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Zelenskyy downplays potential for ceasefire; Biden signs off on more weapons for Ukraine

This was CNBC's live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine on July 23, 2022.

A U.N.-backed deal to resume exports of Ukrainian grain was agreed to on Friday, easing a global food crisis caused by the conflict in Eastern Europe.

International onlookers are cautious on the deal and Russia will be closely watched to make sure it upholds its side of the agreement.

The State Department has slammed Russian attacks on Ukrainian agricultural facilities and a months-long blockade on foodstuff exports. "To date, Russia has weaponized food during this conflict," State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a daily press briefing.

Pentagon to send more Phoenix Ghost drones to Ukraine in latest security package

John Kirby, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, speaks during a press briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on June 21, 2022.
Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images

The Pentagon will send additional drones to the fight in Ukraine in the latest security assistance package.

The Phoenix Ghost drones are manufactured by Aevex Aerospace in Solana Beach, Calif., and were described by then-Pentagon spokesman John Kirby as "rapidly developed by the Air Force, in response, specifically to Ukrainian requirement."

The Pentagon has previously included more than 100 of these drones in security packages to Ukraine, though not much is known about the weapon system. U.S. troops have trained Ukrainian forces on how to operate them.

— Amanda Macias

Zelenskyy downplays Russia's willingness for a potential ceasefire

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends the NATO summit via video link, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine June 29, 2022.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told The Wall Street Journal that he tried to find a diplomatic solution with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the Kremlin invaded but that Putin would not take a phone call from him in the past three years.

"He came here without talking, killed people, displaced 12 million, and now says Ukraine doesn't want to negotiate," Zelenskyy said in an exclusive interview. "They just murder people, destroy cities, enter them, and then say: 'Let's negotiate.' With whom can they talk? With rocks? They are covered in blood, and this blood is impossible to wash off. We will not let them wash it off," he added.

Zelenskyy also said that a ceasefire deal in which Ukraine cedes territory to Russia would not work as it would simply give Russia a chance to regroup and prepare to seize more territory.

"We would prefer to de-occupy in a way that's not military and to save lives," he added. "But we are dealing with who we are dealing with. Until they get smashed in the face, they won't understand anything."

— Amanda Macias

Deputy Treasury secretary heads to Paris and Brussels to discuss additional sanctions with allies

Wally Adeyemo, deputy U.S. Treasury secretary, speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.
Ting Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo will travel to Paris this weekend and then to Brussels to meet with counterparts on additional sanctions measures against Russia.

"In Paris and Brussels, he will meet with counterparts from France and the European Commission to review opportunities to build on the historic sanctions imposed on Russia for its unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine, discuss economic assistance to Ukraine, and coordinate on the global response to the spillover effects of Putin's war on global energy prices," Treasury wrote in a statement announcing the trip.

In the months since Russia's invasion of its ex-Soviet neighbor, Washington and its allies have imposed rounds of coordinated sanctions vaulting Russia past Iran and North Korea as the world's most-sanctioned country.

— Amanda Macias

Blinken and Ukrainian counterpart discuss additional aid and sea corridor for grains

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about US policy towards China during an event hosted by the Asia Society Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington, DC, on May 26, 2022.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on the heels of an agreement to create a sea corridor for Ukrainian agricultural exports.

For months, Russian warships have blocked Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. The agreement, which was signed in Istanbul, will be implemented in the next few weeks.

Blinken also discussed additional security assistance for Ukraine and "reiterated the United States' condemnation of the atrocities committed by Russia's armed forces," wrote State Department spokesman Ned Price in a readout of the call.

Kuleba said the two discussed "practical steps to strengthen Ukraine and welcomed additional U.S. military aid."

— Amanda Macias

Russia prioritizing capture of critical infrastructure like power plants, UK intelligence warns

A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Energodar on May 1, 2022. Europe's largest nuclear power station has become a fighting ground for the conflict, with both sides blaming each other for attacks on and around the complex.
Andrey Borodulin | Afp | Getty Images

Russia is prioritizing the capture of critical national infrastructure, such as power plants and other energy facilities, according to the UK Ministry of Defense.

In an intelligence update on Twitter, the ministry said that Russian forces are attempting to take over the Vuhlehirsk power plant, Ukraine's second-largest power plant.

The British government also said that Russian forces used seven missiles to strike infrastructure, energy facilities and storage areas in Ukraine's Mykolaiv region.

— Amanda Macias

Biden authorizes 16th weapons package for Ukraine

Ukraine was already stocking up on U.S.-made Javelins before Russia invaded. Here a group of Ukrainian servicemen take a shipment of Javelins in early February, as Russia positioned troops on Ukraine's border.
Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

The Biden administration is set to send its 16th security assistance package to Ukraine, bringing the tally of U.S. military aid to more than $8 billion since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

"This package includes four more HIMARS, High Mobility Artillery Rocket systems, which the Ukrainians have been using very effectively," explained John Kirby, National security council coordinator for strategic communications, on a call with reporters.

The HIMARS, manufactured by defense giant Lockheed Martin, is designed to shoot a variety of missiles from a mobile 5-ton truck.

The security assistance package will also include additional ammunition for the HIMARS, 36,000 rounds of artillery ammunition for howitzers and other anti-armor systems as well as armored vehicles.

"I can guarantee you that we will be talking about package 17 in the not too distant future. We're just going to keep at it for as long as it takes," Kirby said when asked how long the U.S. will supply Ukraine with weapons.

— Amanda Macias

Death toll from Russian attack on civilian market in Kharkiv rises, Ukraine's emergency service says

Rescuers stand next to burnt cars after a Russian rocket strike in one of the districts of the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on July 21, 2022 amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sergey Bobok | Afp | Getty Images

Ukraine's state emergency service said the death toll in Kharkiv following a Russian attack on a market has risen to four people.

The service also wrote on its Facebook page that three bodies were found in the rubble following an attack on a school building in the eastern city of Kramatorsk.

"Approximately 205 tons of elements of the building were cleared and disassembled and the bodies of three men were discovered and moved from under the rubble," the service wrote in an update on Facebook.

The Kremlin has previously denied that its forces target civilian infrastructure like schools, apartment buildings and hospitals.

— Amanda Macias

A family in Ukraine grows vegetables in their garden amid tank wreckage

Images show a property scarred by the wreckage of war as a family in Ukraine grows vegetables in their garden.

A family grows vegetables in their garden where the wreckage of the tank belonging to the Russian forces is located, in Velyka Dymerka settlement, Kyiv, Ukraine on July 21, 2022. 
Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
A family grows vegetables in their garden where the wreckage of the tank belonging to the Russian forces is located, in Velyka Dymerka settlement, Kyiv, Ukraine on July 21, 2022. 
Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
A family grows vegetables in their garden where the wreckage of the tank belonging to the Russian forces is located, in Velyka Dymerka settlement, Kyiv, Ukraine on July 21, 2022. 
Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
A family grows vegetables in their garden where the wreckage of the tank belonging to the Russian forces is located, in Velyka Dymerka settlement, Kyiv, Ukraine on July 21, 2022. 
Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

–Photos by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

Ukraine's first lady wishes Biden speedy recovery following D.C. visit

U.S. first lady Jill Biden, first lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska and U.S. President Joe Biden pose for photos as Zelenska arrives on the South Lawn of the White House on July 19, 2022, in Washington, DC. Zelenska is in the United States for a series of high-level meetings and an address to Congress.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska wished President Joe Biden a speedy recovery after he tested positive for Covid-19.

Zelenska said that she does not have Covid-19 symptoms following her meeting with Biden at the White House earlier this week.

On Thursday, Biden, who is fully vaccinated and has received two booster shots, tested positive for Covid-19.

"Our team members received negative results and had a number of pleasant and productive meetings. Therefore, it is very unfortunate to hear about the positive result of the honorable Joe Biden," Zelenska wrote on Twitter.

"I wish Mr. President a speedy recovery and good health. I myself currently do not have symptoms of COVID-19, but I will definitely pass the test again. And let's remember that timely vaccination saves lives," she added.

During her trip to Washington, D.C., Zelenska took meetings at the State Department and the White House, and addressed bipartisan lawmakers at the U.S. Capitol.

During her address to Congress, Zelenska urged lawmakers to send more weapons to her homeland as it repels Russia's full-scale invasion.

— Amanda Macias

None of the U.S.-made mobile rocket systems have been destroyed, despite Russian claims, official says

US military personnel stand by a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) during Saudi Arabias first World Defense Show, north of the capital Riyadh, on March 6, 2022.
Fayez Nureldine | Afp | Getty Images

The Pentagon denied Russian claims that four of the 12 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, were successfully targeted and destroyed on the battlefield.

A senior U.S. Defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss intelligence assessments, told reporters on a conference call that all of the HIMARS in Ukraine are operational.

The HIMARS, manufactured by defense giant Lockheed Martin, are designed to shoot a variety of missiles from a mobile 5-ton truck. 

The U.S. Defense official said that Ukrainian forces have used the HIMARS to take out more than 100 "high-value" targets, such as Russian command posts, ammunition depots, air-defense sites, radar and communications nodes as well as long-range artillery positions. 

— Amanda Macias

Russia and Ukraine sign UN-backed deal to resume grain exports via the Black Sea

Wheat harvested in a field in Germany on 21 July 2022. UN Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Istanbul, Turkey on Thursday to sign a grain export agreement with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan alongside Ukrainian and Russian delegations, according to the UN. This grain export agreement aims to ensure full global access to Ukraine's food products and Russian food and fertilizer, said Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq in a press update.
Bernd Wüstneck | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

The United Nations, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement that will usher in a sea corridor for Ukrainian grain and foodstuff exports.

For months, Russian warships have blocked Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

The agreement, which was signed in Istanbul, will be implemented in the next few weeks.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu signed the agreement on behalf of the Kremlin. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were also in attendance for the deal.

Read more: Russia and Ukraine sign UN-backed deal to resume grain exports via the Black Sea

— Amanda Macias

Fight for Donetsk will 'likely last through the summer,' Defense official says

Ukrainian emergency service workers and military personnel try to get bodies out of a house that was shelled in Sloviansk, Ukraine, on July 19, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

A senior Defense official said the Pentagon assesses that the fight for Donetsk will "likely last through the summer."

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Russian forces are significantly behind on their timelines and continue to face stiff Ukrainian resistance.

Earlier in the week, U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon that the fight in the wider Donbas region is "very intense."

Milley also said that Russia has only advanced about 10 miles in the past three months.

"Ukrainians are making the Russians pay for every inch of territory that they gain," he added.

— Amanda Macias

Russia hands out passports in Ukraine cities Kherson and Melitopol regions

People arrive to receive Russian passports at a center in Kherson after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to make it easier for residents of Kherson and the Melitopol regions to get passports.

People arrive to receive Russian passports at a centre in Kherson after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decree to make it easier for residents of Kherson and Melitopol regions to get passports, in Kherson, Kherson Oblast, Ukraine on July 21, 2022. 
Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
People arrive to receive Russian passports at a centre in Kherson after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decree to make it easier for residents of Kherson and Melitopol regions to get passports, in Kherson, Kherson Oblast, Ukraine on July 21, 2022. 
Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Residents receive Russian passports in Kherson on July 21, 2022, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine. 
Stringer | AFP | Getty Images
Residents receive Russian passports in Kherson on July 21, 2022, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine.
Stringer | AFP | Getty Images
People arrive to receive Russian passports at a centre in Kherson after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decree to make it easier for residents of Kherson and Melitopol regions to get passports, in Kherson, Kherson Oblast, Ukraine on July 21, 2022. 
Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

-Getty Images

Russia surprises markets with bigger-than-expected rate cut

Russia's central bank surprised markets with a bigger-than-expected rate cut, as it responds to a strong currency, cooling inflation and a possible recession.

The Central Bank of Russia cut its key interest rate by a bigger-than-expected 150 basis points — analysts had expected a rate cut of 50 basis points, according to a Reuters poll.

It comes as central banks elsewhere scramble to hike rates as they attempt to reign in sky-high inflation.

— Katrina Bishop

How important is Ukrainian grain?

Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and United Nations officials met in Istanbul on Wednesday to try to reach a deal that would allow exports of vital produce, such as grain and sunflower oil, to resume from Ukraine.
Miguel Medina | AFP | Getty Images

You might be wondering why a deal on Ukraine's agricultural exports in the Black Sea would be so critical for the globe. The United States Department of Agriculture has the following facts from before the conflict began:

Ukraine is one of the world's top agricultural producers and exporters.

More than 55% of Ukraine's land area is arable land.

Ukraine is normally the world's top producer of sunflower meal, oil, and seed and the world's top exporter of sunflower meal and oil.

Ukraine is the world's sixth-largest corn producer.

Ukraine is the world's seventh-largest wheat producer.

Ukrainian wheat exports were valued at $5.1 billion, with Egypt, Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, and Bangladesh as the primary destinations.

—Matt Clinch

Germany takes 30% stake in Uniper under bailout deal

The German government has agreed to bail out gas firm Uniper with a 15-billion-euro ($15.24 billion) rescue deal.

Uniper, the first in Germany to sound the alarm over soaring energy bills, submitted a bailout application for government support earlier this month.

Read more here.

—Katrina Bishop

Zelenskyy hints at Turkey grain deal

In this photo illustration, a screen showing president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy's speech before the members of the international tribunal in The Hague. He accused the Russian authorities of war crimes and international terrorism.
Igor Golovniov | Lightrocket | Getty Images

In his regular nightly address Thursday, Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelenskyy hinted at the prospect of a deal in Istanbul later on Friday.

"Tomorrow we also expect news for our state from Turkey — regarding the unblocking of our ports," he said.

Millions of tons of wheat has been stuck in the country. Ukraine is one of the world's biggest wheat exporters, and Russian forces have been blocking the Black Sea, where the grain silos at key Ukrainian ports are located.

—Matt Clinch

Turkey says Russia and Ukraine are close to signing grain export deal

A farm implement harvests grain in the field, as Russian-Ukrainian war continues in Odesa, Ukraine on July 04, 2022.
Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

A U.N.-backed deal to resume exports of Ukrainian grain could be signed on Friday, easing a global food crisis caused by the conflict in Eastern Europe.

The signing is reportedly due to be held at Istanbul's Dolmabahce Palace in Turkey, with the spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan telling reporters Thursday that Russia and Ukraine had come to an agreement.

International onlookers are cautious on the deal and Russia will be closely watched to make sure it upholds its side of the agreement. Grain exporters in the Ukrainian port city of Odesa have been unable to export their goods due to the war, fueling a global shortage of the commodity and pushing up food prices.

The agreement will reportedly allow Ukrainian vessels to guide ships through mined waters, with a localized truce in place so Russia does not attack. Turkish officials are also expected to inspect the shipments to rule out any weapons smuggling.

Moscow, which blames Ukraine for laying the mines, is also expected to restart its own grain exports in the Black Sea under the agreement.

—Matt Clinch

Russia deliberately weaponized food in Ukraine, State Department says

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech in front of the monument "Fatherland, Valor, Honor" near the headquarters of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation (SVR), in Moscow, Russia June 30, 2022.
Aleksey Nikolskyi | Kremlin| Sputnik | via Reuters

The State Department slammed Russian attacks on Ukrainian agricultural facilities and a months-long blockade on foodstuff exports.

For months, Russian warships have blocked Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

"To date, Russia has weaponized food during this conflict. They have destroyed agricultural facilities they prevented millions of tons of Ukrainian grain from getting to those who need it," State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a daily press briefing.

"It is a reflection of Russia's disregard for lives and livelihoods not only in the region but well beyond that," he added.

Price's comments come on the heels of an announcement that the United Nations, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine will soon sign an agreement that will usher in a sea corridor for Ukrainian grain exports.

"We should never have been in this position in the first place. This was a deliberate decision on the part of the Russian Federation to weaponize food," Price said.

— Amanda Macias

Ukraine's first lady meets with HP representatives and accepts computers for students

Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska arrives to give an address to members of the United States Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 20, 2022.
Michael Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska met with representatives from HP and the Global Business Coalition for Education this week to accept a donation of computers for children, students and healthcare providers in Ukraine.

"We are very grateful for HP's and the Global Business Coalition for Education's support," Zelenska wrote in a statement about the $30 million HP initiative. "Their efforts and contribution will help students in Ukraine and beyond continue learning and prepare for the future, like any other youth in the world," she added.

Enrique Lores, CEO of HP, said that the Palo Alto-based company would continue to mobilize tech resources for Ukraine.

"Through our partnership with the Global Business Coalition for Education, we will put personal computers in the hands of students and families who have been displaced from their homes and classrooms," Lores wrote in a statement.

 — Amanda Macias

Read CNBC's previous live coverage here:

UK to send more weapons to Ukraine; more than 9.5 million Ukrainians have fled