Ukraine live briefing: Drone attack on Russian oil tanker near Crimea; Jeddah summit underway

A Russian navy amphibious landing ship that was deployed to transport cars across the Kerch Strait seen near the Crimean Bridge on July 17. (Alexey Pavlishak/Reuters)

A sea drone hit a Russian oil tanker near occupied Crimea on Saturday, damaging the vessel located in the Kerch Strait of the Black Sea region, Russia said. It is the second naval drone strike in two days, after an attack on the major Russian port of Novorossiysk on Friday, which a Ukrainian official said damaged a Russian warship. Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for either strike, but official sources have said both were carried out by the country’s navy and SBU intelligence service.

Representatives from 40 countries are attending Ukraine peace talks in Jeddah, a port city in Saudi Arabia. Russia will not be represented at the event, but the Chinese foreign ministry said that a senior official was attending.

Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the globe.

The Sig oil tanker was “afloat” with “no casualties” despite the engine room being damaged, Russia’s water transport agency said on Telegram, adding that the tanker’s 11 crew members were unharmed.

The sea drone targeting the tanker had been loaded with 450 kilos of explosives, a Ukrainian intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, told The Washington Post on Saturday. The tanker weighed almost 5,000 tons and began “flooding” with water flowing inside the ship after the naval drone strike at about midnight, the official said, adding that the blast created “fireworks” visible from afar. The Post could not independently verify the claims.

Friday’s strike on the Russian warship called the Olenegorsky Miner rendered it “unable to perform its combat tasks,” a Ukrainian government official told The Post on Friday. However Andrey Kravchenko, the head of Novorossiysk’s city administration, claimed that no damage was caused and that Russian forces “instantly reacted and helped to avoid the consequences of the attack.” The Post could not independently verify the claims.

Kyiv had vowed retaliation for Russia’s strikes on Ukrainian port cities, which followed Moscow’s withdrawal from the U.N.-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative. The Kerch Strait connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov and separates Russia from Crimea, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014. Russian officials had earlier shut down the Kerch Bridge, citing fears of an attack on the key thruway, but traffic has since resumed over the bridge, Russian state-run news agency Tass reported.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he hopes the Jeddah talks will lead to a fall summit to endorse principles based on his 10-point formula for peace. He tweeted that it was critical for countries from the Global South to attend and discuss issues including food security and trade. “It is very important that the world sees: a fair and honest end to Russian aggression will benefit everyone in the world.”

The U.N. nuclear watchdog said it had been granted access to the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after repeated requests. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement that, so far, it has not found any explosives at the plant or on its rooftops after both Moscow and Kyiv accused the other of planning to stage an attack at the largest facility of its kind in Europe. They have also traded blame for deteriorating conditions at the plant. The IAEA said it will continue to inspect the facilities.

Russia plans to nearly double its defense budget to more than $100 billion, making it a third of all public expenditure, Reuters reported. The increase comes as rising war costs pushed Russia’s budget deficit to around $28 billion in the first half of this year.

Russian soprano Anna Netrebko sued the Metropolitan Opera and its general manager, alleging that the institution’s decision to cancel her performances after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused losses of up to $360,000 relating to missed performances and rehearsals and “severe mental anguish and emotional distress.” The Opera demanded last year that Netrebko — a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin before the war who has since distanced herself from the leader — repudiate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie visited Kyiv and met with Zelensky on Friday. Zelensky said in his nightly address that the two talked about “how important it is to strengthen support for freedom, support for democracy.” Christie has voiced support for Ukraine as a democratic ally and his visit highlighted the sharp GOP divisions over U.S. financial backing for Kyiv.

The United States is the leading financial supporter of Ukraine’s fight against Russia, committing more than $60 billion in aid since the beginning of Moscow’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. The Post took a look at the amount of U.S. spending powering Ukraine’s defense.

Lithuania labeled 1,164 Russian and Belarusian citizens living in the country a “threat” to national security, putting their residency status into jeopardy. The ruling will revoke some existing residency permits and deny new applications for others, after the government’s Migration Department issued a mandatory questionnaire asking the residents for their views on the Ukraine war and status of Crimea, among other issues. Lithuania, a European Union and NATO member, declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1990 and has been a vocal backer of Kyiv.

Navalny is sentenced to 19 years for ‘extremism’ as Kremlin crushes dissent: Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was convicted of “extremism” charges on Friday and sentenced to 19 years in a “special regime” prison colony. The sentence bars him from family visits or even letters for 10 years and comes on top of existing sentences of more than 11 years, Robyn Dixon reports.

The cases are widely viewed as trumped up for political retribution. But the extreme nature of the sentence shocked even pro-Kremlin figures, one of whom wrote on social media that “Navalny got horror.”

“I perfectly understand that, like many political prisoners, I am sitting on a life sentence,” he said in a comment posted on social media after the verdict, adding that the brutality of the sentence was designed to frighten Russians as he urged them not to lose the will to resist.


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