'It's just hell': Ukraine says Russia has the advantage in battle for the Donbas; grain ship safely arrives in Turkey

‘It’s just hell’: Ukraine says Russia has the upperhand in Donbas; Germany blames Moscow for turbine trouble

Grain ship from Ukraine passes inspection, will continue passage

The first grain shipment to leave Ukraine during the war has passed an inspection in Turkey and will soon be able to continue its journey to its final destination in Tripoli, Lebanon.

“The Joint Inspection Team has completed its inspection activity on board RAZONI. The ship carrying 27 thousand tons of corn will pass through the Bosphorus to go to Lebanon in a short time,” Turkey’s Defense Ministry tweeted Wednesday.

The Sierra-Leone flagged Razoni ship left the port of Odesa on Monday, making history as the first cargo ship to leave one of the country’s ports in months following a block on Ukraine’s ports since the start of the war in February. The impasse has contributed to global price rises and shortages in basic goods, particularly wheat.

Turkey and the U.N. brokered a deal — called the Black Sea Grain Initiative — between Russia and Ukraine to enable shipments to resume, under the aegis of a Joint Coordination Centre comprising senior representatives from each of the countries.

Its role is to enable the safe transportation, by merchant ships, of grain and other foodstuffs and fertilizers from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea to the rest of the world. The ships have to be inspected to and from Ukraine as part of the deal with Russia, which fears they could be used to send arms to Ukraine. Kyiv, for its part, wants to ensure the correct commodities are exported.

— Holly Ellyatt

Nord Stream turbine can be transported anytime, Germany says

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has blamed Russia for delays in the return of a Nord Stream 1 turbine that has been serviced in Canada and returned to Germany, but has not yet been returned to working use in the pipeline in Russia.

“It [the turbine] can be transported and used at any time,” Scholz said during a factory visit to Siemens Energy in Mulheim an der Ruhr, Reuters reported.

“The non-fulfilment of the gas supply contracts has no technical reasons whatsoever,” Scholz said.

The German chancellor’s comments come after Gazprom, Russia’s state gas giant, again reduced gas flows through the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which it operates, to around 20% of the pipeline’s capacity, citing the need to repair equipment.

That came after a previous 10-day stoppage of gas flows for annual maintenance, including on the Siemens Energy turbine that was sent to Canada for repair work.

The repair was carried out, with Canada returning the turbine in mid-July, but it has since been stuck in Germany, and was visited by Chancellor Scholz today, as it waits to be taken back to the Russian Portovaya compressor station.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in front of a turbine of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline during a visit on August 3, 2022, to the plant of Siemens Energy in Mulheim an der Ruhr, western Germany, where the turbine is after maintenance work in Canada.

Sascha Schuermann | Afp | Getty Images

Germany has accused Russia of holding up the process. Russia, for its part, has repeatedly said sanctions relief would help resolve energy supply issues, and the repairing and transport of gas pipeline parts.

Gazprom’s gas supply curbs have provoked criticism and condemnation in Germany and the rest of the EU, which has been reliant on Russia for around 45% of its gas imports. The bloc is trying to dramatically reduce its consumption of Russian gas, and has brought in gas rationing this coming winter, but in the meantime remains reliant on the supply.

Holly Ellyatt

Cease-fire could follow grain export deal, former German chancellor says

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in 2011.

Sasha Mordovets | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Germany’s former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has said Russia wants a negotiated solution to the war in Ukraine and that the resumption of grain exports from Ukraine could provide the foundation for a cease-fire.

“The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution,” Schroeder told Stern Weekly and broadcasters RTL/ntv in comments translated by Reuters.

“A first success is the grain deal, perhaps that can be slowly expanded to a ceasefire,” he added.

Schroeder said solutions to problems such as Crimea, and the question of whether an cease-fire would see the Russian-annexed territory returned to Ukraine, could be found over time, “maybe not over 99 years, like Hong Kong, but in the next generation.”

Schroeder’s close friendship with Putin is well documented and his pro-Russia views have not gone down well in Germany of late.

Germany’s ruling Social Democratic Party has launched proceedings that could see Schroeder expelled from the party over his close ties to Putin and Russian energy companies, as he is chairman of the Nord Stream gas pipeline shareholders’ committee. He stood down from the board of Russia’s state-owned oil company Rosneft in May.

Holly Ellyatt

First grain shipment out of Ukraine in months reaches Turkey safely

The first grain ship to leave Ukraine in months has arrived safely in Turkish waters, where it will be inspected before it continues its journey to Lebanon.

The shipment comes after a deal was brokered between Russia and Ukraine by Turkey and the United Nations to allow vital exports to resume from the country after a blockade that contributed to global shortages of wheat and cooking oil, of which Ukraine is a major producer and exporter.

The ship was carrying more than 26,000 tonnes of corn and is due to undergo an inspection in Istanbul before continuing to Tripoli.

An aerial view of Sierra Leone-flagged dry cargo ship Razoni which departed from the port of Odesa Monday, arriving at the Black Sea entrance of the Bosporus Strait, in Istanbul, Turkey, on August 3, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The U.N.-led Joint Coordination Centre requested that all parties inform their militaries of the ship’s movements in order to ensure its safe passage from Ukraine through the Black Sea, where much of the coast has been mined by both Russia and Ukraine amid the invasion, to Turkish waters in the Bosporus.

The agreement, which was reached after much negotiation between the warring countries, has been hailed as a rare success for international diplomacy, with some officials hoping it could be built upon to potentially reach a cease-fire.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday after the merchant vessel, the Razoni, left the port of Odesa that it “was loaded with two commodities in short supply: corn and hope.”

“Hope for millions of people around the world who depend on the smooth running of Ukraine’s ports to feed their families. The ship’s departure is the first concrete result of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. It has been a long journey since I presented the proposal to the leaders of the Russian Federation and Ukraine at the end of April,” he said. The Razoni’s departure was, he added, an “enormous collective achievement.”

— Holly Ellyatt

‘It’s just hell’: President Zelenskyy describes the situation in the Donbas

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the situation in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine, the epicenter of the war in Ukraine, is “just hell.”

Describing Russia’s “fire superiority” in his nightly video message, Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s forces “still cannot completely break the advantage of the Russian army in artillery and in manpower, and this is very felt in the battles, especially in Donbas – Pisky, Avdiyivka, other directions.” 

“It’s just hell. It can’t even be described in words,” he added.

Firefighters try to put out a fire after the Russian shelling of a house in Bakhmut in Donetsk, Ukraine, on July 27, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

With intense fighting in the Donbas, Ukraine has ordered residents in one of its constituent regions, Donetsk, to evacuate while Kyiv discusses the need for more weapons with its international allies. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg spoke with President Zelenskyy about more military aid for Ukraine, tweeting Wednesday that “it’s vital that NATO and allies provide even more assistance to Ukraine even faster.”

People board the evacuation train from the Donbas region to the west of Ukraine, at the train station in Pokrovsk, on August 2, 2022.

Bulent Kilic | Afp | Getty Images

He said that the two also discussed the first shipment of grain since Russia’s late February invasion and subsequent naval blockade of Ukrainian ports.

Zelenskyy also commented on the initial success of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal between Russia and Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations, to enable the resumption of exports of vital produce from Ukraine by sea.

“Our goal now is to have regularity: so that when one ship leaves the port, there should be other ships as well – both those loading and those on the approach to the port. Continuity and regularity is the necessary principle. All consumers of our agricultural products need it,” he said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Read CNBC’s previous blog here:

Two Republican senators propose amendments ahead of the vote to add Finland and Sweden to NATO

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (C), Finland Ministers for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (L) and Sweden Foreign minister Ann Linde (R) give a press conference after their meeting at the Nato headquarters in Brussels on January 24, 2022.

John Thys | AFP | Getty Images

Two Republican senators have proposed amendments on the vote to add Sweden and Finland to NATO.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, both are seeking changes to the treaty vote as Congress prepares to head into recess.

Paul told NBC News that his amendment states that “nothing in the Article Five portion of the NATO Treaty supersedes the congressional directive that we have to declare war.” The NATO provision holds than an attack on one member of the alliance is an attack on all members.

Sullivan told NBC News that his amendment states that every member of NATO, to now include Sweden and Finland, should commit to the 2% of GDP spending on defense goal established at the 2014 NATO Wales Summit.

The vote to include Sweden and Finland in NATO is expected to overwhelmingly pass.

— Amanda Macias

U.S. slaps more sanctions on Russian officials and oligarchs

Red Square, Moscow

Mike Hewitt | Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced new sanctions on Russian oligarchs and state-owned entities.

Below is the State Department’s fact sheet of imposed penalties on the following Russian oligarchs:

  • Alexander Ponomarenko “for operating or having operated in the aerospace sector of the Russian economy. He is an oligarch with close ties to other oligarchs and the construction of Vladimir Putin’s seaside palace.” He has been sanctioned by the U.K., European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Dmitry Pumpyanskiy “for operating or having operated in the financial services sector of the Russian Federation economy.” The U.K., European Union and New Zealand have also designated him. Pumpyanskiy has ties to the yacht “Axioma,” which is now being identified as blocked property.
  • Andrey Melnichenko “for operating or having operated in the financial services sector of the Russian Federation economy.” Like Pumpyanskiy, he has also been designated by the U.K., European Union, and New Zealand.

“We are also imposing additional costs on Russia’s war machine by designating 24 Russian defense and technology-related entities,” Blinken wrote in a statement. 

“Russia has systematically focused on exploiting high-technology research and innovations to advance Moscow’s war-fighting capabilities – the same defense capabilities that Russia’s military is using in its vicious attacks hitting Ukraine’s population centers and resulting in the deaths of civilians, including children,” he added.

— Amanda Macias

March was the deadliest month of Russia’s war in Ukraine, UN says

The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner said that March was so far the deadliest month in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

There were more than 3,100 civilian casualties and 2,400 injuries due to the conflict in March, according to data compiled by the UN.

Total civilian casualties from 24 February to 31 July 2022 as compiled by the United Nations.

U.N. Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner

The United Nations has confirmed 5,327 civilian deaths and 7,257 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects, including shelling from heavy artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, missiles and air strikes,” the UN office wrote in a report.

The human rights office added that the majority of casualties and injuries were reported in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

— Amanda Macias

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