Ukraine announces temporary Black Sea corridor for civilian ships, warns of Russia threat

This was CNBC's live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine. See here for the latest updates. 

Grain ship on the Black Sea on July 17, 2023.
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Ukraine's navy on Thursday announced "temporary corridors for trading vessels" to and from Ukrainian ports, while warning of the continued risk of attack from Russia.

Speaking to Reuters, navy spokesperson Oleh Chalyk said cameras would be placed on ships to broadcast footage showing the corridor "is purely a humanitarian mission and has no military purpose."

According to the navy's statement, the routes will primarily be used to allow commercial vessels to exit Ukrainian ports. Some ships have been trapped since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Russia has yet to officially comment on the announcement.

Russia in July suspended the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which had facilitated a humanitarian corridor for the export of Ukrainian agricultural goods through the war.

Separately, Russia downed two drones heading toward Moscow for a second consecutive night, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said Thursday.

Tensions continue to simmer on the Poland-Belarus border over issues such as migrant crossings, military training exercises and the presence of Russia's mercenary Wagner group in Belarus.

Poland's defense minister said in a radio interview Thursday the country would deploy up to 10,000 additional troops to the border in order to "scare away the aggressor."

Ukraine brands Bacardi as an 'international sponsor of war'

Bacardi remains one of the few major family-controlled drink companies and is synonymous with rum, distributing the spirit to over 100 countries.
Jordan Strauss | WireImage | Getty Images

Kyiv has designated the world's largest private alcohol company, Bacardi, as an "international sponsor of war" for continuing to do business in Russia, which is carrying out its full-scale invasion and nearly daily attacks on Ukraine.

Ukraine's National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) added Bacardi to its list of companies contributing to Russia's war effort through its business and tax payments. The organization says the list includes hundreds of other Western firms, such as Unilever, Philip Morris and Nestle.

"After the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, Bacardi announced that it would stop exporting to Russia and stop investing in advertising, but this part later disappeared from the company's official statement," NACP wrote in its report.

"Therefore, the company continued to supply its products to the Russian Federation for millions of dollars and to look for new employees by publishing job advertisements."

NACP said that the Russian division of the Bacardi Rus company "imported goods worth $169 million during the year of the war in Ukraine," and that, according to Russia's Federal Tax Service, Bacardi Rus's net profit in 2022 saw a 206.5% increase from the previous year, as its market share expanded after competitors left the country.

"Income tax was paid to the budget of the aggressor in the amount of more than $12 million," the NACP report said.

— Natasha Turak

U.S. ambassador to Ukraine praises country's new anti-monopoly legislation

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Ukraine, Bridget A. Brink, speaks during the panel discussion dedicated to the anniversary of the Own Business grant programme.
Hennadii Minchenko | Future Publishing | Getty Images

The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, praised new legislation in Ukraine aimed at preventing monopolies and fighting corruption, saying the measures would improve Ukraine's competitiveness and ability to attract investment for its reconstruction.

"Ukraine's Rada adopted important anti-monopoly legislation yesterday that provides additional tools to combat corruption and promote good corporate governance," Brink wrote in a post on social media site X, formerly known as Twitter.

"Implementing this legislation and strengthening the independence of the Anti-Monopoly Committee will increase Ukraine's competitiveness to help attract private sector investment for its recovery."

Corruption has hindered economic growth in Ukraine for decades, with the country regularly ranking as one of the most corrupt in the world. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has vowed to fight it.

— Natasha Turak

Moscow accuses EU of 'sanctions terrorism'

Moscow accused the European Union of "sanctions terrorism" in its latest criticism of the West's punitive actions for its invasion of Ukraine, which Russia calls its "special military operation."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin lashed out against the EU's application of secondary sanctions, which would penalize other countries for doing business in certain sectors with Russia.

"The 11th package [of sanctions] adopted by the EU in June is directed not so much against Russia as it is against third countries," Galuzin told state media outlet Tass in an interview.

"The EU is blackmailing our key partners, including those from the Central Asian countries, with 'secondary' measures. There is no other term for this than 'sanctions terrorism'." The diplomat then said that Moscow was confident in its Central Asian neighbors, and that the EU's measures would not disrupt their cooperation.

The EU, for its part, strongly promoted sanctions on Russian trade, energy, transport and other sectors as "fulfilling their three key objectives: degrade Russia's military capability to wage its war of aggression against Ukraine, deprive the Kremlin from the revenues it is financing the war with, and impose costs on Russia's economy."

— Natasha Turak

Russian tech giant co-founder blasts Ukraine war as 'barbaric'

Russian businessman, Yandex CEO Arkady Volozh gives a speech during the Artifical Intelligence Journey (AIG), November 9, 2019 in Moscow, Russia.
Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The co-founder of Russian tech giant Yandex, Arkady Volozh, spoke out against Russia's invasion of Ukraine after nearly a year and a half of silence.

"I am categorically against Russia's barbaric invasion of Ukraine," Volozh said in a statement published by Russian independent website The Bell — an outlet to which access was blocked by Moscow in February.

Volozh said that he was horrified that the "homes of Ukrainians are being bombed every day."

He added, "I understand that I also share responsibility for the country's actions."

The logo of Russian internet group Yandex is pictured at the company's headquarter in Moscow.
Shamil Zhumatov | Reuters

The Yandex search engine is often dubbed as Russia's Google. It came under European sanctions in the months following Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine for what the EU said was its role in "promoting state media and narratives in its search results" and removing "content related to Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine." Volozh resigned from Yandex shortly after that.

"There were many reasons why I had to remain silent," the tech founder said. "You can argue about the timeline of my statement, but not about its substance. I am against war."

— Natasha Turak

Russian drones destroy fuel depot in western Ukraine, governor says

Russian drones attacked and destroyed an oil depot in Ukraine's western region of Rivne, local governor Vitaliy Koval wrote in a Telegram post, according to a Google translation.

The "massive" drone attack took place overnight, Koval said in a video that he recorded while standing in front of the burning facility. An English translation was provided by Ukrainian outlet the Kyiv Post.

There were no casualties, Koval said, adding that "the chemical and radiation background is normal," and that there would be no evacuation.

Rivne Oblast sits in north western Ukraine, next to the Belarussian border.

— Natasha Turak

Ukraine navy announces temporary Black Sea corridor but warns of ongoing Russia threat

The Ukrainian navy on Thursday announced corridors for commercial vessels traversing to and from Ukraine's Black Sea ports, but warned of ongoing Russian military risks.

"According to the order of the navigation order of the Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine No. 6 of 08.08.2023, new temporary traffic routes of civilian vessels to/from the Black Sea seaports of Ukraine were announced," the Ukrainian navy said on Facebook, according to a Google translation. "At the same time, it is reported that there is a military threat and mine danger from the Russian Federation along all routes."

Previously, the U.N.-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative negotiated between Moscow, Kyiv and Ankara had created a humanitarian corridor allowing the export of Ukrainian agricultural goods from the assailed country's Black Sea ports to avoid a global crisis. Russia allowed the deal to lapse in July, citing Western restrictions on its own exports.

The two sides have since escalated their rhetoric, saying they could consider vessels bound for each other's ports as potential carriers of military cargo.

— Ruxandra Iordache

Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant on 'verge of blackout,' energy company says

Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant seen from Nikopol, 7 kilometers away.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Russia-occupied Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine has switched to its reserve line and is on the "verge of a blackout," Ukrainian state-owned power firm Energoatom said Thursday.

The company said there were safety risks from the plant being in a "hot shutdown" state if power is lost and its reactor coolant pumps are quickly turned off, which would happen in the result of an outage.

"In this case, it is necessary to urgently 'cool it down' given the lack of cooling pumps. Such a mode is challenging for the reactor installation, its duration is limited by the design, and it could entail the failure of the power unit's essential equipment," Energoatom said in a statement in English on its website.

The plant has been occupied since March 2022.

— Jenni Reid

Russian strike on Zaporizhzhia kills three: Officials

Rescuers work outside a church destroyed after a Russian missile strike in Zaporizhzhia, on Aug. 10, 2023.
Marina Moiseyenko | Afp | Getty Images

A Russian missile strike on the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia late Wednesday killed three people and injured nine, Mayor Anatoly Kurtev said on the Telegram messaging app, according to Google Translate.

A church was destroyed and a high-rise residential building damaged, Kurtev said. CNBC has not independently verified the information.

The city is near the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe. Russia on Wednesday accused Ukraine of targeting a spent nuclear fuel storage facility at the plant with a drone, a claim Kyiv denied.

— Jenni Reid

Russia downs two more drones on approach to Moscow, mayor says

Russia shot down two drones heading toward Moscow early Thursday morning, city mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Telegram, according to a Google translation.

One was reportedly downed near Kaluga, a city to the southwest of Moscow, and the other over the Central Ring Road around the capital. CNBC has not independently verified the information.

Sobyanin previously said two drones were downed on approach to Moscow on Wednesday.

Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the drones that have increasingly approached or entered Moscow in recent weeks, some of which have caused minor damage to buildings. However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Russia should expect war to enter its own territory, including its symbolic centers and military bases.

Separately, Russia's defense ministry said Thursday it had downed several Ukrainian drones near Sevastopol in Crimea.

— Jenni Reid

Poland to send up to 10,000 additional troops to Belarus border, defense minister says

Polish border guard patrols by the metal wall between the Polish-Belarusian border on July 9, 2023, in Jurowlany, Poland.
Omar Marques | Getty Images

Poland's defense minister on Thursday said the country would send up to 10,000 additional troops to its border with Belarus as tensions simmer over migrant crossings, military training exercises and the presence of Russia's mercenary Wagner group in Belarus.

"About 10,000 soldiers will be on the border, of which 4,000 will directly support the Border Guard and 6,000 will be in the reserve," Mariusz Blaszczak told public radio, according to a Reuters report and translation.

"We move the army closer to the border with Belarus to scare away the aggressor so that it does not dare to attack us."

That comes a day after Poland's Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wąsik said an additional 2,000 soldiers would be deployed following a request from the border guard. Wąsik said Polish border guards were increasingly attacked in the form of bottles, stones and branches thrown at them.

— Jenni Reid

Russia disrupting citizens' VPN access to deter international news access, U.K. defense ministry says

Russian law enforcement officers stand guard in front of the mausoleum of the Soviet Union founder Vladimir Lenin as people pass by at Red Square in downtown Moscow on July 18, 2023.
Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | Getty Images

Russian authorities have likely "increased efforts to disrupt Russian citizens' access to Virtual Private Networks," Britain's Ministry of Defense said in its daily Ukraine intelligence report on the X social media platform, previously known as Twitter. VPNs create an encrypted space allowing users to protect their personal data, shield their IP address and sometimes bypass restrictions on reaching certain sites.

"VPNs are hugely popular in Russia, despite being illegal since 2017. They allow users to access objective international news sources, including about the war in Ukraine," the ministry said.

Since the start of the war, the Kremlin has sharply tightened its chokehold on information distributed within or reported from Russia, including criminalizing what it perceives as "fake" journalism about the war in Ukraine under a potential penalty of up to 15 years in jail.

Ruxandra Iordache

Ukraine says it destroyed seven of 10 Russian drones in Kursk

Russian troops deployed 10 Iranian-made Shahed drones in an overnight attack in the northeastern Kursk region of Ukraine, Ukraine's air force said on Telegram, according to a Google translation.

The Ukrainian air defense said it destroyed seven of those drones with anti-aircraft guided missiles. It did not specify whether the remaining drones hit major targets or led to damage.

Earlier in the course of the night, the Ukrainian air forces had separately reported an air alert and the take-off of a Russian MiG-31K aircraft, according to a Google-translated post on Telegram. MiG-31K vessels could carry the devastating hypersonic aeroballistic missiles, Kinzhal.

CNBC could not independently verify developments on the ground.

Ruxandra Iordache

Ukrainian forces appear to have conducted a 'limited raid' across Dnipro river, think tank says

Ukrainian forces "appear to have conducted a limited raid across the Dnipro River and landed on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast," the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S.-based think tank, reported in an analysis note.

It is not clear whether Ukrainian troops have been able to hold longer term positions on the east bank, it added. Members of Russia's occupation administration for Kherson downplayed any reports of the Ukrainian landing, saying that any advances had been repelled by Russian artillery.

The ISW said it "has not yet observed visual evidence to suggest that there are a substantial number of Ukrainian personnel or the deployment of Ukrainian vehicles near Kozachi Laheri," referring to an east bank settlement east of Kherson city, and described Russian reporting of the situation as more of "a limited cross-river raid than a wider Ukrainian operation."

Ukrainian officials have not commented on the operation.

— Natasha Turak

'We're hopeful:' U.S. says of Russia returning to Black Sea grain deal

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the USA to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks during briefing at UN Headquarters. USA will serve as President of the United Nations Security Council for the month of August. 
Lev Radin | Lightrocket | Getty Images

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Biden administration is hopeful that Russia will return to the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

The deal, which Moscow abandoned nearly a month ago, reopened three Ukrainian ports amid Russia's naval blockade for agricultural exports. The agreement allowed for more than 1,000 ships carrying nearly 33 million metric tons of agricultural products to more than 40 global destinations.

"We're hopeful. The Secretary-General has not given up. The Government of Türkiye is working along with him to urge the Russians to come back into the deal, and we support those efforts," Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview with Carolyn Beeler of PRX's "The World."

"Hopefully, through the efforts of the Secretary-General, they will eventually come to the right decision," she added.

— Amanda Macias

At least 35 injured in explosion at factory near Moscow, Russian media reports

At least 35 people are injured after an explosion at an optical-mechanical plant near Moscow, Russian media reported. The facility manufactures night vision equipment and binoculars for the Russian military and is part of Rostec, a large Russian defense conglomerate.

The explosion at the Zagorsk plant in the town of Sergiyev Posad prompted a total evacuation from nearby buildings and caused "damage to social facilities," with emergency services working at the scene, according to state media agency Tass.

"There are a lot of buildings that had windows blown out," Sergiyev Posad's administration wrote on its Telegram channel, according to a Google translation.

Russian emergency services are blaming the explosion on "workflow violations" and rejecting reports of a possible drone strike, state media outlet RIA Novosti said.

Videos posted to social media on both Russian and Ukrainian Telegram and Twitter accounts show a massive mushroom cloud emanating from the factory with plumes rising high into the sky. Ukrainian officials have already cast doubt on Russia's claim that the explosion was caused internally.

— Natasha Turak

Russia to strengthen forces on western border, defense minister says

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu (R) during the annual Navy Day Parade on July 30, 2023, in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Contributor | Getty Images

Russia will aim to build up its forces on its western border, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a military meeting Wednesday, according to a transcript posted by the department.

"The United States is steadily raising the stakes, seeking from its allies deliveries of increasingly long-range and deadly weapons. In May, British long-range Storm Shadow air-launched guided missiles were transferred to Ukraine," Shoigu said.

"Threats to the military security of the Russian Federation have multiplied in the western and north-western strategic directions."

Shoigu said there was a "serious destabilizing factor" from the accession of Finland and planned accession of Sweden to NATO, as well as an existing risk from the "militarization of Poland."

— Jenni Reid

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