US promises more military aid to Ukraine

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The United States has pledged increased military support to Ukraine, including drones, and is doing preliminary work on whether to send fighter jets, as fighting rages in the east of the country five months after the Russian invasion.

Moscow and Kyiv on Friday signed a landmark deal to unblock grain exports from Black Sea ports. However, the representatives refused to sit at the same table and avoided shaking hands during the agreement ceremony in Istanbul, reflecting a wider enmity.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed Friday’s deal as unlocking about US$10 billion (A$14 billion) in grain exports, needed to ease a food crisis.

But on the war, he said there could be no ceasefire unless lost territory was recaptured.

“The freezing of the conflict with the Russian Federation means a break that gives the Russian Federation a break to rest,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

“The company believes that all territories must first be liberated, and then we can negotiate what to do and how we might live in the centuries to come.”

There has been no major breakthrough on the front lines since Russian forces seized the last two Ukrainian-held towns in eastern Luhansk province in late June and early July.

Ukraine’s Armed Forces General Staff said Russia shelled several dozen positions on the front lines on Friday but failed to capture the territory.

Russian forces failed in their attempt to establish control of Ukraine’s second largest power station at Vuhlehirska, northeast of Donetsk, and troops also attempted to advance west from the town of Lysychansk but were pushed back, he added.

Kyiv hopes its gradually growing supply of Western weapons, such as the US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), will allow it to reclaim lost territory.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that its forces destroyed four HIMARS systems between July 5 and July 20, which was denied by the United States and Ukraine.

The White House on Friday announced an additional support package totaling about $270 million and said it was doing preliminary work on whether to send fighter jets to Kyiv.

The Kremlin says it has been engaged since February 24 in a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine. Kyiv and Western nations say war is an act of unprovoked aggression.

As the dispute drags on, ratings firms Fitch and Scope downgraded Ukraine, two days after the country requested a debt payment freeze.

Friday’s export deal hopes to avert starvation among tens of millions of people in the poorest countries by pumping more wheat, sunflower oil, fertilizer and other products into world markets, including for humanitarian needs, partly at lower prices.

A blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, trapping tens of millions of tons of grain and blocking many ships, has worsened global supply chain bottlenecks and, along with Western sanctions, fueled food and energy price inflation.

Moscow has denied responsibility for the crisis, instead accusing the sanctions of slowing its own food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine of mining the approaches to its Black Sea ports.

A UN official said a separate pact signed on Friday would facilitate such Russian exports and the United Nations welcomed clarifications from the United States and European Union that their sanctions would not apply to their exports. dispatch.

Responding to Western concerns that reopening shipping lanes could leave Ukraine open to attack, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow would not seek to profit from clearing Ukrainian ports of mines.

Kyiv did not see the risk of Russian ships attacking through the ports because they would be vulnerable to missile strikes, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said.

Senior UN officials said the deal should be fully operational within weeks and would restore grain shipments from the three reopened ports to pre-war levels of five million tonnes a month.


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