Kyiv’s troops make ‘tactical advances’; Russia fires at cargo ship in Black Sea

Kyiv’s troops make ‘tactical advances’; Russia fires at cargo ship in Black Sea
A handout photo made available by the Zaporizhzhia City Council shows the aftermath of a rocket strike on a civil infrastructure in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, 10 August 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Zaporizhzhia City Council Handout)

Ukraine’s troops made ‘tactically significant advances’ along the administrative border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts, according to the military analysts at the Institute for the Study of War.

There were unconfirmed reports that Kyiv’s troops pushed Russian forces out of the strategically located village of Urozhaine on the eastern edge of the southern front, potentially opening the door to further advances toward occupied Mariupol and Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov. 

Seven people were killed by Russian shelling in the Kherson region, including an infant and a 12-year-old boy, said Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko. 

Moscow earlier vowed to retaliate for attempted missile strikes on Saturday against the Kerch Bridge that connects occupied Crimea with mainland Russia. Separately, Russia’s navy fired warning shots at a Palau-flagged cargo ship in the Black Sea to force it to submit to an inspection, the first such incident reported since Moscow pulled out of a key grain transit agreement last month.   

Still, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that the first “green shoots” toward a diplomatic solution to end the war had emerged during recent talks in Denmark and Saudi Arabia attended by Chinese officials. Speaking to the public broadcaster ZDF, Scholz didn’t rule out the delivery of Germany’s Taurus cruise missiles to Kyiv, which Ukrainian officials continue to lobby for. 

Latest developments

Russia opens fire to force Black Sea cargo ship inspection

The Russian navy opened fire on a cargo vessel in the Black Sea to force it to stop for checks, the defence ministry said, the first such confirmed incident since Moscow withdrew from a key grain export deal in July. 

The dry freight vessel Sukru Okan, sailing under the flag of Palau, had been heading to Ukraine’s port of Izmail when the naval patrol ship Vasiliy Bykov came across it in the southwestern part of the sea early on Sunday morning. 

The navy ordered the vessel to stop for inspection and when the operators of the Sukru Okan didn’t respond, it opened fire, Russia’s ministry said. 

When the vessel finally stopped, Russia sent a group of soldiers in a helicopter to board it for inspection. They later allowed the ship to resume its journey to Ukraine, the ministry said, without elaborating what cargo — if any — it was carrying. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin in July let lapse the agreement, brokered by Turkey and the UN, that allowed the safe passage of vessels exporting Ukrainian grains and other foodstuff from ports near Odesa.  

The defence ministry at that time said that all ships headed to Ukraine’s ports would be considered as potentially carrying military cargo. Ukraine made similar comments as the situation in the Black Sea — which is bordered by six countries — turned increasingly tense.

Since then, Ukraine drones crippled a Russian naval vessel and an oil tanker, putting Russian commodity exports via the Black Sea at risk for the first time. Russia has repeatedly targeted grain-export infrastructure in Odesa and beyond with missile strikes.   

Kyiv has said that it wants to reopen the trade routes despite the Kremlin’s threats. Most shipowners are wary of sending vessels and crews into harm’s way, though, while insurers view Ukraine’s ports as unsafe without the protection of the grain deal. 

Ukraine has laid out temporary Black Sea routes for ships that are willing to navigate waters threatened by Russia.  




US finally joins allies in sanctioning four Russian tycoons

The US imposed sanctions on four Russian tycoons who helped found the Alfa Group banking conglomerate, finally joining the UK and European allies that had restricted their assets soon after the Ukraine war began. 

The Treasury Department announced sanctions against Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, German Khan and Alexey Kuzmichev, partners in the group that controls Russia’s largest retailer and private bank. The four had been sanctioned for more than a year in Europe and have been challenging their designations in a series of legal actions.

“Wealthy Russian elites should disabuse themselves of the notion that they can operate business as usual while the Kremlin wages war against the Ukrainian people,” Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said in a statement. “Our international coalition will continue to hold accountable those enabling the unjustified and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.” 

It had been an enduring mystery why the US — which has slapped sanctions on hundreds of people and entities over the war — had held off punishing the four for so long given the allegations against them. When it imposed sanctions, the EU called Aven “one of Vladimir Putin’s closest oligarchs”, while the UK said Fridman was an “enabler” of the Russian president’s inner circle. The men have denied those claims.  

In Friday’s announcement, the US also included sanctions on the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, a business organisation it said has organised meetings to promote responses to sanctions and promoted substitutions for imports of sanctioned goods. Fridman was sanctioned in part for allegedly having acted on behalf of the group. 

Fridman has publicly condemned the war as a “tragedy,” saying “war can never be the answer”, but he stopped short of directly criticising Putin. One of Russia’s most prominent businessmen, Fridman and his partners have told the courts there’s no evidence he’s a Putin ally or that he’s backed or benefited from aggression in his native Ukraine.

Latvia is weighing whether to revoke Aven’s citizenship, which he acquired in 2016. The sanctions are “another important signal to the responsible Latvian institutions evaluating the legitimacy of his citizenship”, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said on the social media platform X.

Other wealthy Russians have managed to get sanctions against them lifted. Most recently, Russia-born billionaire Oleg Tinkov was removed from the UK’s sanctions list. Tinkov, who gave up citizenship after criticising the invasion of Ukraine, was sanctioned by UK authorities for his alleged ties to the Russian government, in particular through Tinkoff Bank. DM


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