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US pledges more military aid to Ukraine, peace seems far off

The United States has promised to provide more military support to Ukraine, including drones. They are also working on preliminary plans to send fighter planes to the country. Fighting continues in the east with the war just about to enter its sixth month.

On Friday (22 July), Kyiv and Moscow signed a historic deal to open grain exports from Black Sea ports. Representatives declined to be at the same table, and they avoided shaking hands at Istanbul’s agreement ceremony, indicating wider animosity.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian President, praised Friday’s agreement for unlocking approximately $10 billion worth grain exports. This is needed to alleviate a food shortage.

Zelenskiy stated that there would be no ceasefire in the war unless territory lost was retaken.

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“Freezing the conflict with Russia means a pause which gives the Russian Federation a rest for the moment”, he said to the Wall Street Journal.

“Society believes all territories must first be liberated before we can negotiate what we should do and how we could live for the next centuries.”

Since Russian forces took the last two Ukrainian-held towns in the eastern province Luhansk in June and July, there have been no breakthroughs at the front lines.

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The Russian forces failed to take control of Ukraine’s second-biggest nuclear power plant, Vuhlehirska. This is northeast of Donetsk. Troops tried to move west from Lysychansk, but were stopped by the general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces.

A Ukrainian official stated that Russian shelling continued in the Nikopol, south of the Dnipro River, killing at least one person.

Oleksandr Vilkul from central Ukraine’s military administration, said that a 60-year-old woman had died.

He said that the Russian attack on Nikopol, south of Moscow, which was the target of more than 250 missiles over the past week, caused 11 damage to homes and farm buildings, cut off water pipes and damaged a railway track.

Rockets were fired up river in the Dnipropetrovsk area, killing a village and several nearby villages, according to Valentyn Reznychenko (region’s governor).

“Several powerful strikes” struck the center of Kharkiv in the northeastern on Saturday morning, Mayor Ihor Trekhov posted on Telegram.

Russia’s defense ministry did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment outside of regular hours.

Kyiv hopes its steadily increasing supply of Western weapons, such as the U.S. High Mobility Artillery Rocket System HIMARS (USA), will enable it to retake territory.

Russia’s defense ministry claimed that its forces destroyed four HIMARS systems in the period July 5 through Wednesday. This was refuted by the United States of America and Ukraine.

Ivan Fedorov (the Ukrainian mayor of Russian-occupied Melitopol) reported that two explosions occurred at the Azov Sea resort Kyrylivka in the early hours Saturday. Fedorov claimed that Russia had moved material to prevent them becoming targets for HIMARS.

“They hoped that neither their HIMARS nor Armed Forces would get them there. Fedorov stated that someone had “certainly got them”, citing territory that is still Ukrainian.

Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield reports.

The White House announced Friday $270 million in new support for Kyiv. It said it was conducting preliminary work to determine whether fighter aircraft would be sent, but such a move is unlikely in the near future.

Europe’s largest conflict since 1945 has been triggered by the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. Millions fled their homes and entire cities were left in ruins. According to the Kremlin, it is conducting a “special military operations” to demilitarize and “denazify Ukraine. The war is unprovoked, according to Kyiv and its allies.

Friday’s agreement to allow certain exports from Black Sea ports aims to prevent famine among the tens of thousands of people living in poverty by delivering more wheat and fertiliser to global markets, as well as humanitarian needs.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet blocked the ports of Ukraine, trapping millions of tonnes of grain, and stranding many vessels. This has led to a worsening of global supply chain bottlenecks. It also stoked inflation and food prices, as well as Western sanctions.

Moscow denies responsibility for the crisis and blames sanctions for slowing exports of food and fertilisers, and Ukraine for mining the Black Sea ports’ approaches.

According to a United Nations official, a separate agreement was signed Friday by Russia. The U.N. also welcomed clarifications from the US government and European Union that their sanctions would not be applied to Russian exports.

“Today, there’s a beacon at the Black Sea. Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, said that the Black Sea is a beacon of hope, possibility, and relief in a world that desperately needs it.

Russia’s RIA news agency reported on Tuesday (19 July) that Lithuania lifted a ban on rail transport of sanctioned goods into or out of Kaliningrad in Russia. This enclave is located between Poland and the Baltic states and is isolated from Russia.

The ban was imposed by Lithuania in June. This triggered a protest from Moscow and promises of swift retaliation.

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