Hungary's Orban Calls For More EU Money For Western Balkans, Not Only Ukraine
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on June 22 that the European Union should offer quicker membership to Bosnia-Herzegovina and other Western Balkans countries and should channel more funds to the region, not only to war-torn Ukraine. Orban, speaking during an official trip to Bosnia, said membership should be granted to the region's countries "no matter what they say in Brussels," adding that "the money cannot only be directed toward Ukraine." Orban has been at odds with the EU over Hungary's strengthening of ties with Russia and China and what Brussels sees as backsliding on democracy and freedoms. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Balkan Service, click here.
Blinken Says Moscow 'Failed A Long Time Ago' In War Goals, But Sees 'Very Hard Fight' Ahead
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia “failed a long time ago” in what it sought to achieve in its war against Ukraine and that Kyiv’s current counteroffensive has retaken substantial territory initially seized by Moscow, but he also warned of a long, "very hard fight" in the coming months.
“The objective was to erase Ukraine from the map, to eliminate its independence, its sovereignty, to subsume it into Russia. That failed a long time ago,” Blinken told CNN in an interview broadcast on July 23.
“Unlike the Russians, Ukrainians are fighting for their land, for their future, for their country, for their freedom,” Blinken said.
But he cautioned that the war -- now more than 500 days old -- would continue for at least “several months.”
Blinken said Ukraine has seen success in its counteroffensive, but he cautioned that progress going forward would not be easy.
"[Ukraine has] already taken back about 50 percent of what was initially seized," Blinken claimed, without being specific. "These are still relatively early days of the counteroffensive. It is tough.
"It will not play out over the next week or two. We’re still looking, I think, at several months."
Many Western observers had initially expressed optimism that Kyiv’s long-awaited counteroffensive could quickly clear Russian forces from occupied regions in the east and south of the country, but many have suggested that the going has been tougher than hoped.
In late June, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said progress against Russian forces was "slower than desired" but that Kyiv would not be pressured into speeding up its actions.
The comments come as fighting continues to rage in eastern and southern Ukraine, including reports of heightened attacks on civilian sites by Russian forces.
Ukrainian officials on July 23 said one person was killed and 22 wounded, including four children, in a fresh Russian missile strike on the Ukrainian port city of Odesa.
Russia’s military has launched strikes on the port city and other Ukrainian food export facilities over the past week after the Kremlin withdrew from a UN-brokered sea corridor agreement that allowed for the safe shipment of Ukrainian grain.
Kyiv has accused Moscow of targeting grain supplies and infrastructure vital to the deal.
“Missiles against peaceful cities, against residential buildings, a cathedral.... There can be no excuse for Russian evil. As always, this evil will lose. And there will definitely be a retaliation to Russian terrorists for Odesa. They will feel this retaliation,” Zelenskiy said in a post on Twitter after the fresh strike on Odesa.
Zelenskiy wrote on his Telegram channel on July 23 that Ukraine needs a full-fledged air shield to defeat Russian missile strikes.
"We have already shown that we can shoot down even those Russian missiles that terrorists especially boasted about. Thanks to the help of partners and air-defense systems provided to Ukraine, our sky defenders have saved thousands of lives,” Zelenskiy wrote.
“But for our entire territory, for all our cities and communities, we need more air-defense systems. The world should not get used to Russian terror -- it is necessary to defeat terror. And it is possible," Zelenskiy wrote.
With reporting by Reuters
Iran Bans Film Festival Over Poster Of Actress Without Hijab
Iranian authorities have banned a film festival that put out a publicity poster featuring an actress who was not wearing a hijab, state media reported on July 23. The ban comes after the Iranian Short Film Association (ISFA) released a poster for its Short Film Festival featuring Iranian actress Susan Taslimi in the 1982 film The Death of Yazdguerd. "The culture minister has personally issued an order to ban the 13th edition of the ISFA Film Festival, after using a photo of a woman without a hijab on its poster in violation of the law," state news agency IRNA reported. The festival had been scheduled for September. To read the original story by AFP, click here.
Four Police Officers Killed In Attack Blamed On 'Terrorists' In Southeastern Iran
Four police officers were killed in an attack in Iran’s restive Sistan-Baluchistan Province, officials and state media reported on July 23. The Tasmin news agency, which is affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, blamed “terrorists” for the attack. No group has yet claimed responsibility. Sunni Muslims make up a majority in Sistan-Baluchistan but are only about 10 percent of the population in Shi'a-dominated Iran overall. The province, which has been the site of anti-government protests in recent months, borders Pakistan and Afghanistan. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, click here.
Wagner Troops In Belarus 'Want To Go West' Into Poland, Lukashenka Quips During Meeting With Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks in St. Petersburg on July 23 with Belarusian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who was quoted as saying in an apparent joking tone that fighters of Russia's Wagner mercenary group who are now training Belarus's army were keen to push across the border into NATO member Poland.
"The Wagner guys have started to stress us. They want to go west. 'Let's go on a trip to Warsaw and Rzeszow'," he was quoted as saying.
To read the original story by AFP, click here. https://www.barrons.com/news/kyiv-warsaw-will-always-stand-united-ukraine-s-fm-9e2b5b49
Poland is moving extra troops toward the border with Belarus in response to the arrival of Wagner forces who relocated there after a short-lived mutiny in Russia last month.
The meeting comes two days after Moscow warned that any aggression against ally Belarus would be considered an attack on Russia. Putin said Moscow would use all means it has to react to any hostility toward Minsk.
While not sending his own troops to Ukraine, Lukashenka allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to launch its full-scale invasion on Ukraine in February 2022 and has since met with Putin frequently.
In comments to Lukashenka, Putin claimed that Ukraine's counteroffensive "had failed.”
"There is no counteroffensive," Russian news agencies quoted Lukashenka as saying.
Putin replied: "It exists, but it has failed."
Ukraine began its long-anticipated counteroffensive last month but has so far made only small gains against well-entrenched Russian forces.
U.S. General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on July 18 that the Ukrainian drive was "far from a failure" but would be long, hard, and bloody.
Lukashenka and Putin also repeated Moscow's oft-stated remarks suggesting that Poland has eyes on capturing parts of western Ukraine for itself, reversing some post-World War II border changes.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba respoded by saying Ukraine and Poland would "always stand united" and that "Putin's attempts to drive a wedge between Kyiv and Warsaw are as futile as his failing invasion of Ukraine."
"Unlike Russia, Poland and Ukraine have learned from history and will always stand united against Russian imperialism and disrespect for international law," Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
The remarks came two days after Putin angered Warsaw by saying western Poland was a "gift" from Soviet dictator Josef Stalin at the end of World War II, when the Allies set out the borders of postwar Europe.
With reporting from Reuters and AFP
At Least 31 Killed Over Past Three Days As Rain, Floods Rage In Afghanistan
At least 31 people have been killed and 74 others injured in flooding throughout Afghanistan over the past three days of heavy rains, Taliban authorities said on July 23. Authorities added that casualty figures were likely to rise and that hundreds of acres of agricultural land and more than 600 houses have been destroyed. Government spokesman Shafiullah Rahimi said most of the casualties were in Maidan Wardak Province. Authorities warned of the danger of sudden flooding in the Kabul and Helmand regions. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi, click here.
Russian Missile Strikes On Odesa Kill At Least One, Wound 22, Damage Orthodox Cathedral
At least one person was killed and 22 wounded, including four children, in fresh Russian missile strikes on the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, Ukrainian officials said on July 23.
An Orthodox cathedral was also seriously damaged in the overnight Russian military attack, Oleh Kiper, governor of southern Ukraine's Odesa region, said on the Telegram messaging app.
“Odesa: another night attack of the monsters,” wrote Kiper.
Some reports said that a second person had died from the Odesa strike, but that could not immediately be confirmed.
Russia’s military has launched military strikes on Odesa and other Ukrainian food export facilities over the past week after the Kremlin withdrew from a UN-brokered sea corridor agreement that allowed for the safe shipment of Ukrainian grain. Kyiv has accused Moscow of targeting grain supplies and infrastructure vital to the deal.
WATCH: Locals rushed to the Transfiguration Cathedral in the Ukrainian port city of Odesa to clear it from rubble after an overnight Russian missile attack on July 23. Odesa's largest Orthodox church was consecrated in 1809, destroyed by the Soviet authorities in 1939, and rebuilt in 2003. The city center is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kyiv would submit the attack on the Orthodox cathedral as evidence to the United Nations of Russia’s “systematic” destruction of religious sites in Ukraine during its invasion.
"The latest case is today's strike on the Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa. We will raise this issue at the next meeting of the UN Security Council on Ukraine to make it clear: Russia is the only threat to Ukrainian Orthodoxy," Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a Twitter post after the Russian strike on Odesa that “missiles against peaceful cities, against residential buildings, a cathedral.... There can be no excuse for Russian evil. As always, this evil will lose. And there will definitely be a retaliation to Russian terrorists for Odesa. They will feel this retaliation.”
Zelenskiy also urged Ukraine’s Western allies to speed up delivery of air-defense systems to help it defend itself against Russian missile “terror.”
“Thanks to the help of partners and air-defense systems provided to Ukraine, our sky defenders have saved thousands of lives. But for our entire territory, for all our cities and communities, we need more air-defense systems. The world should not get used to Russian terror -- it is necessary to defeat terror. And it is possible," Zelenskiy wrote.
Odesa's military administration said that the cathedral of the Moscow-linked Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) was severely damaged.
"The Kasperovska icon of the Mother of God, who is the patroness of Odesa, was retrieved from under the rubble," the administration said on its Telegram channel.
Andriy Palchuk, the cathedral's archdeacon, told Reuters that the missile strike had started a fire that only affected one corner of the cathedral containing nonhistoric religious artifacts for purchase by worshippers.
"When the right altar chapel -- one of the most sacred parts of the cathedral -- was hit, a missile piece flew through the whole cathedral and hit the area where we display icons, candles, and books for purchase," he said.
The Russian Defense Ministry reported strikes on targets in the area but denied it had struck the cathedral and claimed the building had probably been hit by a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile.
The Spaso-Preobrazhenskiy Cathedral, or the Transfiguration Cathedral, is Odesa's largest Orthodox church and was consecrated in 1809. It was destroyed by the Soviet authorities in 1939 but rebuilt in 2003.
In video posted to social media, Mayor Hennadiy Trukhanov is seen walking amidst the rubble inside the church.
Another video clip showed a man walking inside the cathedral repeating, "The church is no longer.… Lord, have mercy.”
Other photos and videos showed parts of the building destroyed and rubble inside with several icons lined up on the ground.
Ukraine's Southern Operational Command said Odesa was targeted with at least five types of missiles, including high-precision Onyx missiles, sea-to-shore Kalibr cruise missiles, and Iskander ballistic missiles.
The city's military administration said that air-defense systems had destroyed a "significant part" of them.
Andriy Yermak, Zelenskiy's chief of staff, repeated calls for more missiles and defense systems.
"The enemy must be deprived of the ability to hit civilians and infrastructure. More missile defense systems, as well as ATACMS -- this will help Ukraine," Yermak wrote on Telegram, referring to the long-range tactical missiles that Kyiv wants Washington to supply.
Odesa has been bombed several times since the start of the invasion, and in January the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO designated the historic center of the city as a World Heritage in Danger site.
On July 23, UNESCO issued a statement “strongly” condemning Russia’s “repeated attacks” against cultural and heritage sites.
“UNESCO is deeply dismayed and condemns in the strongest terms the brazen attack carried out by the Russian forces, which hit several cultural sites in the city center of Odesa, home to the World Heritage property,” it said.
It said the latest attack, in addition to taking human life, “damaged a number of significant cultural sites, including the Transfiguration Cathedral, the first and foremost Orthodox church in Odesa founded in 1794."
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP
U.S.-Sanctioned Russian Millionaire Found Dead In His Office
Millionaire Russian businessman Anton Cherepennikov, 40, founder of the ICS Holding technology conglomerate and who was subject to U.S. sanctions, was found dead in his Moscow office, Russian media reported on July 22, in the latest mysterious death of a prominent individual. The preliminary cause of death was listed as cardiac arrest. Cherepennikov in February was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury for being “the ultimate beneficial owner and head of Citadel,” which U.S. authorities said developed software designed to steal financial and personal information from computer networks. Reports also linked ICS Holding To Russian security services. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, click here.
Iran Summons Danish Envoy To Protest Koran Burning In Copenhagen
Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned the Danish ambassador to protest against "the desecration of the Koran in Copenhagen," the ministry tweeted on July 22. A day earlier, a man set fire to a book purported to be the Koran on a square across from the Iraqi Embassy in Copenhagen. Koran burnings are permitted in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, which all have legal protections for freedom of speech. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on July 22 that people who burned the Koran deserved the "most severe punishment." To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Bulgaria Approves Shipment Of Soviet-Era Armored Vehicles, Other Support For Ukraine
The Bulgarian parliament voted to send additional military and technical support to Ukraine, including some 100 Soviet-era armored vehicles from the NATO country’s reserves. The vote in parliament late on July 21 was 148-52 in favor of the government’s proposal to provide the aid to Kyiv, which is battling against Russia’s full-scale invasion that began in February 2022. In early July, the National Assembly instructed the government to speed up the process of renewal of stockpiles of weapons, ammunition, explosives, and other armaments, a move that could allow for the sending of reserve supplies to Ukraine. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Bulgarian Service, click here.
Prigozhin Registers 'Real Estate' Firm In Belarusian Village, Site Of Reported Tent Camp
Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has registered a "real estate management" firm in Belarus following his aborted mutiny against Russia's military leadership last month. Concord Management and Consulting was registered in the village of Tsel, with Prigozhin as chief, Reform.by news reported. In June, the Kremlin said it struck a deal with Prigozhin to end his insurrection, saying the mercenary leader would move to Belarus and have charges against him dropped, while his force would move to Belarus. His location now is uncertain. Tsel, a former garrison for members of a Belarusian missile brigade, is the site where a tent camp began to appear in June. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, click here.
Russia Says Military Correspondent Killed In Shelling In Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya
A Russian military correspondent for the state-run RIA Novosti news agency was killed during shelling in the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhya region, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said on July 22. The ministry identified the correspondent as Rostislav Zhuravlev. The ministry said RIA Novosti photojournalist Konstantin Mikhalchevsky was also injured. The Union of Journalists of Russia reported that an Izvestia correspondent and cameraman were also among the wounded. The reports could not independently be confirmed. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.
Poland Summons Russian Ambassador On Putin 'Provocative' Comments
Poland's Foreign Ministry on July 22 issued an "urgent" summons to the Russian ambassador to protest what Warsaw termed "provocative declarations" by President Vladimir Putin. Putin had on July 21 accused Warsaw of harboring territorial ambitions in western Ukraine, an oft-repeated Russian claim, as well as by Belarus, a close Moscow ally which Putin on July 21 promised to protect from a possible attack. Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski said the Russian ambassador was summoned following "provocative declarations” by Putin, as well as following “threats and other inimical actions by the Russian Federation with regard to Poland and our allies."
Relatives Of Tajik Man Detained In Germany Say They Lost Contact With Him For Weeks
The relatives of Babajon Karaboev, a Tajik man who was arrested in Germany on suspicion of being a member of the IS militant group, say they have lost contact with him for almost a month. Karaboev, 38, was arrested on June 27 in Bavaria. The Munich Prosecutor's Office said it is currently examining his case in relation to his alleged affiliation with IS. Firdavs, a relative of Karaboev, said his family has not been able to establish contact with him since June 26. Karaboev asked for asylum in Germany two years ago, after arriving there via Ukraine. His asylum request was rejected by German authorities last year. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Tajik Service, click here.
Orban Says Romanian Foreign Ministry Gave Him A List Of Topics To Avoid In Speech
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told a large audience in central Romania on July 22 that the Foreign Ministry in Bucharest has given him a list of sensitive topics he should avoid in his public addresses at an annual event held by leaders of Romania's Hungarian minority in Transylvania.
Orban last year triggered a wave of international criticism after a speech at the same event in Baile Tusnad in which he warned against mixing with "non-Europeans."
His words at the time were harshly criticized by the United States, the European Parliament, and Jewish community representatives.
"Every year, choosing what our topics for discussion should be causes headaches," Orban told an audience of several thousand mostly ethnic Hungarians on July 22.
"I understand that this year Romania's Foreign Ministry came to our help and told me what I have permission to talk about and what not, and what I should avoid," he said. "They told us all this in an official document, I am letting you know."
Orban, who has been in power since 2010, has been at odds with the European Union, of which Hungary is a member, over Brussels' concerns about a democratic backslide and corruption in his country, which the European Parliament last year classified as an "electoral autocracy."
Orban, who touts himself as a defender of Christian values, has also been at odds with the EU over Hungary's hard-line anti-immigration policies and LGBT rights.
He has also had disagreements with the bloc over his government's refusal to send arms to Ukraine. Orban has been against the EU's imposing sanctions on Russia and has kept warm relations with President Vladimir Putin.
Orban said that among the topics the Romanian Foreign Ministry letter listed as not permitted for discussion were minorities' rights, national symbols, and presenting Western values in a bad light.
"Western values are migration, LGBT [rights], and war. We do not have to put them in a bad light, since they themselves do that," Orban said, to the applause of the audience.
Romania's ethnic Hungarian minority numbers some 1.2 million, or 6 percent of the total population, and it is mostly concentrated in three districts in the central part of the country.
Orban claimed that Hungary's upcoming EU presidency in the second half of next year would be critical for Romania's being finally admitted in the Schengen free travel zone.
However, there has been discussion about Brussels delaying Hungary's rotative EU presidency due to its backsliding on democracy. Furthermore, approval of the accession of a country into the Schengen zone must be given unanimously by all the other 26 members of the group.
With reporting by g4media.ro
Girkin Associate Briefly Detained In Moscow
Pavel Gubarev, an associate of Igor Girkin (aka Strelkov), the former military commander of Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine who was sent to pretrial detention following his criticism of President Vladimir Putin, was briefly detained by security forces in Moscow on July 21 after picketing the Meshchansky district court building to demand Girkin's release.
The Meshchansky court on July 21 sent Girkin to two-month pretrial detention on an extremism charge for criticizing Putin and senior military officials for what he said was their ineffective war campaign in Ukraine. Girkin entered a plea of not guilty.
Girkin was sentenced in absentia to life in prison by a Dutch court in November in the case of the 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in which all 298 people on board died. He was also placed on a sanctions list by Western countries. Russia has denied any involvement in the shooting down of the plane.
Gubarev, who used to be the self-styled governor of the separatist-held part of Ukraine's Donetsk region, was taken away by police while talking to the media about Girkin's case.
Gubarev's detention prompted a group of his and Strelkov's supporters gathered outside the courthouse to chant "Freedom" and "Shame."
Gubarev was released an hour later after which he said he was lectured by authorities about the illegality of picketing.
Two other people -- a girl holding poster reading "Strength in truth" and a young man who displayed the slogan "Freedom to Strelkov" on his smartphone -- were also detained by police outside the court. Their fate was not immediately known.
As self-styled governor, Gubarev survived an assassination attempt back in 2014.
Girkin was a key commander of Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region in 2014 where Gubarev was the Moscow-installed governor. Girkin also helped Russia illegally annex Ukraine's Crimea that year.
His arrest appears to indicate he has fallen out of favor with the Kremlin despite previously being seen as untouchable given his background.
A former officer of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), Girkin was reportedly involved in the early 1990s in the Transdniester and Bosnia wars, where he is said to have fought on the side of Russian and Serb separatists, respectively.
Girkin, who as a military blogger has strongly backed Russia's invasion of Ukraine, has sharply criticized Putin, recently referring to him as a “nonentity” and a “cowardly mediocrity.”
He lashed out also at Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for "mistakes" in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, accused him and Putin of "incompetence," and argued that a total mobilization is needed for Russia to achieve victory.
In one of his harshest rants, Girkin said in a July 18 post on his official Telegram channel that Putin should transfer power "to someone truly capable and responsible." The post has garnered almost 800,000 views.
With reporting by Meduza, TASS, Interfax, Mediazona, RBK, RFE/RL's Russian Service, and AFP
Dozhd TV Journalist Included On Russia's 'Foreign Agents' List
Russia's Justice Ministry on July 21 declared journalist of independent Latvia-based Dozhd TV channel Mikhail Kozyrev a foreign agent. The ministry also included on the foreign agents list ex-State Duma deputy Konstantin Borovoy, activist Pavel Sulyandziga, and journalist Aleksandr Litvinov, the administrator of the Planerka Telegram channel. Since 2012, Russia has used its so-called foreign agent laws to label and punish critics of government policies. It also has been increasingly used to shut down civil society and media groups in Russia since the Kremlin launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February last year. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.
Crimea Bridge 'Must Be Neutralized,' Zelenskiy Says
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on July 21 that the Crimea bridge connecting Russia with occupied Crimea must be "neutralized." The bridge over the Kerch Strait is "used to supply ammunition for war, and this is done every day," Zelenskiy said, speaking virtually to the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. Zelenskiy considers the bridge a continuation of the Russian occupation of Crimea, calling the structure "an enemy object built outside the law, outside international laws and all applicable norms." The bridge was damaged on July 16 in an attack that Russia said Ukraine carried out using seaborne drones. To read the original story on RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.
Ukraine Coordinating With Turkey To Restore Grain Export Deal, Zelenskiy Says
Ukraine and Turkey are discussing the possibility of reviving the Black Sea grain agreement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on July 21 after a telephone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"We coordinated efforts to restore the work of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Unblocking the grain corridor is an absolute priority," Zelenskiy said.
He added that the world is once again on the brink of a food crisis due to Russia's decision to quit the deal that had allowed the safe export of Ukrainian grain through Black Sea ports.
"The threat of famine hangs over a total of 400 million people in many countries of Africa and Asia. With joint efforts, we must avert a global food catastrophe," Zelenskiy said.
Zelenskiy previously declared Ukraine's readiness to continue grain exports without cooperation from Russia. He said that Ukraine, the UN, and Turkey could jointly ensure the operation of the grain corridor and the inspection of ships.
The press service of the Turkish leader also reported that Erdogan and Zelenskiy discussed an extension of the grain export deal, Anadolu said.
Erdogan said earlier that he intends to discuss the extension of the agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin in talks next month. He has said those talks could lead to the restoration of the deal. He has called on Western countries to consider Russia's demands, which include the lifting of a ban on its banks from using the SWIFT international payments method.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington is looking to Turkey to help restart the initiative.
"We look to Turkey to play the role that it's already played, a leadership role in getting this back on track, making sure that people around the world can get the food they need at reasonable prices," Blinken said in an interview at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.
Russia's decision to suspend its participation in the deal also was discussed in a UN Security Council session on July 21.
The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said the consequences of Russia’s decision are that "some will go hungry, some will starve, many may die."
Griffiths told the Security Council that a spike in grain prices since Russia quit a deal "potentially threatens hunger and worse for millions of people."
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russia had no legitimate reasons for quitting the deal.
"They would have you believe that sanctions have blocked their exports. That couldn't be further from the truth," Thomas-Greenfield said. "Russia is simply using the Black Sea as blackmail.... It's holding humanity hostage."
Russian Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said Moscow does not object to the Black Sea deal "especially given its significance per the global food market for many states" and would return to it if its list of demands was met.
Russia's grain and fertilizer exports are not subject to Western sanctions, but Moscow said restrictions on payments, logistics, and insurance have been a barrier to shipments.
Polyanskiy told the Security Council Russia had harvested 156 million tons of grain over the past year, and exported 60 million tons. But he complained Russia operated at a loss due to lower grain prices and higher costs for cargo, foreign transactions, and imports of agricultural production machinery and spare parts.
With reporting by AP and Anadolu
Kyiv Strikes Occupied Crimea, Suspending Bridge Traffic, As Russian Shelling Kills Seven
KYIV -- Ukrainian troops struck an oil depot and an ammunition warehouse of the Russian Army in Russian-annexed Crimea, the Ukrainian military's communications department confirmed on July 22.
The Moscow-installed governor of the region, Sergei Aksyonov, said a Ukrainian drone blew up an ammunition depot on the peninsula, prompting the evacuation of people in a 5-kilometer radius and the brief suspension of rail traffic on the Crimea Bridge, which had been struck by at least two explosions earlier this week, when two people were killed and road traffic was halted temporarily.
The Russian Health Ministry was quoted by news agencies as saying at least 12 people required medical assistance, with four taken to the hospital.
The reports, which could not be independently confirmed, came a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on July 22 that the Crimea Bridge was a legitimate target because it was a military supply route for Russia.
Meanwhile, Russian shelling and air strikes on Ukrainian civilian areas and grain export infrastructure have killed at least seven people, including two children, and caused massive material damage over the past 24 hours, military and regional officials said on July 22.
The Russian Army launched 16 cruise missiles and more than 20 air strikes on Ukrainian positions and populated areas, the General Staff of the Armed Forces said in its daily report.
In the eastern region of Donetsk, where heavy fighting has been taking place for months, Russian shelling killed four people, including two children, a 10-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on July 22.
Kyrylenko said the two siblings died when one of the shells fired by Russian troops hit the courtyard of their house. An elderly woman was also wounded and hospitalized, Kyrylenko said.
In the northern region of Chernihiv, two elderly women were killed when a Russian missile struck their village, regional Governor Vyacheslav Chaus said.
In the village of Nyu-York, some 40 kilometers south of Bakhmut, four civilians, including a couple, were killed and one woman was wounded by Russian shelling, Kyrylenko said.
The military also said grain storage facilities in southern Ukraine were damaged and more than 70 civilian residential buildings and other infrastructure were destroyed or damaged.
In the northeastern Sumy region, one person was killed early on July 22 in the Russian shelling of Krasnopyl village, the regional military administration reported.
Separately, Ukrainian air defense said on July 22 that it had shot down five Iranian-made kamikaze drones overnight.
The previous day, missile strikes pounded Ukrainian Black Sea port installations for the fourth day in a row, setting grain storage facilities in the Odesa region on fire and destroying huge amounts of food stored for export.
"Unfortunately, a grain terminal of one of the agricultural enterprises of the Odesa region was hit. The enemy destroyed 100 tons of peas and 20 tons of barley. Two people were wounded in the explosion," regional Governor Oleh Kiper said on Telegram.
Russia on July 21 said its navy had carried out a live-fire "exercise" in the northwest Black Sea just days after the Kremlin said cargo ships en route to Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea would be regarded as potential military targets.
The Black Sea Fleet "carried out live firing of anti-ship cruise missiles at the target ship in the combat training range in the northwestern part of the Black Sea," the ministry said on Telegram.
Zelenskiy met on July 21 with military commanders to discuss the situation at the front and about the grain initiative.
In New York, the UN's political affairs chief told the Security Council on July 21 that Russia's attacks on Ukrainian Black Sea ports risk "having far-reaching impacts on global food security, in particular, in developing countries."
Rosemary DiCarlo also said threats -- made by both Russia and Ukraine -- about the potential targeting of civilian vessels in Black Sea waters are unacceptable.
China's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, Geng Shuang, called on both Russia and Ukraine to quickly resume grain exports after Russia's withdrawal from the deal.
Zelenskiy on July 22 spoke by phone with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg about Moscow's decision to terminate the Black Sea grain deal and Kyiv's relationship to NATO.
Stoltenberg tweeted after the call that "we strongly condemn Moscow’s attempt to weaponize food. Allies stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes & following NATO Summit, Ukraine is closer to NATO than ever before."
Zelenskiy tweeted that the two discussed measures to restart transport of grain across the Black Sea and "further actions regarding the integration of Ukraine into NATO."
On the battlefield, Russian forces are relentlessly attacking Ukrainian positions in Donetsk and another eastern region, Kharkiv.
"The enemy continues to focus its main efforts on Kupyansk [Kharkiv region], Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiyivka, and Maryinka [Donetsk region], where 40 close combat battles were fought over the past 24 hours," the General Staff said on July 22.
Ukrainian forces are continuing their counteroffensive in the Melitopol and Berdyansk directions in the southern region of Zaporizhzhya, the military said, without providing further details.
Also on July 22, the Russian military said Rostislav Zhuravlev, a war correspondent working for state-run RIA Novosti news agency, died during shelling by Ukrainian forces in Russian-occupied Ukraine in the Zaporizhzhya region.
Russian authorities claimed cluster munitions were used in the shelling, although the situation could not be independently confirmed. Ukraine did not comment.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
Armenian PM Says Another War With Azerbaijan 'Likely' Unless Peace Treaty Is Signed
Armenia Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian says a fresh war with Azerbaijan remains a high probability in the absence of a peace treaty between the two countries.
"So long as a peace treaty has not been signed and such a treaty has not been ratified by the parliaments of the two countries, of course, a [new] war [with Azerbaijan] is very likely," Pashinian said in an interview with AFP published on July 21.
Baku and Yerevan have fought two wars over Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian-populated mountainous enclave that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. The most recent war lasted six weeks in late 2020 and left 7,000 soldiers dead on both sides.
As a result of the war, Azerbaijan regained control over a part of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts. The war ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire under which Moscow deployed about 2,000 troops to serve as peacekeepers.
Armenia and Azerbaijan in recent weeks have engaged in rounds of diplomacy aimed at reaching a lasting peace deal but there have been sporadic border clashes, and the talks have not yet yielded a breakthrough.
Tensions have remained high over the situation on the Lachin Corridor, the only road linking Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan earlier this month suspended traffic through a checkpoint on the corridor pending an investigation after it said "various types of contraband" had been discovered in Red Cross vehicles coming from Armenia.
The suspension of traffic heightened concerns over a humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh. Both Armenia and separatist authorities in the enclave have said that Azerbaijan has blockaded the territory since December, resulting in shortages of food, medicines, and energy.
Pashinian sharply criticized the blockade in the interview with AFP, saying it amounted to "an ongoing process of genocide" for ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, meanwhile, said Azerbaijan is making serious efforts to remove land mines, more than 1 million of which are buried in the territories of Azerbaijan, while also criticizing a map provided by Armenia that covers approximately 400,000 mines.
Speaking on July 21 at the Shusha Global Media Forum, Aliyev also said that after the end of the war, land mines killed or seriously injured more than 300 people. He said that Armenia's "nonpresentation" of the maps showing where the land mines are "is a continuation of Armenia's terror against us."
Armenia has not responded to Aliyev's comments.
Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said in a separate interview published on July 21 that Armenia and Azerbaijan cannot resolve their relations without taking into account the security factor and the rights of the Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Mirzoyan stressed in an interview with the Austrian daily DerStandard that the main issue for Armenia is the security of people and their fundamental rights.
The humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is difficult and close to a humanitarian catastrophe, he said.
"We need immediate humanitarian intervention to save 120,000 people from starvation. Then we will be able to continue negotiations with everyone who is interested in establishing a lasting peace in the region," Mirzoyan said.
"It's important to avoid another dangerous cycle of hostility,” he said. “Enough blood has already been shed in the South Caucasus. Mutual recognition of territorial integrity will be of key importance."
As for the issue of security and rights of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, he said Armenia believes that the best mechanism would be a dialogue with international participation.
Barbie Movie Delayed In Pakistan Province Over 'Objectionable Content'
The release of the Barbie movie has been delayed in Pakistan's Punjab Province over "objectionable content," officials said on July 21. Films in Pakistan must be cleared by provincial boards that censor anything deemed a violation of the country's social and cultural values. "There will be a full review of the film, and it will be censored where deemed necessary," Farrukh Mahmood, secretary of the Punjab Film Censor Board, told AFP. He said that the fantasy-comedy film will be cleared once the review and censoring process is complete. The board did not clarify what content was "objectionable." To read the original story by AFP, click here.
Iranian Activists Urge UN Rights Chief To Intervene As Fears Of Boxer's Imminent Execution Grow
Dozens of human rights activists have urged Volker Turk, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, to intervene and try to halt the imminent execution of Mohammad Javad Vafaei Sani, who was arrested in Iran in 2020 following unrest over a sharp hike in gas prices.
The plea, signed by 85 lawyers, human rights activists, and NGO representatives, urges Turk to step in publicly and exert whatever pressure possible to prevent the execution of the 27-year-old former boxing champion.
The Iranian Human Rights Center reported on July 20 that Vafaei Sani had been informed his death sentence is now definite and that he has been moved to an undisclosed location. It added there is currently a lack of information regarding his status and whereabouts, leading to fears authorities are preparing to carry out his death sentence.
The United Nations Human Rights Office confirmed receipt of the letter and said it is under review.
Vafaei Sani was arrested in March 2020 following his participation in protests over a sudden gas price hike in November of the previous year. He was accused of "instigating and deliberately causing damage to certain sites, inclusive of governmental edifices."
Babak Paknia, the lawyer handling his case, stated in December 2022 that the court found Vafaei Sani guilty of "corruption on Earth" and subsequently sentenced him to death.
Since being sent to prison, he has reportedly been subjected to torture in an effort to extract a confession that he supports the People's Mujahedin of Iran, which is outlawed in Iran.
The rate of executions in Iran has been rising sharply, particularly in the wake of widespread protests that swept across the country last year following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for an alleged head scarf violation.
Amnesty International says the regime in Tehran executes more people than any other country in the world other than China, while the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, a Washington-based organization specializing in Iranian human rights research, said in a recent report that 135 executions were carried out in Iran in May alone.
The letter to Turk from the human rights activists says the wave of executions is a "ruthless attempt by the Islamic republic authorities to instil fear and quell a population that is no longer prepared to tolerate a corrupt and tyrannical regime."
Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda
Russian Prosecutors Seek 18 Years In Prison For Cybersecurity Company Chief
Prosecutors have asked the Moscow City Court to convict and sentence Ilya Sachkov, the head of a leading Russian cybersecurity company, to 18 years in prison on a high treason charge.
Sachkov's lawyer, Sergei Afanasyev, said on July 21 that the sentence of his client will be handed down on July 26.
Sachkov is the founder of Group-IB, currently known as F.A.C.T.T., a company known for its work in tracking down hackers and fighting theft and cybercrime.
The 37-year-old Sachkov is one of a group of prominent people, including scientists and cybersecurity officials, to be arrested in Russia on treason charges in recent years. Moscow has faced numerous allegations of being behind cyberattacks on Western countries -- which it has consistently denied.
Investigators have said Sachkov was suspected of passing classified information to a foreign country. No other details were given by officials.
Sachkov was arrested and charged after police searched his company's offices in Moscow in September 2021. He denies any wrongdoing.
Last month, a senior executive at F.A.C.C.T., Nikita Kislitsin, was arrested in Kazakhstan at the request of the United States, where he is wanted for alleged buying personal data obtained through the 2012 hack of Formspring, a now-defunct social media site that allowed users to receive answers to questions.
In late June, the Tver district court in Moscow said it issued an arrest warrant for Kislitsin in connection with an investigation into illegal access to computer data in Russia, adding that a legal request will be sent to Kazakhstan to extradite Kislitsin to Russia.
One of Kislitsin's acquaintances and the mastermind of the hacks of the U.S. companies, Yevgeny Nikulin, was extradited to the United States from the Czech Republic in 2018 and sentenced to more than seven years in prison. He was released from jail earlier this year and deported back to Russia.
Group-IB, founded in 2003, has grown markedly in recent years as cybercrimes increase globally.
In addition to Moscow, the company has offices in Singapore, London, New York, and Dubai.
Navalny Placed In Punitive Solitary Confinement For 17th Time In Less Than A Year
Imprisoned Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has been placed in a punitive solitary confinement cell for the 17th time since last August, his lawyer Vadim Kobzev said on July 21. According to Kobzev, his client was sent to solitary for 13 days for "improperly introducing himself to a guard." Navalny, who has called all of his placements in punitive confinement "politically motivated," has served 180 days in solitary. A day earlier, prosecutors requested a court sentence Navalny to another 20 years on charges including extremism. To read the original story from RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
Ukraine's Culture And Information Policy Minister Tkachenko Resigns
Ukrainian Culture and Information Policy Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko announced his resignation on Facebook on July 21. "Both private and state funds spent for culture and drones during the war are equally important, because culture is the shield of our identity and our borders," he said in his statement. Tkachenko told RFE/RL on July 20 that he did not plan to resign, but late in the day President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he wanted Tkachenko to be replaced, adding that "during such a war, the maximum of the state's attention and state resources should go to defense." To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.
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Erdogan Looks West. What Does It Mean For Putin?6
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U.K. Intelligence Estimates Up To 20,000 Convicts Recruited By Wagner Were Killed In A Few Months9
Crimea Bridge 'Must Be Neutralized,' Zelenskiy Says10
Kyiv Strikes Occupied Crimea, Suspending Bridge Traffic, As Russian Shelling Kills Seven