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Ukraine updates: EU halts eastern grain export restrictions

Published September 15, 2023last updated September 15, 2023

The EU said restrictions on Ukrainian grain exports were no longer necessary in five nearby countries. Meanwhile, US media report Biden and Zelenskyy will meet next week. DW has the latest.

A tractor collects straw on a field in a private farm in Zhurivka, Kyiv region, Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023.
Sales of Ukrainian grain were restricted in five nearby EU members after local farmers complained of a flooded marketImage: Efrem Lukatsky/AP/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

The European Commission on Friday said that the market distortions in five member states near Ukraine caused by an increase in grain exports "have disappeared." 

Therefore, it said restrictions allowing those countries to ban the domestic sale of Ukrainian grains would expire at the end of the day. Poland, however, said it would continue to enforce the restriction, in the interest of its farmers.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will meet US President Joe Biden and lawmakers on Capitol Hill next week, the White House said. 

The visit as Congress debates fresh aid for Ukraine worth a potential $21 billion (€19.7 billion), and a week after Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a $1 billion aid package.

Here are more headlines concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Friday, September 15.

Skip next section Baerbock, Blinken promise to support Ukraine
September 15, 2023

Baerbock, Blinken promise to support Ukraine

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have reiterated their continued support for Kyiv following talks in Washington.

At a joint press conference following their meeting, Blinken said the two countries were "deeply committed to continuing the strong support" to Ukraine as it pushes on with a counteroffensive against Russian forces.

"It's not just about sending weapons to Ukraine, it's also about the humanitarian aspect — protecting infrastructure, and bringing back children who have been kidnapped and taken away," she said. "Nobody in this world wants to get used to a brutal war of aggression."

Skip next section EU ends import ban on Ukrainian grain
September 15, 2023

EU ends import ban on Ukrainian grain

The European Union said it was ending an import ban on Ukrainian grain in five member states after Kyiv promised to control exports.

"Existing measures will expire today," the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said in a statement.

Increases in grain imports from Ukraine into and through the European Union set off protests by farmers over market distortions in some eastern EU countries.

The restrictions had allowed Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian grains while allowing their transit elsewhere in the EU.

For its part, Warsaw said it would extend a ban on Ukrainian grains into Poland.

"We will extend this ban despite the European Commission's disagreement," Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said. "We will do it because it is in the interest of the Polish farmer."

Slovakia and Hungary also indicated they would impose national bans on Ukrainian foodstuffs.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, however, welcomed the EU decision, calling it an example of true unity and trust.

"It is important now for European unity to work at the bilateral level as well," he said. "So that neighbors support Ukraine during the war." 

As far as the EU countries deciding to continue implementing the bans, Zelenskyy said if the nations choose to violate EU law, "Ukraine will respond in a civilized manner."


Skip next section Kyiv mayor calls for Germany's continued military aid
September 15, 2023

Kyiv mayor calls for Germany's continued military aid

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko issued a call for further military support during a visit to Germany.

Thanking the country for its assistance so far, Klitschko said people in the Ukrainian capital felt "many times safer than a year ago" due to the weapons already delivered.

But he added that renewed attacks on the city and its infrastructure posed a serious danger as winter approaches.

Klitschko estimated the number of civilians killed in Kyiv since the full-scale Russian invasion to be about 180. More than 700 buildings had been destroyed and air raid sirens had sounded more than 800 times forcing residents to seek shelter underground, he added.

Klitschko gestures during a panel discussion with German Defense Minister  Boris Pistorius
Klitschko (left) thanked German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (right) for the weapons systems that have been sent to UkraineImage: Guido Kirchner/dpa/picture alliance
Skip next section UNESCO places Kyiv, Lviv sites on endangered list
September 15, 2023

UNESCO places Kyiv, Lviv sites on endangered list

Kyiv's Saint Sophia Cathedral and Monastery of the Caves have been added to UNESCO's list of endangered heritage sites, along with the historic old town of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, the UN organization confirmed on Friday.

The two iconic Kyiv sites, just a 15-minute drive apart on the Dnipro River, are "a masterpiece of human creative genius," according to UNESCO.

The gold-domed Saint Sophia Cathedral, located in the heart of the capital, was built in the 11th century and designed to rival the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, while the so-called Monastery of the Caves, also known as the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, constitutes a sprawling complex of churches connected by a labyrinth of underground caves.

Snow covers the bell tower and the domes of Saint Sophia Cathedral, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine
Saint Sophia Cathedral was designed to rival the Hagia Sophia in IstanbulImage: Ruslan Kaniuka/Ukrinform/ABACA/picture alliance

Lviv, 500 kilometers (310 miles) west of Kyiv near the Polish border, features a fifth-century castle overlooking winding streets and squares built between the 13th and 17th centuries, including Orthodox, Armenian, Catholic and Jewish religious buildings.

"In its urban fabric and its architecture, Lviv is an outstanding example of the fusion of the architectural and artistic traditions of Eastern Europe with those of Italy and Germany," UNESCO said.

None of the sites have as yet been damaged by Russian attacks, and, although UNESCO's list has no enforcement mechanism, it is hoped that the categorization could help deter arbitrary strikes.

Skip next section Ukraine plans big rise in defense spending in 2024 draft budget
September 15, 2023

Ukraine plans big rise in defense spending in 2024 draft budget

The Ukrainian government has approved a draft budget for 2024, with over half of spending — around 1.7 trillion hryvnias ($46 billion, €43 billion) — earmarked for defense as the country continues to fight off the Russian invasion.

"The key focus of this draft is defense and security of our country," said Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on Telegram. "[Defense spending] is 113 billion hryvnias more than this year [2023]. There will be even more weapons and equipment. More drones, more ammunition, more missiles."

Some 48.1 billion hryvnias alone will be ringfenced to purchase all-important drones, while total spending will account for more than 21% of gross domestic product.

How drones are shaping the war for Ukraine and Russia

With the deficit forecast at 1.548 trillion hryvnias, or about 20.4% of gross domestic product, Ukraine is counting on continued Western backing, which already totals nearly $62 billion.

"In terms of working with partners, the road is long, the work continues," said finance minister Serhiy Marchenko in televised comments. "For 2023, we have secured the financing in full. I think and hope that for 2024 we will agree on support from our partners."

Skip next section Ukraine recovers bodies of 51 more soldiers
September 15, 2023

Ukraine recovers bodies of 51 more soldiers

Ukraine has taken possession of 51 more of its fallen soldiers, bringing the official total number of corpses recovered from Russia to 1,832.

Whether the bodies of dead Russian soldiers were sent the other way as part of an exchange is not known.

Russia and Ukraine have conducted regular exchanges of prisoners of war, as well as the bodies of dead soldiers, since the Kremlin launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Neither side has published official casualty figures, but the most recent Western estimates suggest around 70,000 Ukrainian fatalities and around 120,000 Russian.

Skip next section Thousands of Orthodox Jews arrive in Ukraine for Jewish New Year
September 15, 2023

Thousands of Orthodox Jews arrive in Ukraine for Jewish New Year

Despite the ongoing war, more than 32,000 Hasidic or Orthodox Jewish pilgrims have arrived in the Ukrainian city of Uman ahead of the Jewish New Year, which begins at sunset on Friday.

The celebrations will continue until Sunday and checkpoints have been set up around the city to control and register pilgrims.

Uman, a town almost 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Kyiv with a pre-war population of just over 80,000, is home to the grave of Rabbi Nachman, an important pilgrimage site for Orthodox Jews.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, himself of Jewish heritage, met representatives of Ukraine's Jewish community, wishing them Happy New Year and thanking Jewish soldiers in the Ukrainian armed forces. "Only Ukrainian victory can bring peace," he said.

Uman has been hit several times by Russian missile and drone attacks, and Israel has intensified warnings to its citizens against traveling to the war zone.

Skip next section Kim Jong Un visits Russian airplane factory, next stop Vladivostok
September 15, 2023

Kim Jong Un visits Russian airplane factory, next stop Vladivostok

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited an airplane factory in the far east of Russia on Friday, inspecting the latest Russian Sukhoi Su-57 combat jet in the town of Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

The Kremlin released a video showing Kim on an elevated platform, looking at the cockpit of the Su-57 while listening to its pilot. Kim also observed a demonstration flight by a Su-35 fighter jet, beaming and clapping his hands as it landed.

Since arriving in Russia on Tuesday, Kim has met President Vladimir Putin and visited weapons and space technology sites.

Western experts speculate that North Korea could supply ammunition to Russia in return for advanced technology.

According to Russian media, the next stop on Kim's Russia tour will be the far eastern city of Vladivostok to observe Russia's Pacific Fleet.

Meanwhile, at a meeting in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday, Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko suggested that his country could join Russia and North Korea in a "three-way cooperation."

Skip next section Russia says Ukraine naval drone destroyed
September 15, 2023

Russia says Ukraine naval drone destroyed

Russia has announced the destruction of what it said was a Ukrainian naval drone in the Black Sea.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on the Telegram messaging platform the Ukrainian uncrewed boat was detected by the small missile ship Askold of the Black Sea Fleet on Friday morning. 

The drone was destroyed by fire from the ship's standard weapons, the ministry added.

Skip next section Kremlin denies Prigozhin crash investigation too slow
September 15, 2023

Kremlin denies Prigozhin crash investigation too slow

The Kremlin has denied that its investigation into the plane crash which killed Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has been too slow.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov defended the pace of the probe during comments to the media on Friday.

"It is not a simple investigation, not a simple incident," he said. "The investigation is ongoing, that is why giving some kind of commentary would be absolutely premature."

Western countries have voiced suspicion that the Kremlin was behind the crash, which came exactly two months after Prigozhin's short-lived mutiny against the Russian army. 

Russia has been faster in investigating other plane crashes. Russian investigators promptly published possible causes shortly after an emergency landing in Siberia this week.

Russian investigators confirm Prigozhin's death

Skip next section Russia to receive 12 new ships by the end of year, Shoigu says
September 15, 2023

Russia to receive 12 new ships by the end of year, Shoigu says

Russia has received two new ships this year, said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, adding that 12 more will arrive by the end of the year.

Shoigu also said the country was developing new nuclear submarines and undersea drones, the Russian TASS news agency reported.

The announcement comes days after Russia said that a Ukrainian cruise missile attack on a shipyard in the city of Sevastopol damaged two ships undergoing repairs. They included a powerful Kilo-class submarine.

In July, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the Russian navy would receive 30 new ships this year.

Skip next section Russia's Rostov submarine severely damaged — UK intelligence
September 15, 2023

Russia's Rostov submarine severely damaged — UK intelligence

An attack on Russia's Black Sea Fleet in the city of Sevastopol earlier this week has "functionally destroyed" a ship and caused "catastrophic damage" to a submarine, the UK Ministry of Defence said.

In its daily update on the war, the ministry said multiple missiles struck the landing ship Minsk and Kilo 636.3 class submarine Rostov-na-Donu, while they were undergoing maintenance.

"Despite the Russian Ministry of Defence downplaying the damage to the vessels, open-source evidence indicates the Minsk has almost certainly been functionally destroyed, while the Rostov has likely suffered catastrophic damage," the ministry said on social media.

It added that efforts to restore the submarine to service are likely to "take many years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars." 

The ministry also highlighted the possibility that the dry docks will remain out of use for many months due to the "complex task" of removing the wreckage from them.

"This would present the BSF [Russia's Black Sea Fleet] with a significant challenge in sustaining fleet maintenance," it said. 

It added that Rostov was among the fleet's four cruise-missile capable submarines and had played a major role in striking Ukraine, highlighting the impact of its loss on Russia's power across the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean.

On Wednesday, Russia's Defense Ministry said that a Ukrainian cruise missile attack on a shipyard in the city of Sevastopol damaged two ships undergoing repairs.

Skip next section Ukraine's military says it 'liberated' village of Andriivka
September 15, 2023

Ukraine's military says it 'liberated' village of Andriivka

Ukraine's military said on Friday that they had retaken the village of Andriivka near the eastern town of Bakhmut which had previously been captured by Russian troops in a bloody battle in May. 

"The defense forces... liberated Andriivka in Donetsk region, inflicted significant losses on the enemy in terms of manpower and equipment, and entrenched at the occupied frontiers," Ukraine's General Staff said in a daily operational report on Facebook.

Ukrainian forces had previously criticized a post on Telegram from Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar claiming that the village had been captured on Thursday — Maliar quickly deleted the post.

A Ukrainian brigade said that "statements of this kind are harmful, endanger the lives of the troops and affect how deployments are conducted."

Ukraine's counteroffensive 'slow-going but effective': Kurt Volker, former US Ambassador to NATO

Skip next section Germany backs extending EU protections for Ukrainian refugees
September 15, 2023

Germany backs extending EU protections for Ukrainian refugees

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has said that she backs extending the protection status in the European Union for Ukrainian refugees. 

"I very much support that we as the European Union extend the protection status of refugees from Ukraine," Faeser said in an interview published by German Funke Media Group on Friday.

She added that she would soon discuss the issue with her counterparts in the EU. 

Ukrainians fleeing the war-ravaged country are, for the time being, exempt from lengthy asylum procedures usually mandated by EU member nations. They are immediately entitled to social benefits, a work permit and access to education and housing.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced earlier this week that she would propose extending the rules for temporary protection for Ukrainians in the EU until at least March 2025.

The current rules, which were first put in place following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, will expire in March 2024.

Skip next section US sanctions another 150 Putin supporters
September 15, 2023

US sanctions another 150 Putin supporters

The United States has added 150 more people and companies that support Russian President Vladimir Putin to its list of sanctions, the US Departments of State and Treasury has said.

The aim is to "target Russia's military supply chains and deprive Putin of the equipment, technology, and services he needs to wage his barbaric war on Ukraine," US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. 

Big Russian engineering companies, metallurgy and mining groups were on the sanctions list. Gazpromstroy — which is the construction group of the gas giant Gazprom — is also new on the list, along with Russia's second largest diamond company AGD Diamonds. 

Aiming directly at the Russian industry, the list included wagon manufacturer Transmash, carmakers Avtovaz and Moskvich and aircraft engine manufacturer Soyuz in Moscow. 

Two Turkish firms that are seen as providing parts for drone construction in Russia were also sanctioned. 

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