Kyiv casts doubt on breakthrough in grain export talks; attacks repelled in Kharkiv and Donetsk

Kyiv casts doubt on breakthrough in grain export talks; attacks repelled in Kharkiv and Donetsk
A shelling hole near a college after a Russian rocket hit a residential area in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on 5 July 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Sergey Kozlov)

Ukraine’s top diplomat cast doubt on a near-term breakthrough in talks to unblock grain exports from the war-ravaged nation’s Black Sea ports, as fears of a global hunger crisis intensify.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said a number of logistical details need to be worked out in talks brokered by Turkey and the United Nations between Ukraine and Russia to unblock grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, though breaking the deadlock will be difficult. 

The comments contrast with those of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who earlier echoed media reports that a deal could be reached in a week to 10 days.  

Key developments

On the ground

Ukraine’s army repelled several attacks in Kharkiv and Donetsk, and Russian forces had to pull back in several locations in these two eastern regions, the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said in a statement on Facebook. Four Russian high-precision missile carriers are deployed at the Black Sea ready to launch missiles, according to the statement. 

US and allies discuss capping Russian oil prices at $40-$60 

Allies have been exploring ways to limit Russian oil revenues while minimising the impact on their own economies. The range spans from what is believed to be Russia’s marginal cost of production and the price of its oil before the February 24 invasion of Ukraine. 

A more specific threshold would depend on market conditions when a cap is agreed and those could change significantly. The aim is to cut Moscow’s revenue for its war in Ukraine but the risk is that poorly executed measures would lead to a spike in oil prices.

Estonia ratifies Swedish, Finnish Nato membership  

The Estonian Parliament ratified Finland and Sweden’s accession protocols for joining Nato. The protocols must be vetted by each of the alliance’s 30 countries for the two Nordic countries to become members.

Kremlin’s new wave of repressive measures against domestic opponents  

Russian authorities are pushing through a raft of new repressive measures against domestic opponents, expanding crackdowns on critics as the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine is in its fifth month.

Legislators have approved new proposals to dramatically broaden treason statutes, as well as restrictions on “foreign agents”, a legal category that’s been used widely against critics and independent journalists. Another new draft law would restrict the publication of any information deemed to be of use by “unfriendly countries” in targeting sanctions. The moves all have strong Kremlin support.

Already-restrictive rules on public protests are being further tightened as thousands of Russians have been detained for speaking out against the war. Prosecutions under wartime censorship laws have mounted and even loyalists have found themselves targeted. 




Ukraine doubts timing of deal to unblock grain exports 

Kuleba said a number of logistical details need to be worked out in talks brokered by Turkey and United Nations between Ukraine and Russia, though breaking the deadlock will be difficult. 

“We are just about a few steps from the deal, but these steps are the most difficult,” Kuleba said in an interview in his office in Kyiv on Tuesday. “I don’t want to join the chorus of those who say the agreement will take place next week.” 

EU hurdle falls to classing gas as green 

European Union lawmakers voted down an objection to labelling natural gas and nuclear energy as green, removing the last major barrier to potentially billions of euros of funding from environmental investors. Barring an unlikely objection from member states, the regulation will start at the beginning of next year.

Latvia mulls over obligatory military service 

Latvia’s defence minister proposed introducing conscription to boost the size of the Baltic nation’s armed forces in response to Russian aggression.

The larger the size of a trained military, “the less likely that Russia will direct its military aggression against Latvia”, the minister, Artis Pabriks, said in a statement. The proposal would still need parliamentary approval and would be implemented over five years. The nation of 1.9 million is a member of the EU and Nato.

Germany can tighten grip on ex-Gazprom arm 

Germany’s Cabinet has passed a law that enables the government to take a stake in the group formerly known as Gazprom Germania.

Gazprom Germania, once an arm of the Russian gas giant, has been run by Germany’s regulator since April but the latest move strengthens the government’s hand as it wrestles with an energy crisis caused by Moscow’s squeeze on gas flows. It’s part of a set of measures adopted on Tuesday to help stabilise the fragile energy industry. 

Russia dodges worst recession fears 

Economists from JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and other big banks are slashing their outlooks for the drop in output this year to as little as 3.5%, dismissing fears in the first months after the invasion that it could be the deepest in a generation. 

The improving outlook is adding to Kremlin confidence that it can weather the sanctions onslaught from the US and its allies even as leaders in those countries face increasing pressure from surging energy and food prices — trends the war has worsened. Even so, Russia’s economy is still facing the sharpest contraction since at least 2009. 

Russia’s war-weary tech talent floods into Georgia 

Georgia’s government estimates that 80,000 Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians now reside in the small Caucasus nation of four million. Of those, 20,000-25,000 work in IT and software, and about 30,000 are Russian citizens who arrived since the war began. 

As IT specialists, they see little future in Russia as the security services tighten control of the internet, international sanctions squeeze the economy and foreign companies exit. The exodus comes as Russian tech companies including internet giant Yandex struggle amid deepening censorship, shortages of key equipment, and a backlash in foreign markets. DM


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