Turkey hosts grain export talks; companies warned that trading looted commodities could be ‘a war crime’

Turkey hosts grain export talks; companies warned that trading looted commodities could be ‘a war crime’
Soldiers of the US Army 1st Raider Brigade at the Grafenwoehr training grounds on 13 July 2022 near Grafenwoehr, Germany. (Photo: Lennart Preiss / Getty Images)

Turkey started talks on Wednesday with Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations on ways to resume grain exports from Black Sea ports blocked by Russian troops to ease pressure on global food markets.

The European Union is planning a set of urgent actions across the entire economy — including reductions to heating and cooling use and some market-based measures — to mitigate the impact of a possible natural gas supply cut-off by Russia.

The trading of looted commodities could constitute a war crime, Switzerland’s top prosecutor said in a thinly veiled warning to any company considering trading in coal, grain or other foodstuff found to be pillaged from Ukraine.  

Key developments

On the ground

Ukrainian rescue workers were still recovering bodies from the debris of a five-storey apartment block where at least 47 people were killed, according to the State Emergencies Service. Russian rockets hit the building near Kramatorsk in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region over the weekend, in one of the deadliest such attacks of the war. Russian forces continued shelling the Slovyansk area, according to a Ukraine General Staff statement. Russia also struck the Dnipro region further west overnight, the regional governor, Valentyn Reznichenko, said on his Telegram account. 

Ukraine police say Russian shelling set off grain field fires 

Sparks from Russian shells sparked fires in grain fields in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, destroying wheat and rapeseed crops across more than 600 hectares, according to Ukraine’s national police. More than 800 hectares of wheat fields in the region were destroyed in the same way last week, the police said. 

As a global grain shortage worsens, farmers in Ukraine started harvesting last month and harvesting is in full swing.

US demands Russia stop mass deportations of Ukrainians 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanded that Moscow halt the detention and forced or coerced removal of Ukrainian citizens to Russia and let independent observers access “filtration facilities” and areas where the Ukrainians are being sent.

Blinken said estimates including those from the Russian government indicate as many as 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens had been forcibly deported from areas occupied by Russian forces, including more than a quarter of a million children in what he called “an apparent effort to change the demographic makeup of parts of Ukraine”.

Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian troops of abducting, disappearing, torturing and executing thousands of people. Forcibly displacing people is considered a war crime. The Kremlin has said Ukrainians are fleeing to Russia voluntarily and it is offering them aid.  

Ukraine expects to get $4.4bn in aid in July 

Ukraine expects to get $4.4-billion from international partners this month, Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said. It will be on par with June, he said in a TV interview. Marchenko reiterated that Ukraine needs $5-billion a month to finance the budget gap.

EU updates guidance on sanctioned shipments to Kaliningrad  

The EU stood by its previous guidance that sanctioned goods transiting from Russia through member states isn’t allowed by road, but added that there is no prohibition on rail transit.

The EU issued a statement following a request from Lithuania on the bloc’s position on the issue, which affects the transit of goods to Russia’s Baltic exclave Kaliningrad.

Turkey hosts talks on Ukraine grain exports 

Talks began in Turkey with Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations on ways to resume grain exports from Black Sea ports blocked by Russian troops. 

Ukraine says 22 million tonnes of grain are waiting to be shipped as the new harvest is now being reaped.  




Donetsk separatists say North Korea recognises independence 

North Korea recognised the independence of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, the head of Ukraine’s separatist region, Denis Pushilin, said in a statement, according to the Interfax news service. 

Putin’s daughter to help economy beat sanctions, RBC reports  

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s younger daughter has been handed a new role with the country’s most powerful business lobby to help beat the impact of international sanctions over his war in Ukraine, the RBC newspaper reported.

Katerina Tikhonova, who is sanctioned by the US and its allies, was named co-chairman of a committee to coordinate import-substitution efforts by the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, known as RSPP, according to the report.

Ukraine starts harvest in areas it controls 

Ukraine has begun harvesting grain in all of the regions that the government controls and yields are “not bad,” Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotskyi said.

“We are constantly working to find all available routes for grain export — by trucks, railway and the Danube River,” he said, adding that the Danube won’t compensate for capacity lost at Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. 

“We are waiting for the results” of grain talks in Turkey, as “any positive agreement that will allow the possibility to increase exports is already significant support”, Vysotskyi said.

EU plans steps to cushion impact of sudden Russian gas halt 

The EU is preparing for the risk that Moscow will halt the shipments of natural gas in an abrupt and unilateral way by recommending measures to curb gas consumption and lower future costs for businesses and consumers, according to a draft document seen by Bloomberg News.

The draft guidelines to member states include proposals on fuel-switching in industries and power production to save gas, market-based measures to incentivise less consumption by large users and information campaigns to reduce heating and cooling, as well as mandatory limits during extreme situations. 

Trading looted commodities could be war crime: Swiss AG  

The trading of looted commodities could constitute a war crime, Switzerland’s top prosecutor said in a thinly veiled warning to any company considering trading in coal, grain or other foodstuffs reportedly pillaged from Ukraine. 

In an opinion piece for Le Temps newspaper on Wednesday, Swiss Attorney-General Stefan Blaettler sketched out how economic crimes committed abroad could also be pursued by local prosecutors if linked to Swiss entities. 

Even if international criminal law typically invokes images of genocide or other crimes against humanity, some offences committed far from an ongoing conflict may still have a direct link to it and “this is especially the case with looting”, he wrote.




Europe gas prices rise over Nord Stream 

European natural gas prices gained for a second day as traders remain on edge over what to expect when Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline completes maintenance.

The pipeline is shut for planned works for 10 days, but Germany has voiced concerns that Russia may not fully return the link into service afterwards. Deliveries from Gazprom have been curbed for weeks, both via Nord Stream and Ukraine. 

Russia earns more despite lower oil exports 

Russia’s oil exports rose back above $20-billion in June despite lower shipments abroad because of a rally in energy prices, according to the International Energy Agency.

That was an increase of $700-million from a month earlier, even as Russia’s daily exports of crude oil and products fell by 250,000 barrels to 7.4 million barrels, the lowest since August, the IEA estimated in its monthly report published on Wednesday. 

Italy pulls ahead in cutting Russia reliance  

Italy has done more to reduce its dependency on Russian gas imports than any other country in Europe five months after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine sparked a global energy crisis.  

The country now relies on Russia for about a quarter of its gas imports, down from about 40% at the start of the year. Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, still imports about 35% of its needs from Russia. Across the EU, governments are rushing to fill gas storage sites and considering alternative energy supplies, even at a potential cost to the environment.  

China’s trade with Russia increases 

China’s total trade with Russia was worth 519 billion yuan ($77-billion) in the first half of the year, up 27% from the same period in 2021, according to China Customs. In the first five months of the year, exports to Russia slumped while imports jumped. Most of China’s imports from Russia are oil, gas and coal. 

The US has stepped up criticism of China for its diplomatic support of Russia following the start of the war, which has contributed to surging inflation around the globe. Washington has warned Beijing, which declared a “no limits” friendship with Russia shortly before the February invasion, that its companies and officials could face sanctions if the country moves to assist Putin’s war. 

Read more: Blinken blasts China’s support for Russia, calls out Xi 

Canada turbine deal covers two years – Globe

Canada’s agreement to allow the repair of Russian-owned turbines covers a period of as long as two years from now and would permit the import and re-export of six units, the Globe & Mail newspaper reported, citing two unidentified government officials.

It’s a much more extensive and long-lasting arrangement than was previously disclosed, the newspaper said. The arrangement allows Canada to revoke the sanction-relief permits at any time, it cited one of the officials as saying.

German officials have urged Canada to find a way to return the turbine, fearing Russia would use the issue as an excuse to shut down Nord Stream and cripple Germany’s ability to fill its gas storage tanks ahead of winter. The export decision was made over the objections of Ukraine’s government, which argued sending the pressurisation turbine back would undermine the sanctions regime against Russia. DM


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