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Ukraine and Russia seal grain deal as US pledges more military aid

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There have been no major breakthroughs on front lines since Russian forces seized the last two Ukrainian-held cities in eastern Luhansk province in late June and early July.

Kyiv hopes that its gradually increasing supply of Western arms, such as US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), will allow it to recapture lost territories.

Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday its forces had destroyed four HIMARS systems between July 5 and 20. A US official said reports of any HIMARS being destroyed were not true. Kyiv called Russia’s comments “fake”, meant to sap Western support for Ukraine. Reuters could not verify battlefield reports.

The February 24 invasion of Ukraine has caused Europe’s biggest conflict since 1945, forcing millions to flee and turning entire cities to rubble. The Kremlin says it is engaged in a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. Both Kyiv and Western nations say the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.

Russia’s military is sustaining hundreds of casualties a day and more than 100 “high-value” Russian targets in Ukraine, including command posts and air-defence sites, have been destroyed, according to a senior US defence official.

Russia classifies military deaths as state secrets even in peacetime and has not updated its official casualty figures frequently during the war. On March 25 it said 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed.

GRAIN DEAL

Friday’s export deal hopes to avert famine among tens of millions of people in poorer nations by injecting more wheat, sunflower oil, fertiliser and other products into world markets including for humanitarian needs, partly at lower prices.

A blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea fleet, trapping tens of millions of tonnes of grain and stranding many ships, has worsened global supply chain bottlenecks and, along with Western sanctions, stoked food and energy price inflation.

Moscow has denied responsibility for the crisis, blaming instead sanctions for slowing its own food and fertiliser exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its Black Sea ports.

A UN official said a separate pact signed on Friday would smooth such Russian exports and that the UN welcomed US and EU clarifications that their sanctions would not apply to their shipment.

Addressing Western concerns that reopening shipping lanes could leave Ukraine open to attack, Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow would not seek to take advantage of the de-mining of Ukraine’s ports.

Source: TimesLIVE

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