Ukraine live briefing: Zelensky accuses Russia of targeting grain facilities

Firefighters are at a building hit by a Russian drone in Ukraine’s Odessa region on Wednesday. (Ukraine’s Operational Command/Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of carrying out further attacks on the country’s ports and grain infrastructure overnight, targeting the south in particular. The military’s southern command released photos of the damage caused when fires started at industrial and port facilities, while the Ukrainian Defense Ministry tweeted Wednesday that a grain silo in the inland port of Izmail — a key alternative to Black Sea ports for Ukrainian exports — was damaged. Russia has repeatedly targeted port facilities since withdrawing from a U.N.-backed grain deal last month, blocking vital exports to many countries.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia is moving forward, the Pentagon’s spokesman said in response to media questions about whether Ukraine has made significant gains. “It has and will continue to be a tough fight for them,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters.

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

The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, said the strikes against port infrastructure demonstrated Russia’s disregard for civilians. “Russia has no desire for peace, no thought for civilian safety, and no regard for people around the world who rely on food from Ukraine,” she tweeted Wednesday. The Ukrainian air force said it shot down 23 Iranian-made drones launched by Russia from several directions overnight.

The overnight attacks destroyed 40,000 tons of grain earmarked for countries in Africa, as well as China and Israel, according to Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakova. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said wreckage from a drone also damaged a building in the capital but that no one was hurt. In the southern region of Kherson, Oleksandr Prokudin, the regional governor, said on Telegram that two people were injured in overnight shelling.

Ryder said Ukraine’s counteroffensive would be “a marathon and not a sprint,” echoing recent comments by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Ryder said he was confident that Ukraine will continue to have the means to wage its counteroffensive. On Wednesday, the Russian-appointed governor of Zaporizhzhia, Yevgeny Balitsky, wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian forces tried to break through Russian lines in the southeastern region but were unsuccessful. The Washington Post was unable to verify the claim.

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the Black Sea grain deal with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a telephone call Wednesday, both countries confirmed. Erdogan stressed the importance of the deal, while Putin said he would “return to the grain deal as soon as the West fulfills its obligations.” An adviser to Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, criticized the international community for “humiliatingly” asking Russia to return to the grain deal in exchange for turning “a blind eye to your [Russia’s] threats and crimes.”

Ukrainian law enforcement officials announced that they were investigating a large-scale draft evasion scheme involving falsified medical certificates declaring participants unfit for service. Those involved, including officials from the Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi territorial recruitment center and members of the military medical commission, also destroyed official documentation in an effort to cover up their activities, the national police reported Tuesday.

Russia began naval exercises in the Baltic Sea on Wednesday. The country’s Defense Ministry wrote on Telegram that over 30 warships and about 6,000 service members are taking part in the drills, known as Oceanic Shield 2023.

Ukraine’s Economy Ministry expects the country’s economy to grow about 5 percent in 2024, a senior ministry official said, according to Reuters. Natalia Horshkova, chief of the ministry’s department for strategic planning and macroeconomic forecasting, said the growth will be fueled by reconstruction efforts and consumer spending. The ministry expects the war to end in 2024 and forecast Ukraine’s growth this year to be 2.8 percent. Ukraine’s economy contracted by more than 30 percent in 2022.

Ukraine’s birthrate has declined during the war. Almost 97,000 children were born in Ukraine during the first six months of the year, which is 28 percent fewer than the 135,000 babies born in the first six months of 2021, according to Opendatabot, a Ukrainian data website. Birthrates have been falling since 2013 by about 7 percent each year. Nearly 210,000 babies were born last year. In 2021, close to 278,000 babies were born.

Belarusian helicopters violated Polish airspace during a training exercise on Tuesday, Poland’s Defense Ministry said in a statement. The Belarusian Defense Ministry rebutted those claims, calling them “far-fetched.” Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak ordered more soldiers to deploy along the border.

Turkmenistan’s flagship airline has suspended flights to Moscow over safety concerns, hours after drones targeted a skyscraper in the Russian capital. “Due to the situation in the Moscow air zone, and based on a risk assessment in order to ensure flight safety, all Turkmenistan Airlines flights on the Ashgabat-Moscow-Ashgabat route will be suspended,” the airline said, according to Reuters. The statement did not specify how long the suspension would be in force.

Ukraine summoned Poland’s ambassador to its Foreign Ministry after a senior Polish official said Ukraine should “start appreciating” the country’s help. “During the meeting, it was emphasized that the statements about the alleged ingratitude of the Ukrainians for the assistance of the Republic of Poland do not reflect reality and as such are unacceptable,” the Ukrainian ministry said in a statement. In response, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the summoning of the Polish ambassador should never have happened.

Drones hit glitzy Moscow buildings as Ukraine says Russians should feel war: The Moscow-City complex, nestled west of the city center and decorated with glittering skyscrapers, has been hit repeatedly by drone attacks in recent days, report Francesca Ebel, Mary Ilyushina and Natalia Abbakumova. Among them is the IQ-quarter tower, which houses several government ministry offices. In an attack on Sunday, offices of a government ministry appeared to suffer serious damage, according to photographs published on Russian media.

In the same complex, at least 19 apartments have been registered to a cousin of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and the wife of another one of his cousins since 2013, according to the anti-corruption organization Global Witness.


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