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Key developments

Russian President Vladimir Putin urges "a transparent investigation" with the participation of Russian specialists into the "terrorist act" against the Nord Stream 1 and 2 natural gas pipelines.

Fifty Ukrainians taken captive in the Russia-Ukraine conflict have been released in the latest prisoner swap.

More than 14.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets says.

15:59 2022-12-03
Ukraine gets $1.5b in grant aid from US
A damaged building is seen after explosions in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct 10, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

KYIV -- Ukraine received $1.5 billion in grant aid from the United States mobilized by the World Bank, the Ukrainian Finance Ministry said Friday on Facebook.

The funding is the first tranche of the additional grant financing worth $4.5 billion provided by the US government to Ukraine under the World Bank's Public Expenditures for Administrative Capacity Endurance in Ukraine project, the ministry said.

The financing will be used for paying pensions for the elderly, social assistance, covering expenditures on medical services, and other payments, it said.

The World Bank has mobilized close to $17.8 billion in emergency financing to support Ukraine amid the economic impacts of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, according to the bank's website.

Out of this sum, 11.4 billion of financing has been disbursed.

09:47 2022-12-01
Ukraine refugees put a strain on Germany
By EARLE GALE in London
A flag in the colors of Ukraine flies outside the arrival and accommodation center for refugees, including Ukrainians, at former airport Tegel in Berlin, Germany, Nov 9, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Nation's services and infrastructure is struggling with 1 million new arrivals

More than 1 million Ukrainians have moved to Germany since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, highlighting the welcoming attitude of the nation of 83 million, but placing a strain on services and infrastructure.

The influx has reportedly led to a dearth of suitable accommodation, and the creation of temporary solutions, such as the conversion of gyms and village halls into dormitories, and the setting-up of temporary tent cities, including one on a former airfield on the outskirts of Berlin that houses 1,000 people.

Kleo Tummler, the facility's operations manager, told the BBC: "We are built to take care of people for a few days. Sometimes, they have to stay here for two weeks, maybe three weeks."

She said the fact that people are finding it increasingly difficult to move on, to long-term accommodation, has led volunteers to find solutions, such as plumbing-in washing machines, and starting lessons for the 300 children who live there.

Some Germans have reportedly started to balk at the prospect of seeing community facilities, such as sports arenas and convention centers, converted into temporary accommodation for Ukrainian refugees.

Martina Schweinsburg, a district councilor in the German state of Thuringia, said: "Our capacities are exhausted. Our backs are against the wall."

She is not alone. In a recent survey, ARD, Germany's national broadcaster, found that concerns about immigration had increased during the previous year, with 53 percent of Germans now saying too many people had made their way to the country, which was 11 percent higher than a year earlier.

That sense among some people that Germany is full, not only to refugees from Ukraine but to those from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan has prompted several recent attacks on refugee-handling facilities, including the burning of a building in the capital that processed Ukrainians.

The situation led Interior Minister Nancy Faeser to describe things as "tense", and say the German government had acknowledged the influx of Ukrainian refugees had been difficult on communities and that it would do more to help.

"While the government already allocated federal real estate for tens of thousands of refugees earlier this year, it will immediately provide additional property for about 4,000 refugees, to ease the current housing crisis," she said.

Faeser said there will also be new money, but an exact figure has not yet been announced.

Agence France-Presse news agency noted that, out of all European Union nations, only Poland, which shares a long border with Ukraine, has taken in more Ukrainian refugees. The Associated Press news agency also said Germany continues to be one of the most welcoming nations anywhere in the world, despite the challenges it is facing.

14:13 2022-11-30
Ukraine sets up more than 4,000 emergency shelters amid blackouts

KYIV/MOSCOW - More than 4,000 emergency shelters called "Points of Invincibility" have been set up in Ukraine amid blackouts after Russia's recent missile attacks on energy infrastructure, said Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

The "Points of Invincibility" provide people with heat, water, lighting, mobile communication, Internet, power for mobile devices, places for rest, first aid kits, and basic supplies for mothers and children. Each emergency shelter can accommodate 40 to 500 people without a limit on the time of stay.

In Kyiv alone, a total of 430 emergency shelters have been set up, according to its mayor, Vitaly Klitschko.

09:24 2022-11-25
50 Ukrainian servicemen freed in prisoner swap with Russia

Kyiv - After the latest prisoner swap with Russia, 50 Ukrainian servicemen have returned home, head of the Ukrainian President's Office Andriy Yermak said Thursday.

Among those released were two officers, as well as 48 sergeants and soldiers, Yermak wrote on Telegram.

Most of the released soldiers served in Ukraine's Naval Forces, the National Guard, and the Armed Forces, he added.

Yermak did not provide the details on the number of Russian troops released by Ukraine under the deal.

The efforts to free more Ukrainian servicemen from Russian captivity are underway, the official said.

Ukraine and Russia conducted their first prisoner exchange in March.

09:14 2022-11-22
No immediate nuclear safety concerns at Zaporizhzhia plant: IAEA
A view shows Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant from the town of Nikopol in Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine Nov 7, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

VIENNA - The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Monday that there were "no immediate nuclear safety or security concerns" at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine despite intense shelling at the facility over the weekend.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog said in a statement that its experts at the Zaporizhzhia plant assessed the damage at the site earlier that day and found its "key equipment remained intact".

"The status of the six reactor units is stable, and the integrity of the spent fuel, the fresh fuel and the low, medium and high-level radioactive waste in their respective storage facilities was confirmed," the IAEA statement quoted its expert team as saying.

However, the IAEA said its experts "still observed widespread damage across the site" due to the shelling on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, described by the agency as "one of the most serious such incidents at the facility in recent months".

The experts' observations included damage to the plant's condensate storage tanks and several impacts on the main road along the plant's reactors, according to the statement.

Repair work for the damage is underway, the agency said, adding that there had been no further attacks on the plant on Monday.

The IAEA also said that its Director General Rafael Grossi had intensified consultations to establish a protection zone at the Zaporizhzhia plant following the latest attacks on the facility.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, one of the largest nuclear power plants in Europe, has been under the control of Russian forces since March.

In recent months, the plant has been attacked by shelling, with Russia and Ukraine accusing each other of the attacks.

11:11 2022-11-21
More needed to get Russia, Ukraine food into global market, UN says
Kherson residents on Saturday charge their phones at the city's train station, one of the few buildings in the city with electricity. GENYA SAVILOV/AFP

GENEVA — More remains to be done for the reintegration of Russian and Ukrainian food and fertilizers into global markets, particularly in light of the fertilizer crunch caused by insufficient volumes and high costs, a senior United Nations official has said.

Rebeca Grynspan, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, said on Friday that while food and fertilizers produced in Russia are exempt from the sanctions, the knock-on effects of the sanctions and their differing interpretations tend to cause bottlenecks in the trade and export of such products.

About 300,000 tons of Russian fertilizer are stranded in European ports, she said. And it had been determined that services associated with the export of food and fertilizers from Russia, such as insurance, are exempt from sanctions. A platform will be set up so that insurance companies will no longer have to conduct their due diligence on a case-by-case basis, she said.

On July 22, Russia and Ukraine separately signed the Black Sea Grain Initiative in Istanbul with Turkiye and the UN on grain and fertilizer exports from Ukraine and Russia to ensure supplies to global markets amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The initial duration of the deal was 120 days, meaning it was to expire on Saturday. Russia and Ukraine agreed on Thursday to prolong the deal on the export of grain and fertilizers from Black Sea ports for a further 120 days.

There had been some progress on a few important questions concerning the issue, Grynspan said, adding that it was vital to scale up the initiative, and the UN is striving to create the necessary conditions by bringing together the private sector, including traders and shipping companies, and regulators to identify the practical difficulties stemming from the sanctions.

Ukraine's grain exports may reach 40.3 million tons in the 2022-23 marketing year if the grain corridor continues functioning, the government-run Ukrinform news agency reported on Friday, citing a recent forecast by the analytical agency APK-Inform in Kyiv.

Under an optimistic scenario, Ukraine could sell 24 million tons of corn, 13.8 million tons of wheat and 2.4 million tons of barley overseas in the current season, APK-Inform said.

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Saturday and used his first visit to Kyiv to announce a major new air defense spending the equivalent of $60 million.

This comprises "125 anti-aircraft guns and technology to counter deadly Iranian-supplied drones, including dozens of radars and anti-drone electronic warfare capability", Downing Street said.

It follows more than 1,000 new air-defense missiles announced by British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace earlier last week.

14:18 2022-11-17
Russia identifies exploding projectile in Poland as Ukrainian missile
The debris, which locals claim to be that of a missile, is pictured at the site of an explosion in Przewodow, a village in eastern Poland near the border with Ukraine, in this photograph obtained by Reuters on Nov 16, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

MOSCOW/KYIV - Russian experts have confirmed from pictures of the wreckage of the projectile falling in Poland that it was a Ukrainian missile, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

The rocket was an anti-aircraft guided missile of the S-300 air defense system of the Ukrainian air forces, the ministry said in a statement.

08:55 2022-11-13
Russia open to dialogue on Ukraine without preconditions
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov arrives at the Niederoesterreich Palace in Vienna, Austria, in this June 22, 2020 file photo. [Photo/Agencies]

Russia is open to dialogue on Ukraine without preconditions, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters on Friday.

Also on Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Kherson region remains part of the Russian Federation as "its status is legislatively fixed. There are no and cannot be any changes."

Peskov said that it is possible to achieve the goals of the special military operation in Ukraine through peaceful negotiations, but now talks are impossible because of the Kyiv's position.

22:15 2022-11-12
Turkiye works on 'peace corridor' between Ukraine, Russia: Erdogan
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. [Photo/]

ANKARA - Turkiye is trying to open a peace dialogue between Russia and Ukraine although the West, particularly the United States, provokes Moscow, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

"The West, especially the US, is attacking Russia almost without limits. Against all this, of course, Russia is putting up resistance," the semi-official Anadolu Agency quoted Erdogan as saying.

Ankara has been working on the establishment of "a peace corridor" in the same way that it had made it possible for the grain corridor from Ukraine to resume, Erdogan told reporters onboard a flight from Uzbekistan to Turkiye.

"We think the best way to achieve peace is through a path of dialogue. But for now, the most important thing for us is to operate the grain corridor seriously," Erdogan said. The Turkish president said it would be wrong to put a time limit on the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows the export of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports.

"We told Russia and Ukraine that the longer they keep this deal, the more accurate it will be," he said. Brokered by the United Nations and Turkiye, the Black Sea Grain initiative was reached in late July to establish a maritime humanitarian corridor in the Black Sea for grain and agricultural products exports amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

09:27 2022-11-12
Ukraine takes Kherson after Russian forces retreat behind Dnieper River
Photo taken on July 24, 2022 shows the view of a harbor in the Kherson region.[Photo/Xinhua]

MOSCOW/KIEV -- Ukraine has taken control of the southern city of Kherson after Russia transferred all its armed forces to the left (eastern) bank of the Dnieper River on Friday.

"In the Kherson direction today at 5 am Moscow time (0200 GMT), the transfer of units of Russian troops to the left bank of the Dnieper River was completed. Not a single piece of military equipment and weapons were left on the right bank," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told a briefing.

There were no losses of personnel, weapons, military equipment and materials during the process, he said.

Konashenkov stressed that all Russian servicemen had crossed the river to the left bank and civilians who wanted to leave the right-bank part of the Kherson region had received assistance.

The Russian armed forces have established defensive lines in the left bank of the wide river, he said.

Later in the day, Konashenkov told reporters that over 30,000 Russian servicemen and nearly 5,000 pieces of equipment had been pulled back to the left bank.

Following the retreat of Russian troops, the Ukrainian armed forces entered Kherson city, located on the right (western) bank of the Dnieper River, the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine's Defense Ministry said on Friday.

"Kherson is returning under the control of Ukraine," it said in a statement on Telegram, urging Russian soldiers who failed to leave to surrender.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday ordered Russian troops in Ukraine to leave the right bank of the Dnieper River and strengthen the defense against Ukrainian offensives on the left bank.

While reporting to Shoigu, Sergei Surovikin, commander of Russia's joint group of forces in Ukraine, called it a difficult decision to withdraw but it would most importantly preserve the lives and combat capability of the Russian forces.

07:36 2022-11-11
Russia announces Kherson troop withdrawal
By REN QI in Moscow
A boy prepares to saw wood for heating a house in the village of Osokorivka, in the Kherson region, on Wednesday. Valentyn Ogirenko/REUTERS

Russia announced on Wednesday that it was withdrawing its forces to the eastern side of the Dnieper River in the Kherson region.

The strategically important city of Kherson was the first regional capital in southern Ukraine to be captured by Russian forces after the special military operation began in February.

The order for the retreat came from Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu in a meeting with top military leaders that was broadcast on Russian state television. General Sergey Surovikin, Russia's top commander in Ukraine, had explained that heavy shelling by advancing Ukrainian forces had posed serious threats to the Russian position west of the Dnieper River, where Kherson is.

Defense along the Dnieper barrier frontier is the most expedient option for operations in the zone covered by the special military operation, Surovikin said.

"The decision to defend on the left bank of the Dnieper is not easy, but at the same time we will save the lives of our military personnel and the combat capability of our forces," Surovikin said in a clip aired on state television.

He told Shoigu that the withdrawal of the forces will free up troops for deployment to other active operations.

The withdrawal of about 20,000 troops will enable Russia to consolidate its defensive lines, said Surovikin, adding that the broad river can serve to defend positions.

"Go ahead with the pullout of troops and take all measures to ensure the safe transfer of troops, weapons and equipment to the other bank of the Dnieper River," Shoigu said.

According to The New York Times, Ukrainian officials said there was strong evidence that Russians were withdrawing from the territory they held west of the river, as Ukrainian soldiers entered some front-line villages that had been under Russian control in the morning.

"We have signs they are pulling out", moving heavy equipment first and then infantry, said Roman Kostenko, a Ukrainian army colonel and chairman of the defense and intelligence committee in Parliament.

Advancing Ukrainian forces captured the settlement of Kalininskoye and the city of Snihurivka, northeast of Kherson city, early on Wednesday, further applying pressure on Russian forces around the regional capital.

Also on Wednesday, Alexander Shevchenko, a member of the Russian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, said Russia is ready to ensure access to nuclear facilities in Sevastopol as part of the implementation of the guarantees to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IAEA guarantees are a package of measures used by the agency to make sure that nuclear facilities are used properly and nuclear material is used for peaceful purposes.

"Russia is ready to give access to these facilities upon a corresponding request. These facilities have nothing to do with the implementation of guarantees in Ukraine," he said at a UN General Assembly session dedicated to the IAEA report for 2022.

Separately, Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend a gathering of leaders from the Group of 20 nations on the resort island of Bali next week, Reuters quoted Indonesian and Russian officials as saying on Thursday.

Putin will instead be represented by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the officials said.

The Russian president might take part by video conference, though "the format of (his) participation is being worked out," Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing a diplomat in the Russian embassy in Indonesia.

Agencies contributed to this story.

07:30 2022-11-11
EU proposes $18b loans to shore up Ukraine budget
By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels
European Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn attends a news conference on the Ukraine financing plan in Brussels on Wednesday. YVES HERMAN/REUTERS

The European Commission on Wednesday proposed an 18 billion euro ($18 billion) financial assistance package to Ukraine next year to meet its budgetary needs, after failing to secure the pledged amount this year.

The commission said the concessional loans, averaging 1.5 billion euros a month, will help cover part of Ukraine's short-term funding needs next year. The International Monetary Fund and the Ukrainian government had estimated funding needs to be at 3 to 4 billion euros a month.

It said the money will help Ukraine pay wages and pensions and keep essential public services running, as well as ensure macroeconomic stability and restore critical infrastructure.

The IMF also estimated that the Ukrainian economy will shrink by 35 percent in real terms this year. Inflation is set to hit 30 percent.

The commission is putting forward legislative proposals to be approved by the European Parliament and the 27 member states to ensure the delivery of the funding.

European Union leaders are scheduled to meet for their regular summit on Dec 15 and 16 in Brussels to discuss a wide range of issues, including their support for Ukraine.

"And it needs to be decided quickly — 2023 is approaching fast and Ukraine's financing needs are urgent," European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said.

"So we will be working to secure approval from the European Parliament and Council before the end of the year and we are aiming for the first disbursement in January."

The commission said the assistance will be accompanied by reforms in Ukraine to improve the rule of law, good governance, anti-fraud and anti-corruption measures to pave the way for Ukraine to join the EU.

EU member states agreed to grant Ukraine candidate status in June. But the process to become a formal member is likely to take at least years or even decades.

The proposed loans will be borrowed by the EU on capital markets. They will be repaid by Ukraine in 35 years starting from 2033, with interest rate costs to be covered by the EU.

Some EU member states have voiced their reservations about the EU taking on responsibility for Ukraine's growing debt.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said early this week that although Budapest intends to continue providing financial support on a bilateral basis, it opposes allowing the EU to take out credit to help Ukraine.

Bloomberg News, quoting informed sources, reported on Wednesday that Hungary told EU finance ministers at a meeting in Brussels that it will not support the current proposal for the 18 billion euro package.

The EU has delivered 4.2 billion euros in macro-financial assistance to Ukraine so far this year, and plans to provide another 2.5 billion euros by the end of this month. However, there is still a gap in how the EU could honor the entire 9 billion euros to Ukraine as announced by the European Commission in May.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his appreciation for the new proposal. "This shows true solidarity of the EU," he said in a tweet on Wednesday.

The United States has also pledged to deliver $1.5 billion a month in financial assistance to Ukraine. But Kevin McCarthy, minority leader of the House of Representatives, expressed recently that US assistance to Ukraine will not be a "blank check".

09:20 2022-11-10
UN continues effort to renew Ukraine grain deal: spokeswoman
A team of representatives from the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) inspects on the first grain-laden ship leaving Ukraine on the northwestern entrance of the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Turkiye, Aug 3, 2022. [Photo/Turkish Defense Ministry/Handout via Xinhua]

UNITED NATIONS - The world body continues to conduct consultations in an effort to have the Black Sea Grain Initiative renewed, said a UN spokeswoman on Wednesday.

"We continue to urge parties to continue exerting full and good faith in the implementation of the initiative and to facilitate the timely, safe and unimpeded movement of vessels," said Stephanie Tremblay, an associate spokeswoman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. "As we mentioned before, this is a critical supply line, and it needs to continue delivering more and much-needed food to the world."

The head of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Rebeca Grynspan, and UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths will be meeting with a high-level delegation from Russia on Friday in Geneva, she said. "So, this is a new development on the negotiations."

The initial duration of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows the export of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports, is 120 days and expires on Nov 19. The parties had agreed that the deal could be extended automatically on the condition that no party objects.

Russia on Oct 29 announced the suspension of its participation in the deal brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye following an attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Moscow agreed to resume its participation days later following intense diplomatic engagement.

Along with the Black Sea Grain Initiative, there was a concurrent agreement on the facilitation of the export of Russian food products and fertilizer. Moscow has repeatedly complained about the lack of progress concerning Russian exports.

Asked whether the United Nations has received any information from Russia regarding its intentions on the renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Tremblay said negotiations are ongoing.

"There's going to be this meeting (in Geneva) in two days. So let's not prejudge what will happen at this meeting," she said.

09:18 2022-11-09
Ukraine says dialogue with Moscow possible only after Russia's withdrawal
A local resident rides a bike near destroyed houses in the village of Arkhanhelske, Kherson region, Ukraine Nov 8, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said that Kyiv could resume dialogue with Moscow only after the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, the presidential press service reported Tuesday.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Podolyak said that a potential ceasefire deal at the current stage of the conflict would provide Russia with time to strengthen its positions.

"The ceasefire for Russia is a tactical pause for reinforcement," Podolyak said.

While commenting on the reports that the representatives of the US Pentagon and the Russian Defense Ministry are involved in talks, Podolyak said that "there are no negotiations between Russia and Western countries regarding Ukraine".

"Our partners adhere to the principle of 'nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.' Neither side will be able to ensure the implementation of agreements without the support of the Ukrainian people," he said.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict started on Feb 24.

Ukrainian and Russian negotiators held the latest round of face-to-face peace talks in Istanbul, Türkiye, on March 29. 

09:56 2022-11-07
Rome rally urges end to Ukraine weapon funding

A demonstration in Rome has called for an end to conflict in Ukraine and for the Italian government to stop providing weapons to the country.

Police estimated that some 30,000 people were involved in the march on Saturday when protesters chanted peace slogans and displayed placards and banners.

The Financial Times reported banners read: 'Down with the guns, raise the wages', 'No weapons, no sanctions. Where is the diplomacy?', and 'Enough weapons for Ukraine'.

"The weapons were sent at the beginning on the grounds that this would prevent an escalation," demonstrator Roberto Zanotto told the news service Agence France-Presse, or AFP.

"Nine months later and it seems to me that there's been an escalation. Look at the facts: sending weapons does not help stop a war, weapons help fuel a war."

Speaking to the FT, another protester, Cynthia Masini, said: "Ukrainians are dying and Russians are dying and it makes no sense. We are sending weapons while our sons and daughters are warm and comfortable in their beds, and children are dying there. It is unacceptable."

The activists demanded an end to the fighting and for diplomatic efforts to negotiate a conflict resolution, reported the FT. Giovanni Timoteo, a member of the Italian Workers' Union, said: "I am against sending new weapons to Ukraine. Today, people want peace with weapons. It is unthinkable. Ukraine has the right to defend itself, but we need a big UN initiative for peace."

Former prime minister Giuseppe Conte backed the march and said Italy should be seeking such diplomatic negotiations, noted the AFP. "Ukraine is now fully armed — we need a breakthrough toward a ceasefire and peace negotiations," Conte told reporters.

Student activist Sara Gianpietro told the AFP the conflict "has economic consequences for our country". Inflation in Italy reached 12 percent in October, which is its highest level in nearly 30 years.

The European Union has imposed a series of sanctions against Russia since conflict in Ukraine broke out in February, and Italy has supported Ukraine with weapon supplies from the start.

Italy's new prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, said this position will not change and the government has indicated more weapons would be sent soon, reported the Reuters news agency.

Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations, or G7, including Italy, on Friday vowed to continue supporting Ukraine after gathering in Germany to decide on how best to coordinate humanitarian, financial, and military aid ahead of the upcoming winter.

Ukraine was on the agenda as Meloni met with top EU officials in Brussels on Thursday.

Meloni has toned down her anti-European rhetoric in recent weeks, and said she wanted "to give the signal of an Italy that obviously wants to participate, collaborate, and defend its national interest, doing so within the European dimension, seeking the best solutions together with other countries".

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Meloni sent a "strong signal" by selecting Brussels for her first international visit.

09:39 2022-11-07
US said to prod Kyiv to open talks with Moscow
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON — The United States is privately encouraging Ukraine to signal an openness to negotiate with Russia, Reuters quoted The Washington Post as saying on Saturday.

The paper quoted unnamed people familiar with the discussions as saying that the request by US officials was not aimed at pushing Ukraine to the negotiating table but was an attempt to ensure Kyiv maintains the support of other countries facing constituencies wary of fueling a conflict for many years to come.

It said the discussions illustrated the complexity of US President Joe Biden's administration's position on Ukraine, as US officials publicly vow to support the country with massive sums of aid "for as long as it takes" while hoping for a resolution to the conflict that has taken a big toll on the world economy.

The paper said US officials shared the assessment of their Ukrainian counterparts and acknowledged that Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky's refusal to hold talks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin had generated concern in parts of Europe, Africa and Latin America, where the conflict's effects on costs of food and fuel are felt most sharply.

"Ukraine fatigue is a real thing for some of our partners," the Post quoted one unnamed US official as saying.

Zelensky signed a decree on Oct 4 formally declaring the prospect of any Ukrainian talks with Putin "impossible" but leaving the door open to talks with Russia.

The White House National Security Council had no immediate comment on the accuracy of the report.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said during a visit to Kyiv on Friday that Washington's support for Ukraine would remain "unwavering and unflinching" after Tuesday's midterm congressional elections.

The US announced $400 million worth of additional security assistance for Ukraine, including refurbishing T-72 tanks from the Czech Republic and missiles for HAWK air defenses that could be used against Russian drones and cruise missiles.

The new assistance brought the amount of US military aid sent to Kyiv to more than $18.2 billion since the conflict began.

Meanwhile, external power has been restored to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant two days after it was disconnected from the power grid, the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA said on Saturday.

Agencies via Xinhua

12:07 2022-11-03
UN chief welcomes Russia's resumed role in grain export deal
A team of representatives from the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) inspects on the first grain-laden ship leaving Ukraine on the northwestern entrance of the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Turkiye, Aug 3, 2022. [Photo/Turkish Defense Ministry/Handout via Xinhua]

UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warmly welcomes the announcement from Russia on its resumed participation in the implementation of a deal to facilitate grain export via the Black Sea, his spokesman said on Wednesday.

Guterres is grateful for the diplomatic efforts of Turkiye, and thanks UN coordinator Amir Abdulla and his team for their work to "keep this vital food supply line open," Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman, said in a statement.

The secretary-general continues his engagement with all actors toward the renewal and full implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and also remains committed to removing the remaining obstacles to the exports of Russian food and fertilizer, the statement said.

On July 22, Russia and Ukraine separately signed a document in Istanbul with Türkiye and the United Nations on grain and fertilizer exports from Ukraine and Russia to ensure supplies to global markets amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

On Oct. 29, Russia announced the decision to immediately and indefinitely suspend its implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, accusing Ukraine of launching drone attacks against the Russian Black Sea Fleet's ships and infrastructure at the naval base in Sevastopol.

Russia on Wednesday announced its return to the implementation of the deal, saying Ukraine has promised not to use the humanitarian corridor for military attacks.

09:47 2022-11-03
Moscow returning to Black Sea grain deal
By REN QI in Moscow
A vessel in the second caravan of ships transporting grain from Ukraine arrives at the shore of Istanbul, Turkiye, Aug 7, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

Russia said on Wednesday it would resume its participation in a deal to free up vital grain exports from Ukraine after suspending it over the weekend.

The Russian defense ministry said it had received written guarantees from Kyiv not to use the Black Sea grain corridor for military operations against Russia.

"The Russian Federation considers that the guarantees received at the moment appear sufficient, and resumes the implementation of the agreement," the ministry statement said.

The ministry said Kyiv guaranteed "the non-use of the humanitarian corridor and Ukrainian ports defined in the interests of the export of agricultural products for conducting military operations against the Russian Federation".

The announcement came after Russian President Vladimir Putin told Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan a day earlier that he wanted "real guarantees" from Ukraine that it will not use the Black Sea corridor for military activities before rejoining the grain agreement.

The deal, brokered by Turkiye and the United Nations, allowed Ukrainian grain products to resume exports, easing a global food crisis caused by the conflict.

On Saturday, Russia accused Ukraine of misusing the safe-shipping corridor for an attack on Russian ships in Crimea and suspended its participation in the deal.

The corridor was touted as a way to secure food supplies to the neediest nations. Moscow is ready to supply African nations with "large volumes" of grain and fertilizers out of its own stocks for free, Putin said.

Erdogan earlier said that Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu had told his Turkish counterpart that the July 22 grain deal would continue to operate as of midday on Wednesday.

The prices of wheat, soybeans, corn and rapeseed fell sharply on global markets following the announcement, which eased concerns about the growing unaffordability of food.

In a Tuesday night video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said ships were moving out of Ukrainian ports with cargoes thanks to the work of Turkiye and the United Nations.

The grain deal, which was due to be renewed on Nov 19, was intended to combat the global food shortages stoked by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The agreement has allowed more than 9.7 million tons of grain and other foodstuffs to leave Ukrainian ports.

The grain deal aims to help avert famine in poorer countries by injecting more wheat, sunflower oil and fertilizer into world markets and to ease a steep rise in prices. It targeted the prewar level of 5 million metric tons exported from Ukraine each month.

Agencies contributed to this story.

15:45 2022-11-01
Russia suspends, not withdraws from grain export deal with Ukraine: Defense Ministry

MOSCOW -- The Russian Defense Ministry announced Monday that as the main participant in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Russia does not withdraw from it but suspends it.

Russia has halted traffic along the security corridor in the Black Sea defined by the grain export deal with Ukraine, the ministry said in a statement, accusing Kiev of launching military attacks via the humanitarian route.

"The movement of ships along the security corridor is unacceptable since the Ukrainian leadership and the command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces use it to conduct military operations against Russia," the statement said.

"There is no question of guaranteeing the security of any object in the corridor until the Ukrainian side accepts additional obligations not to use this route for military purposes," it said.

The ministry said the Russian side has conveyed its position to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN Security Council, and hopes that the UN will assist in obtaining guarantees from Ukraine "not to use the humanitarian corridor and Ukrainian ports designated for the export of agricultural products for conducting military operations against Russia."

On July 22, Russia and Ukraine separately signed a document in Istanbul with Türkiye and the United Nations on grain and fertilizer exports from Ukraine and Russia to ensure supplies to global markets amid the Russia-Ukraine armed conflict.

On Oct. 29, Russia announced the decision to immediately and indefinitely suspend its implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, accusing Ukraine of launching drone attacks against the Russian Black Sea Fleet's ships and infrastructure at the naval base in Sevastopol.

09:49 2022-11-01
Missiles land across Ukraine, with blasts in Kyiv
By REN QI in Moscow
A man fills up a sack with bread from an aid truck in Bakhmut, in the Donbas region, on Sunday. CLODAGH KILCOYNE/REUTERS

Blasts were heard in Kyiv on Monday and Ukrainian authorities reported Russian missile strikes around the country, after Moscow blamed Kyiv for an attack on its Black Sea fleet and pulled out of a deal to allow Ukrainian grain shipments.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said missiles had hit energy infrastructure in Kyiv and other cities, causing electricity and water outages.

The mayor of Kharkiv said missiles had targeted "a critical infrastructure facility" in the northeastern city.

There was no immediate response from Moscow, which has accused Kyiv of attacking its Black Sea Fleet in a Crimean port with 16 drones on Saturday.

Earlier last month, Russia launched airstrikes on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, in what it said was a response to an attack on its bridge to Crimea.

Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied it was behind the attack on the Russian fleet, its typical policy for incidents in Crimea.

Gennady Gatilov, Russia's permanent representative to the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, told Russian daily Izvestia on Monday that there is no platform for holding negotiations on the Ukrainian crisis settlement and no active proposals from Kyiv in this regard.

"There are no active proposals, which can serve as a basis for future political contacts," he said. "Unfortunately, we must acknowledge that there is currently no platform for holding diplomatic negotiations on the settlement of this crisis."

On Sunday, Moscow pulled out of a UN-brokered grain deal after its Black Sea Fleet in Crimea was targeted by a drone attack.

"The marine drones were moving in the safe zone of the 'grain corridor'," Russia's Defense Ministry said in a statement on Sunday, adding that it had "lifted" some of the drones' debris from the sea.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of "blackmailing the world with hunger" by pulling out of the food export deal negotiated by the UN and Turkiye.

Russia has also accused Kyiv of planning the Sevastopol attack with the help of British military specialists.

Kyiv and the West condemned Moscow's decision to exit the grain deal, which had been agreed to ease a global food crisis.

Russia's blockade of grain exports makes it "impossible" for fully loaded ships to leave port, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov tweeted.

The agreement, which established a safety corridor through which vessels could travel to Istanbul for inspections, had already allowed more than 9 million metric tons of Ukrainian grain to be exported and was due to be renewed on Nov 19.

Two cargo ships loaded with grain and other agricultural products on Monday left Ukrainian ports, according to a marine traffic website.

The ships, Admiral de Ribas and Mount Baker, were among the 12 ships that were due to leave Ukrainian ports on Monday, according to the Joint Coordination Center that has been overseeing the agreement.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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