Russia threatens to pull out of Black Sea grain deal; SA’s Ramaphosa says Putin arrest warrant ‘under discussion’

Russia threatens to pull out of Black Sea grain deal; SA’s Ramaphosa says Putin arrest warrant ‘under discussion’
Ukrainian rescuers remove debris after a rocket attack on the local history museum in the city of Kupiansk, Kharkiv region, northeastern Ukraine, 25 April 2023.(Photo: EPA-EFE / STR)

Russia threatened to pull out of the United Nations-brokered grain deal to protect Ukrainian shipments after accusing Kyiv of launching an attack on its Black Sea fleet with unmanned boats.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said the weaponised craft were launched from the Ukrainian port of Odesa, which is central to the grain deal. A Ukrainian intelligence official called accusations that Ukraine was using a humanitarian corridor for an attack “deceptive manipulation”, according to broadcaster Suspilne. 

Moscow has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the deal. Wheat markets brushed off the latest warning, extending losses to the lowest level since July 2021 on prospects for ample global supply. 

Key developments

Sweden expels five Russian diplomats  

Sweden expelled five diplomatic staff members from the Russian embassy, broadcaster SVT reported. The ambassador was summoned by Swedish authorities. 

“Their activities on our territory have been incompatible with their status as diplomats,” said Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom in an interview.

Ramaphosa says Putin arrest warrant ‘under discussion’  

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the matter of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin ahead of his expected visit to the BRICS summit in August was “under consideration and discussion”.

Ramaphosa declined to specify the timing of the expected decision, speaking to reporters at a joint news conference with visiting Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö in Pretoria. The ICC relies on its member states, such as South Africa, to arrest suspects before it can hold a trial.

Could Putin really be prosecuted for war crimes?: QuickTake

Russian billionaire blasts EU bans in legal test  

Russian billionaire Dmitry Pumpyansky attacked European Union sanctions against him and his family as making them “collateral damage” in the bloc’s foreign policy efforts to thwart Putin.

Pumpyansky, his wife and son were sanctioned following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, subjecting them to stringent travel bans and asset freezes. The listings are “based on an abuse of power” and serve “no understandable, no reasonable purpose under the EU foreign policy goals”, one of the family’s lawyers told the EU’s lower court on Tuesday. 

EU bid to swap Russian gas for offshore wind is falling short  

European efforts to rapidly scale up offshore wind farms to help cut dependence on Russian natural gas and reduce planet-warming emissions are falling short as developers struggle to deliver projects. 

Significant changes in how governments offer new developments as well as incentives for hydrogen production are crucial to getting Europe on track to reach its renewable power goals, which are key to the EU’s climate and energy security plans, according to Rasmus Errboe, head of Europe for Orsted, the largest offshore wind farm developer in the region. 

Poland warns Russia can afford to wage war over longer term  

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned that Russia, shielded from democratic accountability, can afford to wage war in Ukraine in the longer term.

“Russia and its public opinion are patient,” he said at a briefing with Estonia’s premier, Kaja Kallas, in Warsaw. “It can withstand various election and democratic cycles. It’s a huge risk we are facing today.”

Estonia and Poland are seeking to strengthen security guarantees for Ukraine as they are too close to Russia to be neutral in the conflict, he said.

Kremlin sees economy growing, deficit on target  

Russia’s economy will grow by 1%-2% in 2023 and the budget deficit will shrink toward the government’s target after surging earlier in the year, Kremlin economic adviser Maxim Oreshkin said, according to Interfax.

“The deficit will be close to the target level” of 2% of gross domestic product, he told a Kremlin youth conference. “After a period of rather high expenditures at the start of the year, the budget will be in surplus through the end of the year,” he said.

A drop in revenue and spiking spending early this year led to record deficits, raising fears that the budget would come under more pressure, but the situation has steadied recently with government income rising and expenditures stabilising.




Russian ex-president reiterates that risk of nuclear war is rising 

Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian former president known for his threatening comments against the US and its allies, warned again that the risk of nuclear war is growing, state news agencies reported.

Speaking to a Kremlin youth group at a rocket factory outside Moscow, Medvedev described in detail the destructive power of a nuclear blast, saying, “Does that prospect exist today? Alas, yes, and it’s growing with every day for well-known reasons,” according to a video posted by RIA Novosti.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Medvedev, now deputy head of the Security Council, has repeatedly warned of the risk of nuclear war. The comments have drawn criticism not only from the US and its allies but also from China and India, which have supported Russia in the conflict.

Missile kills one, destroys museum in Ukraine 

Russian forces shelled the centre of Kupyansk, a city in Ukraine’s north-eastern Kharkiv region. The attack killed one person and wounded at least 10 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Telegram.

The strike destroyed a history museum in the centre of the city. Other victims were trapped under the rubble. Russia used S-300 air defence missiles in the attack, regional governor Oleh Synehubov said on Telegram. The city is some 36km from the border with Russia. 

Attack in Ukraine’s Donetsk kills two  

Two civilians were killed and 13 injured in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region in the past 24-hour period, Kharkiv governor Oleh Synehubov said on Telegram. A woman was killed by a Russian attack in the Kherson region, according to Governor Oleksandr Prokudin’s Telegram. DM


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