Russia-Ukraine updates: Kyiv and Moscow expected to sign grain deal | News | DW | 21.07.2022

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Russia-Ukraine updates: Kyiv and Moscow expected to sign grain deal

Turkey's presidency has said a deal for the export of Ukrainian grain will be signed between Kyiv and Moscow on Friday. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is heading to Istanbul. DW has the latest.

Grain pictured in a field in the Odesa region in southern Ukraine

Russia and Ukraine are both major global wheat suppliers

Ukraine and Russia will sign a UN deal on Friday to unblock exports of Ukraine grain, according to Turkey's presidency.

"The signing ceremony of the grain shipment agreement, in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres will be present, will be held [Friday] with the participation of Ukraine and Russia," Turkish officials said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was traveling to Turkey on Thursday in a bid to get Russia and Ukraine agree on an elusive agreement to allow grain exports out of Ukraine's Black Sea. 

Over 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain have been blocked by Russian forces, as well as land mines that Ukraine has laid to avert a feared assault. 

The blockade has triggered a global crisis, sending food prices soaring and pushing millions of people in low-income countries toward starvation.

A first round of talks last week had no breakthroughs, although Guterres said he was hoping the warring sides could reach a final agreement this week. 

Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on July 21.

CIA estimates 15,000 Russian troops killed

The head of the CIA estimates that about 15,000 Russian troops have already been lost in Moscow's war against Ukraine.

The estimate was delivered by the US intelligence agency's director, William Burns, during a security conference in Aspen, Colorado. Burns added that around 45,000 are thought to have been wounded.

"The Ukrainians have suffered as well, probably a little less than that," Burns said

Russia has not disclosed any current figures on casualties. The Ukrainian side has also not given official figures on how many of its troops have been killed. However, during the height of Russia's Donbas offensive in June, Ukrainian officials said that their forces were losing up to 200 troops every day. 

Burns also said the massing of Russian forces in the Donbas region suggests that, at least for the moment, the Russian military has learnt from the failures at the beginning of the war, which has now been going on for almost five months.

Hungarian FM in Moscow to discuss buying more gas

Hungary is looking to secure more gas supplies from Russia the country's ruling Fidesz party said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto traveled to Moscow on Thursday to discuss the purchase of more gas.

"In order to ensure the security of Hungary’s energy supply, the government has decided to purchase an additional 700 million cubic metres of natural gas in addition to the quantities stipulated in the long-term contracts," Fidesz said in a statement posted on Facebook.

According to data from Hungary’s natural gas operator FGSZ, the amount sought represents around 6.7% of the country’s 2020 gas consumption.

Reuters news agency reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would consider the request.

Hungary has opposed EU plans to reduce dependency on Russian energy supplies.

Weapons being smuggled into the EU from Ukraine — report

Europol has warned of arms smuggling for Ukraine into the European Union, according to German media.

Regional broadcaster Südwestrundfunk (SWR), reported that the EU police authority notified the Council of the European Union that it was aware of multiple cases involving illegal firearms exports.

In a letter reportedly seen by SWR, Europol also mentioned that criminal syndicates were smuggling the weapons and that arms caches may have been placed along the Ukrainian border area with the EU.

Europol is also reported to have said that some refugees from Ukraine may have brought firearms with them into the EU.

Germany announces measures to ensure energy security

Germany's Economy Minister Robert Habeck announced plans to ensure the country’s energy security in the face of reduced gas deliveries from Russia.

According to the measures there will be more stringent requirements for filling gas storage facilities.

As of November facilities would need to be kept at 95% instead of 90% and in October 85% instead of 80%.

Lignite reserve plants would also be reactivated in October to help save on gas.

There would also be energy saving measures put in place in public buildings.

The use of home-office should also be extended in consensus with employers and employees.

"The situation remains tense, so we are once again stepping up our efforts. Gas consumption must continue to come down, storage facilities must become full,” Habeck said. "We need staying power."

Kharkiv mayor reports 2 dead in Russian shelling

The mayor of Ukraine's second largest city, Kharkiv, said Russian shelling hit a densely populated area, killing two and injuring 19. Writing on the social media service Telegram, Mayor Igor Terekhov advised citizens not to leave shelters and said "four people are in serious condition." 

A Ukrainian family's new start in Germany

Russian troops close in on major Ukrainian power plant — UK

In its daily briefing, UK military intelligence said that Russian forces are likely closing in on Ukraine's second-largest power plant, located in the town of Vuhlehirska.

The move is part of a plan to take over critical infrastructure and the key Donetsk cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, British military intelligence assessed. 

Russian gas flows again through Nord Stream 1

The Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline reopened as scheduled early Thursday morning, after being closed for annual maintenance work for 10 days, according to the pipeline operator. 

The president of Germany's Federal Network Agency, Klaus Müller, said on Twitter that the pipeline was running at about 30% of capacity and that this amount was guaranteed for two hours. Müller said, however, that it was unusual for the rate of delivery to change within a day.

Germany has accused the Kremlin of using energy as a "weapon."

Britain's Truss rules out UK troop involvement in Ukraine

During an interview on BBC Radio, British foreign secretary and prime ministerial candidate Liz Truss said on Thursday she did not support the direct involvement of British troops in Ukraine.

"We are doing all we can to support Ukraine. We've led the international coalition on sending weapons, we're putting the sanctions in place, but I do not support the direct involvement of UK troops," she said. 

At the same time, the UK continues to deliver more weapons to Kyiv. UK Defense Secretary announced Thursday that London will send more than 1,600 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, as Russia's invasion presses on.   

Ukraine devalues its currency

Ukraine's central bank has devalued the country's hryvnia currency in order to boost the economy and make Ukrainian exports more competitive. 

The exchange rate will go from 29.25 hyrvnia to the US dollar to 36.57 hryvnia to the dollar.

"The new hryvnia rate will become an anchor for the economy and will add its resilience in conditions of uncertainty," the National Bank of Ukraine said in a statement.

The bank said it took action "in view of the change in the fundamental characteristics of Ukraine's economy during the war and the strengthening of the US dollar and other currencies."

Once the fighting has ended, the central bank will roll back its emergency measures to support the economy, according to National Bank chief Kyrylo Shevchenko.

Turkey says talks on grain corridor going well

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said talks between Russia, Ukraine and the UN on resuming Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea are going well so far. 

He told Turkish media he hoped to be able to announce "good news" on the talks in coming days, but added there were still minor issues being discussed between the parties. Ankara is hosting talks between Moscow, Kyiv, and the UN, for a UN-led plan about a grain corridor. 

Engineering company ABB to quit Russia

Swiss-Swedish engineering giant ABB announced plans to quit business in Russia, due to the war and sanctions against Moscow.

Russia accounts for only up to 2% of ABB's overall annual turnover and the decision to pull out will have an estimated financial impact in the second quarter of around $57 million, the group calculated. 

Catch up on DW's Ukraine content

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday rejected Russia's claim that Western weapons deliveries played a part in Moscow’s decision to expand its military objectives in Ukraine.

Many European countries have already been preparing for the possibility of a cut in gas supplies since Russia sharply reduced gas flows in mid-June, and with zero gas flow during a period of annual pipeline maintenance that started on July 11.

tg/dj (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)

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