German Foreign Minister says EU will not fall for Russian gas ‘blackmail’

Wheat prices rose sharply on July 25 after Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian port of Odessa over the weekend, despite Kremlin claims the strike targeted military installations and would not affect grain exports .

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on July 25 that the two Kalibr missiles that landed near a pumping station in the port of Odessa were “exclusively” aimed at military infrastructure and were “not related to the agreement on the export of cereals” concluded on July 22 in Istanbul by Russia, Ukraine, the United Nations and Turkey.

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“It cannot and should not affect the start of the expedition,” Peskov told reporters.

However, wheat futures at the Chicago Board of Trade rose nearly 4% to $7.86 a bushel on July 25, regaining much of the ground lost after the deal was signed.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but Russia’s invasion of the country and its naval blockade of Ukrainian ports have halted shipments.

This has caused global food prices to soar, leaving millions of people in poor countries at risk of hunger and sparking fears of social unrest.

The deal to reopen Ukraine’s three Black Sea ports for grain exports is valid for 120 days and targets monthly exports of 5 million tonnes.

A UN spokesman said all parties to the deal had reconfirmed their commitment and the first ships carrying grain could move within days under the deal. A joint coordination center will liaise with the shipping industry and issue detailed procedures for ships in the near future, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said.

In Ukraine, fighting continued unabated as the invasion of Moscow entered its sixth month, with Russian troops bombarding several locations in the north, south and east amid indications that the Russian military, in addition to its personnel shortage, also had difficulty replacing or repairing hundreds of battle-damaged pieces of equipment.

Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on July 25 that Ukrainian forces had destroyed 50 Russian ammunition dumps using US-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).

“It cuts off their (Russian) supply chains and takes away their ability to conduct active combat and cover our armed forces with heavy bombardment,” Reznikov said in televised comments.

Reznikov’s remarks could not be independently verified.

The Russian Defense Ministry in turn said on July 25 that its forces had destroyed an ammunition depot for HIMARS in Bohdanovtsy, in Ukraine’s Khmelnytskiy region.

Neither the Ukrainian nor Russian claims could be independently confirmed.

Russia has previously said it destroyed several of the HIMARS supplied to Ukraine by the West, in claims denied by Kyiv.

On July 25, Reznikov also said that Germany’s first three Cheetah anti-aircraft missile systems were already in Ukraine.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in its July 25 daily intelligence bulletin that “inconclusive” fighting is ongoing in the east and in the Kherson region which fell to the Russians at the start of the war.

The newsletter said low personnel resources make it difficult for Russian commanders to decide whether to bolster the offensive in the east or bolster the defense in the west.

He added that on July 18, British intelligence identified a Russian military vehicle overhaul and refurbishment facility near Barvinok in Russia’s Belgorod region, 10 kilometers from the Ukrainian border.

“At least 300 damaged vehicles were present, including main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers and general support trucks,” the update added.

In Moscow, the head of the Russian investigative commission said Russia had charged 92 members of Ukraine’s armed forces with crimes against humanity.

Aleksandr Bastrykin told the government news site Rossiiskaya Gazeta that more than 1,300 criminal investigations had been opened.

Some 96 people, including 51 armed forces commanders, are wanted, he said.

Ukrainians have been involved in “crimes against the peace and security of mankind”, he told the site.

Bastrykin’s claims could not be independently verified and Ukraine had no comment.

Kyiv also conducts its own investigations. Ukrainian authorities said earlier this month they were examining more than 21,000 war crimes and crimes of aggression allegedly committed by Russian forces since the invasion began on February 24.

The International Criminal Court sent a team of investigators and forensic experts to Ukraine, which it described as a “crime scene”.

The Kremlin denies any war crimes, or that it targeted civilians.

With reporting from Reuters, AFP, BBC and AP

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