Jailed Kazakh Journalist Enters 20th Day Of Hunger Strike Amid Health Concerns

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke early on July 25 about how to ensure the flow of Ukrainian grain to international markets as the European Union announced a 1.5 billion-euro ($1.66 billion) aid disbursement to help Ukraine repair infrastructure amid fresh air strikes by Russia on the port city of Odesa and the capital, Kyiv.

Russian strikes in recent days have targeted Ukrainian food-export facilities, including on Danube ports close to the border with NATO-member Romania, after the Kremlin last week 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. The United Nations has warned failure to resuscitate the agreement would mean “the most vulnerable will pay the highest price.”

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“The prime minister said the U.K. was working closely with Turkey on restoring the grain deal, and we would continue to use our role as chair of the UN Security Council to further condemn Russia’s behavior,” the British Prime Minister’s office said in a statement, adding that during the phone call Sunak also said he was “appalled by the devastation caused by recent Russian attacks on Odesa.”

In Brussels, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said she “firmly condemns” the Russian strikes on Ukrainian grain-storage and -export infrastructure and vowed continued support for Kyiv.

“Today we paid another 1.5 billion euros, to help keep the [Ukrainian] state running and repair infrastructure,” von der Leyen said on Twitter.

The Kremlin on July 25 rejected a call by UN chief Antonio Guterres for Moscow to rejoin the grain deal, claiming that a part of the agreement that allowed Russia to export its grain and fertilizer had not been honored.

“Unfortunately, at the moment it is impossible to return to the deal because [the Russian-related part] is not being implemented, and de facto it has never been implemented,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a news conference.

The U.S. State Department warned on July 24 the day before that Russia might be preparing some “false flag” operation in relation to the grain deal.

“We’ve had information to suggest that they may be preparing a false-flag operation — we believe they may be preparing a false-flag operation,” spokesman Matthew Miller told a press briefing.

Regional officials in Ukraine reported early on July 25 that Russia launched a new wave of drone strikes on Kyiv, while Moscow said it warded off a Ukrainian attack on one if its patrol boats in the Black Sea.

All of the drones launched by Russian forces overnight in the sixth attack on Ukraine’s capital this month were shot down by the city’s air defense, Serhiy Popko, the head of the Kyiv city military administration, said early on July 25.

“The alarm lasted for three hours. The enemy used Iranian Shahed drones. This is the sixth drone attack on the capital this month. All air targets were timely identified and destroyed on the approach to Kyiv,” Popko said, adding that the attack caused no casualties or damage.

Russian drone attacks were also reported in the Cherkasy and Zhytomyr regions, with the latter suffering some infrastructure damage.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that Ukrainian seaborne drones attempted an attack on one of its patrol boats in the Black Sea, but the attack failed.

“Ukrainian armed forces carried out an unsuccessful attack overnight with two naval drones on the Sergei Kotov patrol ship,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the alleged attack occurred some 370 kilometers from the port of Sevastopol.

The claim could not be independently confirmed. The Sergei Kotov is one of Russia’s newest warships, being delivered to the Navy last year.

In Donetsk, regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on July 25 that the number of victims caused by an attack on the city of Kostyantynivka the previous day has risen to two dead, including a 10-year-old boy, and seven wounded, including four children aged between 5 and 12. Kyrylenko said cluster munitions were used in the attack on civilians.

Cluster munitions, bombs that open in the air and release scores of smaller bomblets, are widely prohibited because of the risk they pose to civilians. Earlier this month, the United States announced that it had also delivered cluster munitions to Ukraine.

Signed by 123 countries, the Convention on Cluster Munitions took effect in 2010. The convention prohibits using, developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling, or transferring cluster munitions. However, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States have not signed the convention.

Kyiv has pledged to use the munitions carefully, and only to liberate its territory.

On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces fought 35 battles over the past 24 hours, the General Staff reported early on July 25. It said that Russian counterattack attempts around Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region were repelled by Ukrainian defenders.

Bakhmut fell to the Russians in May after months of bloody fighting, but a Ukrainian counteroffensive to the north and south of the city has managed to make some headway in recent weeks.

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in the Berdyansk and Melitopol directions of the southern Zaporizhzhya region, the military said.

The United States is expected to announce as early as July 25 an additional military aid package for Ukraine worth $400 million, unnamed officials told the Associated Press on July 24.

The package includes a variety of munitions for advanced air-defense systems, the officials said.

With reporting by Reuters

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