Analysts said the decree hinted that Mr. Putin was preparing for a long and grinding war, but not necessarily a large-scale draft that would mark a major escalation and perhaps prompt a domestic backlash.

“Expectations that this will end by Christmas or that this will end by next spring” are misguided, said Ruslan Pukhov, a defense analyst who runs the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a privately-owned think tank in Moscow. “I think this will last a very long time.”

Ukraine was bolstered this week by the promise of a $3 billion military aid package from the United States. Biden administration officials said the aid was as much a message to Mr. Putin that the United States is in this for the long haul, as it was to Ukraine that America will continue to try to hold the NATO alliance together in backing Kyiv indefinitely.

Administration officials insist that President Biden is committed to helping Ukraine win, even in a war of attrition, if it comes to that. Colin H. Kahl, under secretary of defense for policy, said at a news conference this week that Mr. Putin’s assumption that he can “win the long game’’ was “yet another Russian miscalculation.”

In Russian state media, the message that Russia might be only at the start of a long and existential war against the West — now being fought, by proxy, in Ukraine — is sounding with increasing clarity. It is a sharp shift from six months ago, when Ukrainians were depicted as lacking the will to fight and eagerly awaiting Russian “liberation.”

“We will have fewer Russian tourists in Europe, but the size of the Russian army will increase by 140,000 regular servicemen,” Igor Korotchenko, the editor of a Russian military journal, said on a state television talk show. “I expect that this is just the beginning.”

While Mr. Putin may be content with a protracted standoff, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine is in some ways fighting against the clock.



What we consider before using anonymous sources. How do the sources know the information? What’s their motivation for telling us? Have they proved reliable in the past? Can we corroborate the information? Even with these questions satisfied, The Times uses anonymous sources as a last resort. The reporter and at least one editor know the identity of the source.


“The very difficult state of our economy, the constant risks of air and missile attacks and the general fatigue of the population from the difficulties of war will work against Ukraine” over time, Andriy Zagorodnyuk, a former defense minister, wrote in the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper. He said the military should be prepared to advance, rather than defend.

“It makes no sense to drag out the war for years and compete to see who will run out of resources first,” he wrote.

Stage-managed elections to justify annexation could come as early as next month, Western officials say, putting additional time pressure on Mr. Zelensky to launch an offensive.

But several military analysts say there is a disconnect between Ukrainian civilian leaders, pressing for a major victory, and military leaders who want to ensure they have sufficient troops and combat power before conducting a major offensive.

“There’s a desire to show international partners that their support will enable Ukraine to win, not just hold on,” said Jack Watling, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, who just returned from Ukraine. “And there is an expectation from the Ukrainian people they’ll be able to liberate their territory.”

But he cautioned, “a military offensive needs to be based on conditions on the battlefield,” not in the political arena.

Over the last month, the Ukrainians have pivoted to the new strategy of so-called “deep war” — hitting targets far behind the front — after months of grim artillery duels and street fighting in the eastern region of Luhansk, which ultimately fell under Russian control by early July.

Using long-range, precision guided rockets provided by the United States and others, the Ukrainian military has been striking Russian weapons depots, bases, command centers and troop positions deep into occupied territory, including Crimea, the peninsula Mr. Putin seized in 2014.

Ukraine has for months been telegraphing plans for the major battle in the south; the types of weapons it has requested from Western allies and the tactics it pursues on the battlefield offering clues to its strategy.

Tellingly, a recent U.S. military assistance package included armored vehicles with mine-clearing attachments that would be used in a ground advance, suggesting preparations for the opening of what would be a new, ground attack phase of the war. Ukraine pushed back Russian forces that were in disarray in the battle for Kyiv last winter, but has yet to demonstrate it can overrun well-fortified Russian defenses.

For Mr. Putin, even a partial loss of territory as a result of a counteroffensive would represent a major embarrassment, in part because of how he has framed the stakes: Ukraine, he falsely claims, is carrying out a “genocide” of Russian speakers. Russia has failed to capture a single major population center since early July, frustrating the war’s most ardent backers.

But the Russian leader, in control of the state media and the political system, is well-situated for the moment to ignore any criticism, analysts say.

Instead, Mr. Putin insists that his forces are advancing in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region “step by step.”

A senior Biden official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential assessments, countered that narrative in an interview on Friday, describing the Russian advance in Donbas as so slow that “a good day for them is if they advance 500 meters.”

Though conventional wisdom has held that stringing out the war would favor Russia, it also carries risks for Mr. Putin, doing more damage to his economy and bringing more Western weaponry to bear: Despite the arrival of artillery systems from NATO members, Ukraine’s arsenal is still largely made up of Soviet-era arms.

At home in Ukraine, Mr. Zelensky has broad support for continuing the war. An opinion poll by the Razumkov Center, a policy research organization in Kyiv, released on Monday showed 92 percent of Ukrainians are confident in a military victory.

With the decision on an attack in the south looming, Mr. Zelensky has taken pains to show unity with his generals. At a news conference this week, he praised the commander, General Valeriy Zaluzhny, and denied rumors he intended to dismiss the general.

“We work as a team,” Mr. Zelensky said. Asked to assess the general’s performance, he said, “The most important assessment is we are holding on. That means the assessment is high. When we win, it will be the highest assessment.”

Andrew E. Kramer reported from Kyiv, Anton Troianovski from Berlin and Helene Cooper from Washington. Reporting was contributed by Eric Schmitt from Washington and Oleksandr Chubko from Kyiv.

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Live Updates: Ukraine Estimates Sharply Higher Russian Casualty Toll in Crimea Blasts

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

BAKHMUT, Ukraine — Ukrainian soldiers scurried around the howitzer in a field one recent morning. In a flurry of activity, one man lugged a 106-pound explosive shell from a truck to the gun. Another, using a wooden pole, shoved it into the breach.

“Loaded!” the soldier shouted, then knelt on the ground and covered his ears with his hands.

The gun fired with a thunderous boom. A cloud of smoke wafted up. Leaves fluttered down from nearby trees. The shell sailed off toward the Russians with a metallic shriek.

It is a scene repeated thousands of times daily along the frontline in Ukraine: artillery duels and long-range strikes from both sides on targets ranging from infantry to fuel depots to tanks.

And what followed the salvo fired on Wednesday morning in eastern Ukraine was also indicative of the rhythm of this war: a coffee break.

This is a war fought in a cycle of opposites — bursts of chaos from outgoing or incoming shelling, and then long lulls in which soldiers undertake the most routine activities. Fighters who minutes before unleashed destructive weapons with a thunderous roar settled in a grove of oak trees around a picnic table of wooden ammunition boxes, boiling water on a camp stove and pouring cups of instant coffee.

They rested in an oak forest, overlooking a field of tall green grass and purple flowering thistles. Elsewhere, soldiers used a lull to smoke or get a haircut.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

On a recent visit, soldiers from the 58th Brigade fighting in and around the city of Bakhmut, where the artillery war is raging, were both attacking and under attack from artillery.

All about on the rolling, grassy hills west of Bakhmut, puffs of brown smoke rose from incoming Russian strikes, aimed at Ukraine’s artillery positions.

The pivotal importance of long-range fire was one reason the United States and other allies rushed NATO-caliber howitzers to Ukraine. Its military is close to depleting the entire stock of Soviet-legacy shells in its own arsenal and from allied countries in Eastern Europe, and it is now shifting to more abundant NATO ammunition.

Russia has vast supplies of artillery ammunition but indications are surfacing that it is dipping into older reserves that more frequently do not detonate on impact.

The Soviet-legacy howitzer the Ukrainian team fires, a model called the D-20 that is nicknamed the “fishing lure,” has held up well, said the commander, Lieutenant Oleksandr Shakin. American-provided long-range weaponry such as the M777 howitzer and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as HIMARS, have extended the reach of Ukraine’s army, but the bulk of the arsenal is still Soviet-era guns.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

The cannon they fired was made in 1979, he said, and most of the shells were from the 1980s. Still, Lt. Shakin said, “They have not let me down yet.’’

Typically, he said, he fires around 20 shells a day from each gun, conserving Ukraine’s dwindling supply of 152 millimeter ammunition.

“We have a lot of motivation,” said Captain Kostyantin Viter, an artillery officer. “In front of us are our infantry and we have to cover them. Behind us are our families.”

Inside the city of Bakhmut on Wednesday, at a position where soldiers of the 58th Brigade are garrisoned in an abandoned municipal building, the whistles of their colleagues’ shells could be heard sailing overhead — aimed at Russian forces to the east of town.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

The soldiers stood in a courtyard, smoking and listening to the whizzing of shells overhead and thuds of explosions in the distance.

The buzzing of electric clippers filled the air, too, as one soldier gave another a haircut. A few trucks were parked in the yard and a dozen or so soldiers milled about.

Half an hour or so on, a new noise joined the background of distant booms: the clang of nearby explosions. What had been a languid summer morning became a scene of chaos.

Soldiers dashed for cover or dove to the ground. After a dozen or so booms, it was over. An acrid smoke wafted over the courtyard, and shards of glass lay about. “Is everybody alive?” a soldier shouted.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

All of the soldiers who had been in the yard escaped unhurt. But the Russian rocket strike killed seven civilians and wounded six others in the neighborhood near the soldiers’ base, the authorities reported later.

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Biden Formalizes U.S. Support For Finland, Sweden Joining NATO

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
August 10, 2022

NATO rules require the consent of all of its 30 existing members before Finland and Sweden can officially accede into the alliance.

President Joe Biden formally welcomed Finland and Sweden joining the NATO alliance Tuesday as he signed the instruments of ratification that delivered the U.S.’s formal backing of the Nordic nations entering the mutual defense pact, part of a reshaping of the European security posture after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“In seeking to join NATO, Finland and Sweden are making a sacred commitment that an attack against one is an attack against all,” Biden said at the signing as he called the partnership the “indispensable alliance.”

The U.S. became the 23rd ally to approve NATO membership for the two countries. President Biden said he spoke with the heads of both nations before signing the ratification and urged the remaining NATO members to finish their own ratification process “as quickly as possible.”

The Senate last week approved the two, once-non-aligned nations joining the alliance in a rare 95-1 vote that President Biden said shows the world that “the United States of America can still do big things” with a sense of political unity.

The countries sought out NATO membership earlier this year to guarantee their security in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offensive in Ukraine. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s rules require the consent of all of its 30 existing members before Finland and Sweden can officially accede into the alliance, which is expected in the coming months.

The candidacies of the two prosperous Northern European nations have won ratification from more than half of the NATO member nations in the roughly three months since the two applied. It marks one of the speediest expansions of the pact of mutual defense among the United States and democratic allies in Europe in its 73-year history.

U.S. State and Defense officials consider the two countries net “security providers,” strengthening NATO’s defense posture in the Baltics in particular. Finland is expected to exceed NATO’s 2% gross domestic product defense spending target in 2022, and Sweden has committed to meet the 2% goal.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO in May, setting aside their longstanding stance of military nonalignment. It was a major shift of security arrangements for the two countries after neighboring Russia launched its war on Ukraine in late February. President Biden encouraged their joining and welcomed the two countries’ government heads to the White House in May, standing side by side with them in a display of U.S. backing.

The U.S. and its European allies have rallied with newfound partnership in the face of Putin’s military invasion, as well as the Russian leader’s sweeping statements this year condemning NATO, issuing veiled reminders of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and asserting Russia’s historical claims to territory of many of its neighbors.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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As Israel-Palestinian Truce Holds, Gaza Power Plant Restarts

Over three days of fighting, 44 Palestinians were killed, including 15 children and four women, and 311 were wounded. No Israelis were killed.

With a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants holding after nearly three days of violence, Gaza’s sole power plant resumed operations Monday as Israel began reopening crossings into the territory.

Israel also lifted security restrictions on southern Israeli communities after the Egyptian-mediated truce took effect late Sunday. Fighting abated, and war-weary people in Gaza and Israel were left picking up the pieces after another round of violence — the worst since an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas last year.

Since Friday, Israeli aircraft had pummeled targets in Gaza while the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group fired hundreds of rockets at Israel.

Over three days of fighting, 44 Palestinians were killed, including 15 children and four women, and 311 were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Islamic Jihad said 12 of those killed were militants. Israel said some of the dead were killed by rockets misfired from Gaza. No Israelis were killed.

The violence had threatened to spiral into another all-out war but was contained because Gaza’s ruling Hamas group stayed on the sidelines, possibly because it fears Israeli reprisals and undoing economic understandings with Israel, including Israeli work permits for thousands of Gaza residents that bolster Hamas’ control over the coastal strip.

Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since the group overran the territory in 2007. Hamas had a strong incentive to avoid more conflict, which has exacted a staggering toll on the impoverished territory’s 2.3 million Palestinian residents.

The outburst of violence in Gaza was a key test for Israel’s caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who lacks experience leading military operations. He unleashed the offensive less than three months before a general election in which he is campaigning to keep the job — and may have gained political ground with it.

Israel began to reopen crossings into Gaza for humanitarian needs on Monday and said it would fully open them if calm is maintained. Fuel trucks were seen entering at the main cargo crossing headed for the power plant, which went offline Saturday after Israel closed the crossings into Gaza last week.

That added to misery at the height of summer heat in the territory, which is under a stifling Israeli-Egyptian blockade and suffers from a chronic power crisis that leaves residents with only a few hours of electricity a day.

Life for hundreds of thousands of Israelis was disrupted during the violence. Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted many of the rockets launched at Israel and no significant injuries were reported.

Israel launched its operation with a strike Friday on a leader of the Islamic Jihad, saying there were “concrete threats” of an anti-tank missile attack against Israelis in response to the arrest last week of another senior Islamic Jihad member in the West Bank. That arrest came after months of Israeli raids in the West Bank to round up suspects following a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israel.

It killed another Islamic Jihad leader in a strike on Saturday.

Both sides boasted of their successes. Speaking to reporters in Tehran on Sunday, Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah said the militant group remained strong, despite losing two of its leaders. “This is a victory for Islamic Jihad,” he said.

Despite that claim, the group undoubtedly sustained a blow during the fierce offensive. Beyond losing the two leaders, it reduced its arsenal by firing hundreds of rockets.

Israel said some of the deaths in Gaza were caused by errant militant rocket fire, including in the Jebaliya refugee camp, where six Palestinians were killed Saturday. On Sunday, a projectile hit a home in the same area of Jebaliya, killing two men. Palestinians held Israel responsible for the Sunday attack, while Israel said it was investigating whether the area was struck by misfired rockets.

The cease-fire deal contained a promise that Egypt would work for the release of two senior Islamic Jihad detainees held by Israel, but there were no guarantees this would happen. The weekend fighting was also bound to complicate Islamic Jihad’s relations with Hamas.

A senior Israeli diplomatic official said the offensive was successful and had taken Islamic Jihad’s capabilities back “decades,” citing the loss of the two leaders and hits to the group’s rocket production and firing capabilities, among other blows. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the operation with the media.

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed the cease-fire.

“Over these last 72-hours, the United States has worked with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, and others throughout the region to encourage a swift resolution to the conflict,” he said in a statement Sunday.

In the occupied West Bank on Monday, Israeli troops demolished the homes of two Palestinians suspected of carrying out a deadly attack against Israelis in the city of Elad in May. The soldiers faced a violent protest during the operation, the military said.

The U.N. Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting Monday on the violence. China, which holds the council presidency this month, scheduled the session in response to a request from the United Arab Emirates, which represents Arab nations on the council, as well as China, France, Ireland and Norway.

“We underscore our commitment to do all we can towards ending the ongoing escalation, ensuring the safety and security of the civilian population, and following-up on the Palestinian prisoners file,” said U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, in a statement.

The Israeli army said militants in Gaza fired about 1,100 rockets toward Israel, with about 200 of them landing inside the Palestinian enclave. The army said its air defenses had intercepted 380 of them, including two fired toward Jerusalem. The military did not specify what happened to the remainder, but they likely fell in open areas or broke up in the air.

Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas, and little is known about its arsenal. Both groups call for Israel’s destruction, but have different priorities, with Hamas constrained by the demands of governing.

Over the past year, Israel and Hamas have reached tacit understandings based on trading calm for work permits and a slight easing of the border blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt when Hamas overran the territory 15 years ago. Israel has issued 12,000 work permits to Gaza laborers, and has held out the prospect of granting another 2,000 permits.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Israeli Airstrike Kills 2nd Top Islamic Jihad Commander

The Islamic Jihad commander, Khaled Mansour, was killed in an airstrike on an apartment building in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza.

Israel said Sunday that it killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in a crowded Gaza refugee camp, the second such targeted attack since it launched its high-stakes military offensive against the militant group just before the weekend.

The Iran-backed militant group has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel in response, and the risk of the cross-border fighting turning into a full-fledged war remained high.

Gaza’s ruling Hamas group, which fought an 11-day war with Israel in May 2021, appeared to stay on the sidelines for now, possibly because it fears Israeli reprisals and undoing economic understandings with Israel, including Israeli work permits for thousands of Gaza residents, that bolster its control.

The Islamic Jihad commander, Khaled Mansour, was killed in an airstrike on an apartment building in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza late Saturday.

Two other militants and five civilians were also killed in the attack, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 31 since the start of the Israeli offensive on Friday. Among the dead were six children and four women. The Palestinian Health Ministry said more than 250 people were wounded since Friday.

Israel says some of the deaths were caused by errant rocket fire, including one incident in the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza in which six Palestinians were killed Saturday. On Sunday, a projectile hit a home in the same area of Jebaliya, killing two men. Palestinians held Israel responsible, while Israel said it was investigating whether the area was hit by an errant rocket.

Mansour, the Islamic Jihad commander for southern Gaza, was in the apartment of a member of the group when the missile struck, flattening the three-story building and badly damaging nearby houses.

“Suddenly, without warning, the house next to us was bombed and everything became black and dusty with smoke in the blink of an eye,” said Wissam Jouda, who lives next to the targeted building.

Ahmed al-Qaissi, another neighbor, said his wife and son were among the wounded, suffering shrapnel injuries. To make way for rescue workers, al-Qaissi agreed to have part of his house demolished.

As a funeral for Mansour began in the Gaza Strip on Sunday afternoon, the Israeli military said it was striking suspected “Islamic Jihad rocket launch posts.” Smoke could be seen from the strikes as thumps from the strikes’ explosions rattled Gaza.

The Rafah strike was the deadliest so far in the current round of fighting, which was initiated by Israel on Friday with the targeted killing of Islamic Jihad’s commander for northern Gaza.

Israel has said it took action against the militant group because of concrete threats of an imminent attack, but has not provided details. Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who is an experienced diplomat but untested in overseeing a war, unleashed the offensive less than three months before a general election in which he is campaigning to keep the job.

In a statement Sunday, Lapid said the military would continue to strike targets in Gaza “in a pinpoint and responsible way in order to reduce to a minimum the harm to noncombatants.” Lapid said the strike that killed Mansour was “an extraordinary achievement.”

“The operation will continue as long as necessary,” Lapid said.

Israel estimates its airstrikes have killed about 15 militants.

Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas, and little is known about its weapons arsenal. Both groups call for Israel’s destruction, but have different priorities, with Hamas constrained by the demands of governing.

The Israeli army said militants in Gaza fired some 580 rockets toward Israel. The army said its air defenses had intercepted many of them, with two of those shot down being fired toward Jerusalem. Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas.

Air raid sirens sounded in the Jerusalem area for the first time Sunday since last year’s Israel-Hamas war.

Jerusalem is typically a flash point during periods of cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza. On Sunday, hundreds of Jews, including firebrand ultra-nationalist lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir, visited a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The visit, under heavy police protection, ended without incident, police said.

Such demonstrative visits by Israeli hard-liners seeking to underscore Israeli claims of sovereignty over contested Jerusalem have sparked violence in the past. The holy site sits on the fault line of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is central to rival narratives of Palestinians and Israeli Jews.

In Palestinian cities and towns in the West Bank, Israeli security forces said they detained 19 people on suspicion of belonging to the Islamic Jihad during overnight raids.

The fighting began with Israel’s killing of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in a wave of strikes Friday that Israel said were meant to prevent an imminent attack.

By Sunday, Hamas still appeared to stay out of the battle. The group has a strong incentive to avoid another war. Last year’s Israel-Hamas war, one of four major conflicts and several smaller battles over the last 15 years, exacted a staggering toll on the impoverished territory’s 2.3 million Palestinian residents.

Since the last war, Israel and Hamas have reached tacit understandings based on trading calm for work permits and a slight easing of the border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt when Hamas overran the territory 15 years ago. Israel has issued 12,000 work permits to Gaza laborers, and has held out the prospect of granting another 2,000 permits.

The lone power plant in Gaza ground to a halt at noon Saturday due to a lack of fuel. Israel has kept its crossing points into Gaza closed since Tuesday. With the new disruption, Gazans can use only four hours of electricity a day, increasing their reliance on private generators and deepening the territory’s chronic power crisis amid peak summer heat.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Turkey says ship carrying first Ukrainian grain on track for safe arrival

  • Ukraine consults U.S. in using HIMARS launchers, official says
  • Comment prompts Kremlin to accuse U.S. of direct involvement
  • First wartime Ukraine grain export ship reaches Bosphorus Strait
  • U.S. sanctions target ex-Olympic gymnast seen as close to Putin

ISTANBUL/LONDON, Aug 2 (Reuters) – Russia on Tuesday accused the United States of direct involvement in the Ukraine war while the first ship carrying Ukrainian grain to world markets since Moscow’s invasion anchored safely off Turkey’s coast after a problem-free journey.

Russia said it was responding to comments by Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy head of military intelligence, about the way Kyiv had used U.S.-made and supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers based on what he called excellent satellite imagery and real-time information.

Skibitsky told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper there was consultation between U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence officials before strikes and that Washington had an effective veto on intended targets, though he said U.S. officials were not providing direct targeting information.

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Russia’s defence ministry, headed by a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, said the interview showed that Washington was entangled in the conflict despite repeated assertions that it was limiting its role to arms supplies because it did not want a direct confrontation with Moscow. read more

“All this undeniably proves that Washington, contrary to White House and Pentagon claims, is directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine,” the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.

“It is the Biden administration that is directly responsible for all Kyiv-approved rocket attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure in populated areas of Donbas and other regions, which have resulted in mass deaths of civilians.”

There was no immediate reaction from the White House or Pentagon to the ministry’s assertions.

The Pentagon did deny, however, Moscow’s claims that Russia had destroyed six U.S.-made HIMARS since the war in Ukraine began on Feb. 24. Russia regularly claims it has hit HIMARS but has yet to show proof. read more

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of carrying out devastating missile attacks on civilian targets on an almost daily basis. Both sides deny deliberately targeting civilians.

The accuracy and long range of missile systems provided by the West were intended to reduce Russia’s artillery advantage, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday night said that despite those supplies, his country’s forces could not yet overcome Russian advantages in heavy guns and manpower.

“This is very much felt in combat, especially in the Donbas. … It is just hell there. Words cannot describe it,” he said.

A Russian diplomat said at the United Nations that the conflict in Ukraine does not warrant Russia’s use of nuclear weapons, but Moscow could decide to use its nuclear arsenal in response to “direct aggression” by NATO countries over the invasion. read more

At a nuclear non-proliferation conference, diplomat Alexander Trofimov said Moscow would only use nuclear weapons in response to weapons of mass destruction or a conventional weapons attack that threatened the existence of the Russian state.

“None of these two hypothetical scenarios is relevant to the situation in Ukraine,” Trofimov, a senior diplomat in the non-proliferation and arms control department of Russia’s foreign ministry, told the U.N. conference to review the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

SAFE PASSAGE

Meanwhile, a July 22 U.N.-brokered deal to unblock the export of Ukrainian grain had an initial success. Turkey said that the first loaded ship since Russia’s invasion more than five months ago was safely anchored off the Turkish coast. read more

The vessel, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni was at the entrance of the Bosphorus Strait, which connects the Black Sea to world markets, around 1800 GMT on Tuesday, some 36 hours after leaving the Ukrainian port of Odesa.

A delegation from the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul, where Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and U.N. personnel work, is expected to inspect the ship at 0700 GMT on Wednesday, Turkey’s Defence Ministry said.

It was loaded with 26,527 tonnes of corn.

“We hope that there will be some more outbound movement tomorrow,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

Dujarric said there were about 27 ships in the three Ukrainian ports covered by the export deal that were ready to go.

The exports from one of the world’s top grain producers are intended to help ease a global food crisis.

“Our goal now is to have an orderly schedule so when one ship leaves port there should be other vessels – both those loading and those approaching the port,” Zelenskiy said.

For the safe passage deal to stick, there are other hurdles to overcome, including clearing sea mines and creating a framework for vessels to safely enter the war zone and pick up cargoes. read more

Known as Europe’s breadbasket, Ukraine hopes to export 20 million tonnes of grain held in silos and 40 million tonnes from the harvest now under way, initially from Odesa and nearby Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk.

Russia has called the Razoni’s departure “very positive” news. It has denied responsibility for the food crisis, saying Western sanctions have slowed its exports.

Adding to those sanctions, the United States on Tuesday targeted Alina Kabaeva, a former Olympic gymnast the Treasury Department described as having a close relationship with Putin. Putin has denied they are romantically linked.

The department said in a statement Kabaeva heads the National Media Group, a pro-Kremlin group of television, radio and print organizations.

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Reporting by Reuters bureaux; writing by Andrew Osborn. Mark Heinrich and Alistair Bell; editing by Nick Macfie, Grant McCool, Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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