to speak their native language,” he said.
Lavrov made the comments during a diplomatic trip to South Africa in which he also claimed Ukraine had blocked negotiations to end the war.
“In September, President Zelenskyy signed a decree prohibiting all Ukrainian officials to negotiate on anything with the Russian Federation. So I believe it is absolutely obvious as regards the origin of the problem of lack of negotiations.”
Ukraine has said it is willing to negotiate once President Putin is not in power, and when all Russian forces have left its territory. It says it will fight until it has reclaimed all its territory, including Crimea which was annexed in 2014 by Russia.
— Holly Ellyatt
Germany stresses importance of international support to Ukraine
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stands next to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (3rd from right), Kharkiv Governor Oleh Synehubov (2nd from right) and Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov (5th from right) in Kharkiv on the site of a substation destroyed by the Russians during her trip to eastern Ukraine.
Jorg Blank | Picture Alliance | Getty Images
EU countries and their international partners together should try to do everything possible to make sure Ukraine will win its war against Russia, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Monday.
“It’s important that we as an international community do everything we can to defend Ukraine, so that Ukraine wins and wins the right to live in peace and freedom again,” Baerbock said before a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers.
Baerbock declined to make any specific comment when asked about the issue of exporting Leopold-2 battle tanks to Ukraine.
On Sunday, Baerbock had opened the door to Germany allowing Poland to send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, in a possible breakthrough for Kyiv which wants the tanks for its fight against Russia’s invasion.
NATO chief set to visit Germany as tanks debate rages
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a closing press conference during the second of two days of defence ministers’ meetings at NATO headquarters on October 13, 2022 in Brussels, Belgium.
Omar Havana | Getty Images
NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will meet German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius in Berlin on Tuesday.
The meeting comes amid palpable frustration in Europe regarding Germany’s failure to make a decision about allowing German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine.
Kyiv has been requesting Leopard 2 tanks from its European allies for months, saying it needs them to fight Russia as the war approaches its one-year mark.
Germany has appeared reluctant to either send its own Leopard 2s, or to allow other countries with the tanks to re-export them to Ukraine, fearing it could be seen as an escalatory move by Russia. Berlin was also said to be ready to send such tanks only if the U.S. sent its own Abrams tanks.
NATO announced Monday that Stoltenberg was making the trip to Berlin, raising expectations that Germany could be ready to announce it is ready to allow tanks to be sent to Ukraine.
At the weekend, both Pistorius and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock signaled that a decision would be made, and that Poland would not be blocked from sending its own Leopard 2s to Ukraine, with or without Berlin’s permission.
— Holly Ellyatt
Poland could send Leopard tanks to Ukraine without Berlin’s approval, prime minister says
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, along with leaders from Belgium, Italy and Greece, will propose a plan for a ‘gas price corridor’ across Europe in an attempt to bring down soaring prices.
Thierry Monasse / Contributor / Getty Images
Germany’s approval for the re-export of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine is of secondary importance as Poland could send those tanks as part of a coalition of countries even without its permission, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday.
The United States and its allies failed during talks in Germany last week to convince Berlin to provide its Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, a key demand from Kyiv as it tries to breathe new momentum into its fight against Russian forces.
Poland is pushing for countries who have German-made Leopards to send them to Ukraine, even if Germany does not want to join them.
“We will ask for such permission, but this is an issue of secondary importance. Even if we did not get this approval … we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine”, Morawiecki told reporters.
“The condition for us at the moment is to build at least a small coalition of countries.”
Germany would not stand in the way if Poland sent its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Sunday in an interview with French television LCI.
“Pressure makes sense, because this weekend, the foreign minister of Germany sent a slightly different message that gives a glimmer of hope that not only Germany will not block (sending tanks) but will finally hand over heavy equipment, modern equipment to help Ukraine,” Morawiecki said.
Russian commander in Ukraine prioritising a clampdown on non-regulation, UK says
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chief of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov attend an annual meeting of the Defense Ministry Board in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 21, 2022.
Mikhail Kuravlev | Sputnik | Reuters
General Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s chief of the general staff and newly appointed commander in Ukraine, has likely started his tour with a drive to improve deployed troops’ day-to-day discipline, according to the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence.
“Since he took command, officers have been attempting to clamp down on non-regulation uniform, travel in civilian vehicles, the use of mobile phones, and non-standard haircuts,” the ministry noted in an intelligence update on Twitter Monday.
It noted that the measures have been met with skepticism, and “some of the greatest derision has been reserved for attempts to improve the standard of troops’ shaving.”
“Officials in the Donetsk People’s Republic, described the prioritisation a ‘farce’ that would ‘hamper the process of destroying the enemy’,” the U.K. said. Meanwhile, Yevgteny Prigozhin, the owner of the private military company the Wagner Group, said that “war is the time of the active and courageous, and not of the clean-shaven.”
The U.K. noted that while Russian forces continue to endure operational deadlock and heavy casualties on the battlefield, Gerasimov’s prioritization of largely minor regulations “is likely to confirm the fears of his many sceptics in Russia.”
“Along with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, he is increasingly seen as out of touch and focused on presentation over substance.”
— Holly Ellyatt
German minister says final decision on tanks will be made
Bundeswehr Leopard 2 A6 heavy tanks.
Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Sunday that he expected a decision soon on the delivery of German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
Pistorius told Germany’s ARD broadcaster that Germany would not make a hasty decision because the government had many factors to consider, including consequences at home for the security of the German population, Reuters reported.
Separately, Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Berlin would not block Poland from sending its own Leopard 2s to Ukraine.
There is intense pressure on Berlin to allow other countries with Leopard 2s to give them to Ukraine, but it has so far refused to authorize the onward exporting of the tanks, or to offer its own. Last Friday, Ukraine’s allies met in Germany to discuss the issue but no decision was reached.
Kyiv has pleaded with its allies to send heavy battle tanks for months, saying they could be decisive in the outcome of the war. The U.K. is Ukraine’s only ally to have pledged to send a number of its own Challenger 2 tanks. France said it has not ruled out sending its own Leclerc tanks to Ukraine.
— Holly Ellyatt
Countries supplying Ukraine with weapons risk own destruction, Russian official says
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin (R).
Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images
The speaker of Russia’s parliament on Sunday warned that countries supplying Ukraine with more powerful weapons risked their own destruction. It followed new pledges of armored vehicles, air defense systems, and other equipment from Ukraine’s allies, but not the battle tanks Kyiv has requested.
“Supplies of offensive weapons to the Kyiv regime would lead to a global catastrophe,” State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin said. “If Washington and NATO supply weapons that would be used for striking peaceful cities and making attempts to seize our territory as they threaten to do, it would trigger a retaliation with more powerful weapons.”
Ukraine’s supporters pledged billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine on Friday, though the new commitments were overshadowed by defense leaders failing at an international meeting in Ramstein, Germany, to agree on Ukraine’s urgent request for German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks.
Read the whole story here.
— The Associated Press