Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described the situation in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine as hellish, adding that Russia still has the upper hand in the region. Kyiv ordered the mandatory evacuation of Donetsk, a part of the Donbas, last weekend amid severe fighting there.
The first shipment of grain exports from Ukraine in months safely reached an anchorage in Turkish waters Tuesday night. The shipment will be inspected there Wednesday before carrying on its journey to Tripoli in Lebanon. The Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni departed Odesa on Monday, and Zelenskyy called the shipment a "positive signal."
The United States slapped more sanctions on Russian oligarchs on Tuesday, as the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to ratify Sweden and Finland's membership in the NATO military alliance.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke of fears over a nuclear accident in Ukraine. He told reporters late Monday that there are "credible reports" that Russia "is using this plant as the equivalent of a human shield, but a nuclear shield in the sense that it's firing on Ukrainians from around the plant."
Zelenskyy says he wants to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants to speak directly with Xi Jinping in hopes China's president could use the country's influence to end Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Zelenskyy said Ukraine has pursued talks with China since the beginning of the war. He told the newspaper that Russia would feel much more economically isolated without the Chinese market and could use that to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the war.
— Natalie Tham
Biden praises Senate vote bringing Finland and Sweden into the NATO alliance
President Joe Biden hailed the Senate vote to add Finland and Sweden to the NATO alliance.
"Finland and Sweden joining the alliance will further strengthen NATO's collective security and deepen the transatlantic partnership," Biden wrote in an evening statement.
In May, both nations began the formal process of applying to NATO. Biden welcomed leaders from both countries to the White House and pledged to work with the Senate — which has to sign off on U.S. approval of NATO bids — and the other 29 members of the world's most powerful military alliance to swiftly bring Sweden and Finland into the group.
"I look forward to signing the accession protocols and welcoming Sweden and Finland, two strong democracies with highly capable militaries, into the greatest defensive alliance in history," Biden added.
— Amanda Macias
U.S. Senate approves Finland and Sweden's membership to NATO
The U.S. Senate voted 95 to 1 to ratify Finland and Sweden's entrance to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, calling expansion of the Western defensive bloc a "slam-dunk" for U.S. national security and a day of reckoning for Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.
Senators invited the ambassadors of the two Nordic nations to witness the debate and the vote, a crucial step in opening a new era for the now 30-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its 73-year-old pact of mutual defense among the United States and democratic allies in Europe.
President Joe Biden has sought quick entry for the two previously non-militarily aligned northern European nations. Their candidacies have won ratification from more than half of the NATO member nations in the roughly three months since the two applied, a purposely rapid pace meant to send a message to Russia over its six-month-old war against Ukraine's West-looking government.
"It sends a warning shot to tyrants around the world who believe free democracies are just up for grabs," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in the Senate debate ahead of the vote.
"Russia's unprovoked invasion has changed the way we think about world security," she added.
— Associated Press
Ukraine nuclear plant is 'out of control,' UN nuclear chief says
The U.N. nuclear chief warned that Europe's largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine "is completely out of control" and issued an urgent plea to Russia and Ukraine to quickly allow experts to visit the sprawling complex to stabilize the situation and avoid a nuclear accident.
Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press that the situation is getting more perilous every day at the Zaporizhzhia plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar, which Russian troops seized in early March, soon after their Feb. 24. invasion of Ukraine.
"Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated" at the plant, he said. "What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely grave and dangerous."
Grossi cited many violations of the plant's safety, adding that it is "in a place where active war is ongoing," near Russian-controlled territory.
— Associated Press
Zelenskyy says 'global security architecture' is not working, cites tensions in the Balkans and Taiwan
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the "global security architecture" is not working, and referenced tensions in the Balkans, Taiwan and in the Caucasus.
"If it worked, there wouldn't be all these conflicts," Zelenskyy said in his nightly address on the Telegram messaging app.
"And this is actually something that Ukraine has been paying attention to not only 161 days after the start of a full-scale war, but for years. Ever since Russia completely ignored international law, the interests of humanity as such," he added.
— Amanda Macias
Russian flags fly in the Russian-controlled city of Melitopol in southeastern Ukraine
Russian flags fly and pro-Russian slogans appear on billboards in the Russian-controlled city of Melitopol in southeastern Ukraine.
- Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters
U.S. Senate to vote on Finland and Sweden bids to join NATO alliance
The U.S. Senate will vote on a resolution to approve Finland and Sweden's applications to join the NATO alliance.
The Senate will begin voting at 4:30 p.m. ET.
In May, both nations began the formal process of applying to NATO. President Joe Biden welcomed leaders from both countries to the White House and pledged to work with the Senate — which has to sign off on U.S. approval of NATO bids — and the other 29 members of the world's most powerful military alliance to swiftly bring Sweden and Finland into the group.
The vote to include Sweden and Finland in NATO is expected to pass easily. However, the resolution of ratification requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate.
After the resolution passes, the chamber will send the measure to Biden.
— Amanda Macias
Biden speaks with national security team about additional weapons for Ukraine
U.S. President Joe Biden tweeted a photo of a call with his national security team in which they discussed ways to help Ukraine fight off Russia's invasion.
"This morning, I held a secure phone call with my national security team. We discussed a wide range of priorities, including the United States' support of a free and open Indo-Pacific and our continued support for Ukraine in response to Putin's war," Biden wrote in a tweet.
Earlier this week, Biden approved the 17th military package for Ukraine, bringing U.S. commitment to $8.8 billion since Russia invaded Ukraine.
— Amanda Macias
UN chief urges governments to tax 'immoral' oil and gas profits
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged governments to tax excessive oil and gas profits as the world grapples with an energy crisis triggered in part by Russia's war in Ukraine.
"It is immoral for oil and gas companies to be making record profits from this energy crisis on the backs of the poorest people and communities," Guterres said before the international forum.
He added that the funds, which he said amount to $100 billion in the first quarter of this year, should instead be used to support vulnerable communities.
Guterres also urged governments to ramp up and diversify supply chains for raw materials and renewable energy technologies and eliminate bureaucratic red tape around the energy transition.
"Every country is part of this energy crisis," he said.
— Amanda Macias
Blinken welcomes departure of first vessel carrying Ukrainian agricultural products from Black Sea
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the departure of the first vessel carrying Ukrainian agricultural products from the Black Sea since Russia's full-scale invasion.
"We again commend the United Nations and Turkey for mediating the diplomacy that resulted in today's significant step, which raises hope of bringing the millions of tons of grain stuck at Ukraine's ports to those facing food insecurity around the world," Blinken wrote in a statement.
Blinken called on Russia to uphold the July 21 U.N.-brokered deal to allow a sea corridor for more vessels to export Ukrainian grain and other foodstuffs.
"Russia must also end its attacks that are rendering farmland in Ukraine unusable and destroying agricultural infrastructure," he added.
— Amanda Macias
Ukraine's Zelenskyy downplays first grain shipment, saying 'it's still nothing'
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has downplayed the importance of the first grain export shipment from the country since the war with Russia started, saying it was a tiny fraction of the crop Kyiv must sell to help rebuild its shattered economy.
"Just recently, thanks to the UN in partnership with Turkey, we had a first ship with the delivery of grain, but it's still nothing. But we hope it's a tendency that will continue," Zelenskyy said via an interpreter as he addressed students and Australian university officials.
He said that the blocking of Ukrainian ports by Russia had led to great losses for the Ukrainian economy and the world economy.
His comments to universities in Australia via videolink, and published on Youtube on Wednesday, came after the first grain-exporting ship reached Turkish waters where it then passed an inspection by officials within the Joint Coordination Centre — which was let up by Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations to enable grain exports of resume.
Zelenskyy said more time was needed to see whether other grain shipments would follow.
"The war ... is almost killing the economy. It's in a coma," Zelenskyy said, saying millions of jobs had been lost with 12 million Ukrainians displaced.
— Holly Ellyatt
Kremlin says Nord Stream 1 turbine lacks documentation. Germany disagrees
The Kremlin has claimed that a lack of documentation is preventing the shipping of a Nord Stream 1 gas turbine from Germany to Russia.
Gazprom, Russia's state-owned gas giant that operates the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia to Germany, curbed the supply so gas flows to Europe are currently only 20% of the pipeline's capacity, saying this was due to the need to repair equipment, such as turbines supplied by Siemens Energy.
One such turbine was recently sent to Canada for repairs and has since been returned to Siemens Energy in Germany but it has not been transported onward to the Russian compressor station where it is needed.
The German government has blamed Russia for delaying the shipment, saying it is purposefully curbing supplies to extract sanctions relief. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said there is no reason for the delay as he visited the site where the turbine is being held.
The Kremlin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that documents are needed to show the turbine does not come under Western sanctions.
Berlin quickly responded to that assertion. A German government spokesperson said the turbine is not affected by sanctions and that the documents demanded by Russia are not required, Reuters reported.
— Holly Ellyatt
Grain ship from Ukraine passes inspection, will continue passage
The first grain shipment to leave Ukraine during the war has passed an inspection in Turkey and will soon be able to continue its journey to its final destination in Tripoli, Lebanon.
"The Joint Inspection Team has completed its inspection activity on board RAZONI. The ship carrying 27 thousand tons of corn will pass through the Bosphorus to go to Lebanon in a short time," Turkey's Defense Ministry tweeted Wednesday.
The Sierra-Leone flagged Razoni ship left the port of Odesa on Monday, making history as the first cargo ship to leave one of the country's ports in months following a block on Ukraine's ports since the start of the war in February. The impasse has contributed to global price rises and shortages in basic goods, particularly wheat.
Turkey and the U.N. brokered a deal — called the Black Sea Grain Initiative — between Russia and Ukraine to enable shipments to resume, under the aegis of a Joint Coordination Centre comprising senior representatives from each of the countries.
Its role is to enable the safe transportation, by merchant ships, of grain and other foodstuffs and fertilizers from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea to the rest of the world. The ships have to be inspected to and from Ukraine as part of the deal with Russia, which fears they could be used to send arms to Ukraine. Kyiv, for its part, wants to ensure the correct commodities are exported.
— Holly Ellyatt
Nord Stream turbine can be transported anytime, Germany says
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has blamed Russia for delays in the return of a Nord Stream 1 turbine that has been serviced in Canada and returned to Germany, but has not yet been returned to working use in the pipeline in Russia.
"It [the turbine] can be transported and used at any time," Scholz said during a factory visit to Siemens Energy in Mulheim an der Ruhr, Reuters reported.
"The non-fulfilment of the gas supply contracts has no technical reasons whatsoever," Scholz said.
The German chancellor's comments come after Gazprom, Russia's state gas giant, again reduced gas flows through the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which it operates, to around 20% of the pipeline's capacity, citing the need to repair equipment.
That came after a previous 10-day stoppage of gas flows for annual maintenance, including on the Siemens Energy turbine that was sent to Canada for repair work.
The repair was carried out, with Canada returning the turbine in mid-July, but it has since been stuck in Germany, and was visited by Chancellor Scholz today, as it waits to be taken back to the Russian Portovaya compressor station.
Germany has accused Russia of holding up the process. Russia, for its part, has repeatedly said sanctions relief would help resolve energy supply issues, and the repairing and transport of gas pipeline parts.
Gazprom's gas supply curbs have provoked criticism and condemnation in Germany and the rest of the EU, which has been reliant on Russia for around 45% of its gas imports. The bloc is trying to dramatically reduce its consumption of Russian gas, and has brought in gas rationing this coming winter, but in the meantime remains reliant on the supply.
— Holly Ellyatt
Cease-fire could follow grain export deal, former German chancellor says
Germany's former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has said Russia wants a negotiated solution to the war in Ukraine and that the resumption of grain exports from Ukraine could provide the foundation for a cease-fire.
"The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution," Schroeder told Stern Weekly and broadcasters RTL/ntv in comments translated by Reuters.
"A first success is the grain deal, perhaps that can be slowly expanded to a ceasefire," he added.
Schroeder said solutions to problems such as Crimea, and the question of whether an cease-fire would see the Russian-annexed territory returned to Ukraine, could be found over time, "maybe not over 99 years, like Hong Kong, but in the next generation."
Schroeder's close friendship with Putin is well documented and his pro-Russia views have not gone down well in Germany of late.
Germany's ruling Social Democratic Party has launched proceedings that could see Schroeder expelled from the party over his close ties to Putin and Russian energy companies, as he is chairman of the Nord Stream gas pipeline shareholders' committee. He stood down from the board of Russia's state-owned oil company Rosneft in May.
— Holly Ellyatt
First grain shipment out of Ukraine in months reaches Turkey safely
The first grain ship to leave Ukraine in months has arrived safely in Turkish waters, where it will be inspected before it continues its journey to Lebanon.
The shipment comes after a deal was brokered between Russia and Ukraine by Turkey and the United Nations to allow vital exports to resume from the country after a blockade that contributed to global shortages of wheat and cooking oil, of which Ukraine is a major producer and exporter.
The ship was carrying more than 26,000 tonnes of corn and is due to undergo an inspection in Istanbul before continuing to Tripoli.
The U.N.-led Joint Coordination Centre requested that all parties inform their militaries of the ship's movements in order to ensure its safe passage from Ukraine through the Black Sea, where much of the coast has been mined by both Russia and Ukraine amid the invasion, to Turkish waters in the Bosporus.
The agreement, which was reached after much negotiation between the warring countries, has been hailed as a rare success for international diplomacy, with some officials hoping it could be built upon to potentially reach a cease-fire.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday after the merchant vessel, the Razoni, left the port of Odesa that it "was loaded with two commodities in short supply: corn and hope."
"Hope for millions of people around the world who depend on the smooth running of Ukraine's ports to feed their families. The ship's departure is the first concrete result of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. It has been a long journey since I presented the proposal to the leaders of the Russian Federation and Ukraine at the end of April," he said. The Razoni's departure was, he added, an "enormous collective achievement."
— Holly Ellyatt
'It's just hell': President Zelenskyy describes the situation in the Donbas
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the situation in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine, the epicenter of the war in Ukraine, is "just hell."
Describing Russia's "fire superiority" in his nightly video message, Zelenskyy said Ukraine's forces "still cannot completely break the advantage of the Russian army in artillery and in manpower, and this is very felt in the battles, especially in Donbas - Pisky, Avdiyivka, other directions."
"It's just hell. It can't even be described in words," he added.
With intense fighting in the Donbas, Ukraine has ordered residents in one of its constituent regions, Donetsk, to evacuate while Kyiv discusses the need for more weapons with its international allies. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg spoke with President Zelenskyy about more military aid for Ukraine, tweeting Wednesday that "it's vital that NATO and allies provide even more assistance to Ukraine even faster."
He said that the two also discussed the first shipment of grain since Russia's late February invasion and subsequent naval blockade of Ukrainian ports.
Zelenskyy also commented on the initial success of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal between Russia and Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations, to enable the resumption of exports of vital produce from Ukraine by sea.
"Our goal now is to have regularity: so that when one ship leaves the port, there should be other ships as well - both those loading and those on the approach to the port. Continuity and regularity is the necessary principle. All consumers of our agricultural products need it," he said.
— Holly Ellyatt
Read CNBC's previous blog here:
Two Republican senators propose amendments ahead of the vote to add Finland and Sweden to NATO
Two Republican senators have proposed amendments on the vote to add Sweden and Finland to NATO.
Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, both are seeking changes to the treaty vote as Congress prepares to head into recess.
Paul told NBC News that his amendment states that "nothing in the Article Five portion of the NATO Treaty supersedes the congressional directive that we have to declare war." The NATO provision holds than an attack on one member of the alliance is an attack on all members.
Sullivan told NBC News that his amendment states that every member of NATO, to now include Sweden and Finland, should commit to the 2% of GDP spending on defense goal established at the 2014 NATO Wales Summit.
The vote to include Sweden and Finland in NATO is expected to overwhelmingly pass.
— Amanda Macias
U.S. slaps more sanctions on Russian officials and oligarchs
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced new sanctions on Russian oligarchs and state-owned entities.
Below is the State Department's fact sheet of imposed penalties on the following Russian oligarchs:
- Alexander Ponomarenko "for operating or having operated in the aerospace sector of the Russian economy. He is an oligarch with close ties to other oligarchs and the construction of Vladimir Putin's seaside palace." He has been sanctioned by the U.K., European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
- Dmitry Pumpyanskiy "for operating or having operated in the financial services sector of the Russian Federation economy." The U.K., European Union and New Zealand have also designated him. Pumpyanskiy has ties to the yacht "Axioma," which is now being identified as blocked property.
- Andrey Melnichenko "for operating or having operated in the financial services sector of the Russian Federation economy." Like Pumpyanskiy, he has also been designated by the U.K., European Union, and New Zealand.
"We are also imposing additional costs on Russia's war machine by designating 24 Russian defense and technology-related entities," Blinken wrote in a statement.
"Russia has systematically focused on exploiting high-technology research and innovations to advance Moscow's war-fighting capabilities – the same defense capabilities that Russia's military is using in its vicious attacks hitting Ukraine's population centers and resulting in the deaths of civilians, including children," he added.
— Amanda Macias
March was the deadliest month of Russia's war in Ukraine, UN says
The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner said that March was so far the deadliest month in Russia's war in Ukraine.
There were more than 3,100 civilian casualties and 2,400 injuries due to the conflict in March, according to data compiled by the UN.
The United Nations has confirmed 5,327 civilian deaths and 7,257 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.
"Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects, including shelling from heavy artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, missiles and air strikes," the UN office wrote in a report.
The human rights office added that the majority of casualties and injuries were reported in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
— Amanda Macias