Russia-Ukraine war: Volodymyr Zelensky fires back at Amnesty over critical report

A view of a destroyed building after Russian attack in Mykolaivka, the Donetsk region - Anadolu

A view of a destroyed building after Russian attack in Mykolaivka, the Donetsk region – Anadolu

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has hit back at Amnesty International after the human rights group in a report accused Ukraine of endangering civilians by basing troops in residential areas.

Speaking in his nightly video address on Thursday, Mr Zelensky took a swipe at the organisation, claiming it was trying to “shift responsibility from the aggressor to the victim”.

“There cannot be – even hypothetically – any condition under which any Russian attack on Ukraine becomes justified,” Mr Zelensky said.

“Aggression against our state is unprovoked, invasive and openly terroristic. And if someone makes a report in which the victim and the aggressor are allegedly the same in something, if some data about the victim is analysed and what the aggressor was doing at that time is ignored, this cannot be tolerated.”

Amnesty’s report said Ukrainian forces in Kharkiv, Donbas and Mykolaiv had in some cases established bases and operated weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals, which violated international humanitarian law.

“We have documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas,” Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said.

Follow the latest updates below.

11:48 AM

Ukrainian frontline city imposes weekend curfew to root out collaborators

Ukraine’s southern frontline city of Mykolaiv will impose an unusually long curfew from late Friday to early Monday morning as authorities try to catch people collaborating with Russia, the region’s governor said.

Mykolaiv, which has been shelled throughout Russia’s invasion which began on Feb 24, lies close to Russian-occupied parts of the strategically important region of Kherson where Ukraine plans to conduct a counter-offensive.

Vitaliy Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv region, told residents the curfew running from 11 pm (20:00 GMT) Friday to 5 am Monday did not mean the city was under threat or facing a looming attack.

“There’s no sign of an encirclement. The city will be closed for the weekend. Please be understanding. We are also working on collaborators. Districts will undergo checks,” Kim said on Telegram.

11:27 AM

Russia kicks out 14 Bulgarian diplomats

Russia’s foreign ministry said Moscow has declared 14 Bulgarian diplomats persona non grata.

Earlier this summer, Bulgaria expelled 70 Russian diplomatic staff over espionage concerns and set a cap on the size of Moscow’s representation as relations between two countries that were once close allies fractured over Ukraine.

11:04 AM

Russia ‘destroyed’ two US-made howitzers

Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday that it destroyed two U.S-made M777 howitzers in the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported.

It was not possible to immediately verify these claims.

10:50 AM

Ukraine harvested 17.5 million tonnes of grain so far

Ukrainian farmers have threshed 17.5 million tonnes of the 2022 grain harvest so far with the average yield of 3.64 tonnes per hectare, Ukrainian grain traders union UGA and the agriculture ministry have announced.

The union’s statement said the volume included 12.6 million tonnes of wheat with an average yield of 3.6 tonnes per hectare and 4.4 million tonnes of barley with a yield of 3.38 tonnes per hectare.

The UGA said that farmers also harvested 2.5 million tonnes of rapeseed with a yield of 2.68 tonnes per hectare.

The ministry said farmers had harvested 4.8 million hectares of grain and the area included 3.5 million hectares of wheat, 1.3 million hectares of barley and 101,000 hectares of peas.

It said Ukraine’s southern Odesa and Mykolaiv regions had almost completed the 2022 wheat harvest.

Ukraine, a major global grain grower and exporter, harvested a record 86 million tonnes of grain in 2021. That included 42.1 million tonnes of corn and 32.2 million tonnes of wheat.

10:28 AM

Russia ‘may not’ meet 2022 grain harvest target

Russia may not reach its expected harvest of 130 million tonnes of grain due to weather factors and a lack of spare parts for foreign equipment, the agriculture ministry has admitted.

“Taken together, all of this creates risks in terms of reaching the grain harvest figure of 130 million tonnes,” the ministry said.

It said that if it does not meet the planned volumes, it will have to revise its export plans of 50 million tonnes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had said in May that he expected the country to harvest 130 million tonnes of grain in 2022, including 87 million tonnes of wheat.

10:04 AM

Food prices fell again in July – UN

The United Nations food agency’s world price index declined again in July, edging further away from record highs hit in March.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) food price index, which tracks the most globally traded food commodities, averaged 140.9 points last month versus a revised 154.3 for June. The June figure was previously put at 154.2.

The July index was still 13.1 per cent higher than a year earlier, pushed up by the impact of the invasion of Ukraine, adverse weather and high production and transport costs.

“The decline in food commodity prices from very high levels is welcome, however, many uncertainties remain,” said FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero.

A bleak global economic outlook, currency volatility and high fertilizer prices – which can impact future production and farmers’ livelihoods – all pose serious strains for global food security, he said.

The vegetable oil, sugar, dairy, meat and cereal price indices all fell month-on-month in July, with wheat slumping 14.5pc, partly due to a deal reached between Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations to unblock grains exports from Black Sea ports.

The maize price index fell 10.7pc in July, also due in part to the Russia-Ukraine deal as well as increased seasonal availability from key producers Argentina and Brazil, the FAO said.

09:40 AM

Ukraine: The latest

09:22 AM

US will ‘pursue’ prisoner exchange

The United States will “pursue” Russia’s latest offer to discuss at the presidential level a prisoner swap involving detained basketball star Brittney Griner, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

“[Russian] Foreign Minister Lavrov said this morning… that they are prepared to engage” on a swap for the detained American, Mr Blinken said at a foreign ministers’ meeting in Cambodia. “And we’ll be pursuing that.”

Moscow’s latest offer came a day after the Phoenix Mercury player was sentenced by a Russian court to nine years in a penal colony on a drug smuggling charge.

The arrest and sentencing highlighted Moscow’s “use of wrongful detentions to advance its own agenda,” Mr Blinken added, slamming the use of “individuals as political pawns”.

The verdict and sentence were widely condemned in the United States as unjustified and sparked urgent calls for the US government to bring Ms Griner home.

Ms Griner’s trial accelerated in recent days as the United States and Russia discussed a potential prisoner swap that could involve the basketball star.

09:02 AM

Three grain ships depart Ukraine

Russia-Ukraine war: Volodymyr Zelensky fires back at Amnesty over critical report - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu Russia-Ukraine war: Volodymyr Zelensky fires back at Amnesty over critical report - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu 

Russia-Ukraine war: Volodymyr Zelensky fires back at Amnesty over critical report – Anadolu Agency /Anadolu

08:33 AM

Russian teacher sentenced for telling students about war crimes in Ukraine

A school teacher in a provincial Russian city has received a suspended sentence for speaking out in class against the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, reports our Russia correspondent Nataliya Vasilyeva.

A court in Penza, 500 kilometres southeast of Moscow, on Thursday found Irina Gen guilty of “discrediting the Russian armed forces” under a new law that has banned any criticism of the war in Ukraine and gave her a five-year suspended sentence. The 45-year-old English teacher will also be barred from working in state schools for three years.

The court in Penza found that she “disseminated false information” by telling her students about the siege of Mariupol and Russian airstrikes killing children in Ukraine.

Ms Gen was slapped with charges in March after one of her students posted online a recording of her explaining to the class why they could no longer travel to Europe for a sports competition.

You can read Nataliya’s report in full here.

08:18 AM

Norwegian consul caught on CCTV saying she ‘hates Russians’

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07:53 AM

Three grain ships set to leave Ukraine

Three ships loaded with grain left Ukrainian ports on Friday under a recently concluded safe passage deal, the Turkish defenсe ministry said.

“We expect that the security guarantees of our partners from the UN and Turkey will continue to work, and food exports from our ports will become stable and predictable for all market participants,” Ukrainian Infrastructure Mnister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook after the ships set off.

In a rare diplomatic breakthrough in the five-month war, the United Nations and Turkey have brokered a safe passage deal between Moscow and Kyiv, after the United Nations warned of famines due to Ukrainian grain shipments being halted.

On Friday, two grain ships set off from Chornomorsk and one from Odesa, with a total of about 58,000 tonnes of corn.

The Turkish Defence Ministry said on Twitter the Panama-flagged Navistar, carrying 33,000 tonnes of corn bound for Ireland, departed from Odesa.

The Maltese-flagged Rojen, carrying 13,000 tonnes of corn, departed from Chornomorsk port bound for Britain. The Turkish-flagged ship Polarnet, carrying 12,000 tonnes of corn, set off from Chornomorsk for the Turkish Black Sea port of Karasu.

The Turkish bulk carrier Osprey S, flying the flag of Liberia, was expected to arrive in Ukraine’s Chornomorsk port on Friday, the regional administration of Odesa said. It would be the first ship to arrive at a Ukrainian port during the war.

07:31 AM

Russia ‘ready’ to discuss prisoner exchange after Brittney Griner verdict

Russia has said it is ready to discuss prisoner swaps with Washington through an existing diplomatic channel, a day after basketball star Brittney Griner was handed a nine-year prison sentence for a drugs offence.

“We are ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel that was agreed upon by Presidents Putin and Biden,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

“If the Americans decide to once again resort to public diplomacy… that is their business and I would even say that it is their problem.”

The Kremlin had previously warned the United States against resorting to “megaphone diplomacy” in the case of Ms Griner, saying it could only derail efforts to secure a potential swap.

Ms Griner’s sentence – which Joe Biden called “unacceptable” – could pave the way for a US-Russia prisoner swap that would include the 31-year-old athlete and a prolific Russian arms dealer.

The Unites States has already made what Secretary of State Antony Blinken called a “substantial offer” to secure the release of Americans detained in Russia, including Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan.

07:08 AM

Intentions around Zaporizhzhia power plant ‘unclear’

Russia’s intentions around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant remain “unclear”, the Ministry of Defence has said, while adding Russian forces were likely operating in the regions adjacent to the power station.

“The actions they have undertaken at the facility have likely undermined the security and safety of the plant’s normal operations,” the ministry wrote on Twitter on Friday.

“Russian forces have probably used the wider facility area, in particular the adjacent city of Enerhodar, to rest their forces, utilising the protected status of the nuclear power plant to reduce the risk to their equipment and personnel from overnight Ukrainian attacks.”

05:18 AM

Russia’s foreign minister attends summit amid tensions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov joined US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China’s foreign minister at a meeting on Friday during a time of increased tensions.

The East Asia Summit of the ongoing Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings in Cambodia’s capital was the first time the three men were scheduled to take part in the same forum.

According to a report by AP, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi patted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the shoulder as he entered the room and gave the already-seated Mr Lavrov a quick wave before taking his own seat. Mr Lavrov waved back in response.

Mr Blinken, who entered the room last, supposedly did not even look at Mr Lavrov or Mr Yi as he took his own seat about a half-dozen chairs away.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, opened the talks saying he hoped that all delegates would use the forum as a “means of engagement and communication” with one another.

“Every year we have our set of challenges to address but I have to say that never before, not like this year, have we been confronted with so many perils at the same time,” he said.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the summit - AFPRussia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the summit - AFP

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the summit – AFP

04:13 AM

US urges Russia to accept prisoner swap after Griner sentencing

The United States has implored Russia to accept a prisoner exchange after basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced on Thursday to nine years in a Russian penal colony for drug smuggling.

“It’s a serious proposal. We urge them to accept it. They should have accepted it weeks ago when we first made it,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said.

Washington has offered to exchange Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25 year-prison sentence in the United States, for Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan.

US basketball player Brittney Griner - ShutterstockUS basketball player Brittney Griner - Shutterstock

US basketball player Brittney Griner – Shutterstock

03:18 AM

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02:54 AM

Three grain shipments to leave Ukraine on Friday

Three more ships filled with grain will sail from Ukraine on Friday under a UN-backed deal lifting Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea, Turkey’s defence minister said.

“It is planned that three ships will set sail (on Friday) from Ukraine,” Anadolu state news agency quoted Defence Minister Hulusi Akar as saying, one day after the first ship passed Istanbul on its way to Lebanon.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu discussed the agreement’s implementation by phone with UN chief Antonio Guterres.

It comes as Moscow and Kyiv agreed in Istanbul last month to resume shipments of wheat and other grain from Ukrainian ports for the first time since Russia invaded its neighbour in February.

02:34 AM

War prisoners’ loved ones demand answers

Family members of war prisoners captured following the fall of Mariupol gathered in Kyiv on Thursday, demanding answers about their loved ones following a strike on a prison in a separatist region of eastern Ukraine.

The strike last week reportedly killed and injured dozens.

One of those gathered was Eugenia Vasylieva, who last saw her husband Valeriy Vasyliev in Mariupol on the night of February 24, the day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Her seven-year-old daughter Zlata Vasylieva, holding a placard calling for her father’s return, said: “I want my dad to be alive and that he never die.”

Relatives of war prisoners hold placards during a protest - AFPRelatives of war prisoners hold placards during a protest - AFP

Relatives of war prisoners hold placards during a protest – AFP

Protesters, mostly relatives, attend a rally in support of Ukrainian soldiers from the Azov Regiment  - APProtesters, mostly relatives, attend a rally in support of Ukrainian soldiers from the Azov Regiment  - AP

Protesters, mostly relatives, attend a rally in support of Ukrainian soldiers from the Azov Regiment – AP

01:48 AM

Today’s top stories

  • Amnesty International has accused the Ukrainian army of endangering civilians and violating humanitarian law in their fight against Russian invaders

  • US Women’s basketball star Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in prison for bringing vape cartridges filled with cannabis oil into Russia

  • A female commander in the Russian army who “boasted of how she enjoyed killing Ukrainians” has become the Kremlin’s first senior woman officer to die in the conflict, according to reports

  • Russian forces are engaged in considerable military activity, firing from tanks, barrel and rocket artillery in several parts of Ukraine, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has said

  • Eight people were killed and four have been wounded by Russian artillery shelling in the eastern Ukrainian town of Toretsk in the Donetsk region, the regional governor said

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