The case has caused palpable unease at the Fox News Channel, said several people there, who would speak only anonymously. Anchors and executives have been preparing for depositions and have been forced to hand over months of private emails and text messages to Dominion, which is hoping to prove that network employees knew that wild accusations of ballot rigging in the 2020 election were false. The hosts Steve Doocy, Dana Perino and Shepard Smith are among the current and former Fox personalities who either have been deposed or will be this month.

Dominion is trying to build a case that aims straight at the top of the Fox media empire and the Murdochs. In court filings and depositions, Dominion lawyers have laid out how they plan to show that senior Fox executives hatched a plan after the election to lure back viewers who had switched to rival hard-right networks, which were initially more sympathetic than Fox was to Mr. Trump’s voter-fraud claims.

Libel law doesn’t protect lies. But it does leave room for the media to cover newsworthy figures who tell them. And Fox is arguing, in part, that’s what shields it from liability. Asked about Dominion’s strategy to place the Murdochs front and center in the case, a Fox Corporation spokesman said it would be a “fruitless fishing expedition.” A spokeswoman for Fox News said it was “ridiculous” to claim, as Dominion does in the suit, that the network was chasing viewers from the far-right fringe.

Fox is expected to dispute Dominion’s estimated self-valuation of $1 billion and argue that $1.6 billion is an excessively high amount for damages, as it has in a similar defamation case filed by another voting machine company, Smartmatic.

A spokesman for Dominion declined to comment. In its initial complaint, the company’s lawyers wrote that “The truth matters,” adding, “Lies have consequences.”

denied a motion from Fox that would have excluded the parent Fox Corporation from the case — a much larger target than Fox News itself. That business encompasses the most profitable parts of the Murdoch American media portfolio and is run directly by Rupert Murdoch, 91, who serves as chairman, and his elder son, Lachlan, the chief executive.

Soon after, Fox replaced its outside legal team on the case and hired one of the country’s most prominent trial lawyers — a sign that executives believe that the chances the case is headed to trial have increased.

Dominion’s lawyers have focused some of their questioning in depositions on the decision-making hierarchy at Fox News, according to one person with direct knowledge of the case, showing a particular interest in what happened on election night inside the network in the hours after it projected Mr. Trump would lose Arizona. That call short-circuited the president’s plan to prematurely declare victory, enraging him and his loyalists and precipitating a temporary ratings crash for Fox.

These questions have had a singular focus, this person said: to place Lachlan Murdoch in the room when the decisions about election coverage were being made. This person added that while testimony so far suggests the younger Murdoch did not try to pressure anyone at Fox News to reverse the call — as Mr. Trump and his campaign aides demanded the network do — he did ask detailed questions about the process that Fox’s election analysts had used after the call became so contentious.

The case was settled in 2017.

But Fox has also been searching for evidence that could, in effect, prove the Dominion conspiracy theories weren’t really conspiracy theories. Behind the scenes, Fox’s lawyers have pursued documents that would support numerous unfounded claims about Dominion, including its supposed connections to Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan dictator who died in 2013, and software features that were ostensibly designed to make vote manipulation easier.

According to court filings, the words and phrases that Fox has asked Dominion to search for in internal communications going back more than a decade include “Chavez” and “Hugo,” along with “tampered,” “backdoor,” “stolen” and “Trump.”

Eric Munchel of Tennessee, in which he is brandishing a shotgun, with Mr. Trump on a television in the background. The television is tuned to Fox Business.

But the hurdle Dominion must clear is whether it can persuade a jury to believe that people at Fox knew they were spreading lies.

“Disseminating ‘The Big Lie’ isn’t enough,” said RonNell Andersen Jones, a law professor and First Amendment scholar at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. “It has to be a knowing lie.”

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$5.45 Million Sale of 25-Unit Highland Park Community in Los Angeles, CA, Arranged by The Mogharebi Group

COSTA MESA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Mogharebi Group (“TMG“) has arranged the $5.45 million sale of San Pascual, a 25-unit community located in the Highland Park neighborhood in Los Angeles, CA. Bryan LaBar, Keon Truth, & Otto Ozen of The Mogharebi Group represented the seller, a Southern California family office; the winning buyer was a private investor out of Southern California.

Built in 1962, San Pascual is a 2-story garden style community located on 712 San Pascual Ave and comprises of one- & two-bedroom units situated on a .55-acre corner lot. The property features excellent accessibility to the 110 Freeway, just 2-minutes from the closest on-ramp and twelve minutes away from Downtown Los Angeles. San Pascual was offered to the market for the first time in over 20 years, making it a great opportunity to enter a high barrier to entry submarket, Highland Park.

“Despite buyer sentiment and a rapidly shifting economic landscape, we generated multiple offers, ultimately guiding the winning buyer to successfully close over 97% of list price within 3 months, in a submarket averaging 4 months to sale,” said Keon Truth. “The buyer did well to further their investment objectives by securing a high-demand multifamily asset and 25-unit foothold in a neighborhood where the average apartment building size is 12 units,” added Truth.

Highland Park, Los Angeles’ first actual suburb, has a long history filled with art, agriculture, architecture, and an ethnically diverse mix of Angelenos. Today the rapidly growing neighborhood has become a must-visit location for food enthusiasts, historic home buffs, and tourists looking for an authentic slice of LA in a vibrant hub.

About The Mogharebi Group

The Mogharebi Group is one of the largest multifamily brokerage firms in the United States by volume. With offices throughout California, Seattle, and Salt Lake City, The Mogharebi Group offers private investors and investment funds deep local market knowledge, an extensive global network of top real estate investors, state-of-the-art technology, and direct access to capital with over $800 million in regularly revolving inventory.

For more information, visit: Mogharebi.com

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Inflation Cooled in July, Welcome News for White House and Fed

Inflation cooled notably in July as gas prices and airfares fell, a welcome reprieve for consumers and a positive development for economic policymakers in Washington — though not yet a conclusive sign that price increases have turned a corner.

The Consumer Price Index climbed 8.5 percent in the year through July, a slower pace than economists had expected and considerably less than the 9.1 percent increase in the year through June. After food and fuel costs are stripped out to better understand underlying cost pressures, prices climbed 5.9 percent, matching the previous reading.

The marked deceleration in overall inflation — on a monthly basis, prices barely moved — is another sign of economic improvement that could boost President Biden at a time when rapid price increases have been burdening consumers and eroding voter confidence. The new data came on the heels of an unexpectedly strong jobs report last week that underscored the economy’s momentum.

job market stays strong, Americans may begin to feel better about their personal financial situations.

“It underscores the kind of economy we’ve been building,” Mr. Biden said on Wednesday. “We’re seeing a stronger labor market where jobs are booming and Americans are working, and we’re seeing some signs that inflation may be beginning to moderate.”

loss of purchasing power over time, meaning your dollar will not go as far tomorrow as it did today. It is typically expressed as the annual change in prices for everyday goods and services such as food, furniture, apparel, transportation and toys.

Fed officials remain committed to wrestling America’s rapid inflation lower, and they have raised interest rates at the quickest pace since the 1980s to try to slow the economy and bring supply and demand into balance — making supersize rate moves of three-quarters of a percentage point at each of their past two meetings. Another big adjustment will be up for debate at their next meeting in September, policymakers have said.

But investors interpreted July’s unexpectedly pronounced inflation slowdown as a sign that policymakers could take a gentler route, raising rates a half-point next month. Stocks soared more than 2 percent on Wednesday, as Wall Street bet that the Fed might become less aggressive, which would decrease the chances that it would plunge the economy into a recession.

“It was as good as the markets and the Fed could have hoped for from this report,” said Aneta Markowska, chief financial economist at Jefferies. “I do think it removes the urgency for the Fed.”

Still, officials who spoke on Wednesday remained cautious about inflation. Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, called the report the “first hint” of a move in the right direction, while Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said that it was “positive” but that price increases remained “unacceptably high.”

Policymakers have been hoping for more than a year that price increases will begin to cool, only to have those expectations repeatedly dashed. Supply chain issues have made goods more expensive, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent commodity prices soaring, a shortage of workers pushed wages and service prices higher and a dearth of housing has fueled rising rents.

toward $4 in July after peaking at $5 in June, based on data from AAA. That decline helped overall inflation to cool last month. The trend has continued into August, which should help inflation to continue to moderate.

But it is unclear what will happen next. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects that fuel costs will continue to come down, but geopolitical instability and the speed of U.S. oil and gas production during hurricane season, which can take refineries offline, are wild cards in that outlook.

declined in July, perhaps in part because borrowing costs rose. Mortgage rates have increased this year and appear to be weighing on the housing market, which could be helping to drive down prices for appliances.

slow hiring. Wages are still rising rapidly, and, as that happens, so are prices on many services. Rents, which make up a chunk of overall inflation and are closely linked to wage growth, continue to climb rapidly — which is concerning, because they tend to change course only slowly.

Rents of primary residences climbed 0.7 percent in July from the prior month, and are up 6.3 percent over the past year. Before the pandemic, that measure typically climbed about 3.5 percent annually.

Those forces could keep inflation undesirably rapid even if supply chains unsnarl and fuel prices continue to fall. The Fed aims for 2 percent inflation over time, based on a different but related inflation measure.

“The Covid reopening and revenge travel pressures have eased — and are probably going to continue easing,” said Laura Rosner-Warburton, senior U.S. economist at MacroPolicy Perspectives. But she also struck a note of caution, adding: “Under the hood, we’re still seeing pressures in rent. There’s still sticky inflation here.”

And given how high inflation has been for more than a year now, Fed policymakers will avoid reading too much into a single report. Inflation slowed last summer only to speed up again in fall.

“We might see goods inflation and commodity inflation come down, but at the same time see the services side of the economy stay up — and that’s what we’ve got to keep watching for,” Loretta Mester, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, said during a recent appearance. “It can’t just be a one month. Oil prices went down in July; that’ll feed through to the July inflation report, but there’s a lot of risk that oil prices will go up in the fall.”

Ms. Mester said that she “welcomes” a slowdown in some types of prices, but that it would be a mistake to “cry victory too early” and allow inflation to continue without taking necessary action.

For many Americans who are struggling to adjust their lifestyles to rapidly climbing costs at the grocery store and dry cleaners, an annual inflation rate that is still more than four times its normal speed is unlikely to feel like a big improvement, even as lower gas prices and rising pay rates do offer some relief.

Stephanie Bailey, 54, has a solid family income in Waco, Texas. Even so, she has been cutting back on meals at local Tex-Mex restaurants and new clothes because of the climbing prices, which she sees “everywhere.” At Starbucks, she opts for cold, noncoffee drinks, which in some cases are cheaper.

Her son, who is in his 20s, has moved back in with his parents. Rent had become out of reach on his salary working at a vitamin manufacturer. He is now teaching at a local high school.

“It’s just so expensive, with housing,” Ms. Bailey said. “He was having a hard time making ends meet.”

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Hearth Market by Fuel Type, Product, Placement, Design, Application, Fireplace Type, Vent Availability, Ignition Type, Material and Region – Global Forecast to 2027 – ResearchAndMarkets.com

DUBLIN–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The “Global Hearth Market by Fuel Type (Wood, Electricity, Gas, Pellet), Product (Fireplaces, Inserts, Stoves), Placement, Design, Application, Fireplace Type, Vent Availability, Ignition Type, Material and Region – Forecast to 2027” report has been added to ResearchAndMarkets.com’s offering.

The global hearth market was valued at USD 9.3 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach USD 14.8 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 7.7% during the forecast period.

Indoor Hearths: The fastest-growing segment of the hearth market

An indoor hearth offers great warmth during chilly fall and winter nights. This can help reduce heating bills because most indoor fireplaces require little kindling and wood. Also, they are a great interior decoration for indoor spaces because they offer an inviting decor to the overall ambience. These hearths are integrated with different technologies and come in varied shapes and sizes. Apart from the heating efficiency of the hearth, the overall esthetic value and power consumption benefits are also valued by end users. Indoor hearths are in high demand these days.

More and more individuals are installing this product as they learn about the benefits of a high-quality indoor hearth. Indoor hearths are available across a wide price range, targeting different income groups. The easy availability of several types of indoor hearths with varying designs, fuel types (wood, gas, electricity, pellet), costs, and related accessories has further boosted the adoption of indoor hearths.

Modern Hearth: The highest growing design segment in hearth market

The modern hearths segment is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. Modern hearths are equipped with remote controls and the latest technologies to support better fuel efficiency and low emission rates. Lower maintenance and operational costs of modern hearths are also expected to drive their growth compared to traditional hearths.

Modern hearths are better equipped to accommodate the guidelines issued by the regulatory bodies. They are comparatively more fuel- and cost-efficient. Modern hearth designs have gained immense popularity due to their visual and esthetic appeal, low maintenance costs, and energy efficiency. Together, these features are expected to drive the market growth for modern hearths.

North America: The largest region in the hearth market in 2021

North America held the largest share of ~64% of the hearth market in 2021. The market growth in this region is rising predominantly due to the strong presence of key hearth manufacturers such as HNI Corporation, Glen Dimplex, Napoleon, Travis Industries (Axis Industrial Holdings Inc.), and HPC Fire Inspired. These players dominate the global hearth market by focusing on their organic and inorganic growth and delivering hearth products with cost-efficient operations and environment-effective fuel modes. In addition, the cold climate and increasing demand for esthetic appeal and home decoration are some of the key driving factors for the hearth market’s growth in the region.

Market Dynamics

Drivers

Restraints

Opportunities

Challenges

Companies Mentioned

For more information about this report visit https://www.researchandmarkets.com/r/fcy2cf

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Blackstone Funds Complete $13 Billion Acquisition of American Campus Communities

AUSTIN, Texas & NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Blackstone (NYSE: BX) today announced that Blackstone Core+ perpetual capital vehicles, primarily comprising Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust, Inc. (“BREIT”) and Blackstone Property Partners (“BPP”), have completed the previously announced acquisition of all of the outstanding shares of common stock of American Campus Communities, Inc. (“ACC”), the largest developer, owner and manager of high-quality student housing communities in the United States, for approximately $12.8 billion, including the assumption of debt.

We are proud and excited to have our best-in-class company join Blackstone, whose expertise, resources and consistent access to capital will allow us to grow and continue to lead the student housing industry,” said Bill Bayless, American Campus Communities Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. “This transaction created significant value for our shareholders and represents the culmination of our team’s passionate and dedicated service to our student residents and university partners.”

Jacob Werner, Co-Head of Americas Acquisitions for Blackstone Real Estate, said, “We are pleased to complete this transaction and welcome the American Campus Communities team to Blackstone. Student housing is a compelling sector with strong historical performance and future growth potential driven by increasing enrollment at the top universities in the U.S. as well as a shortage of quality housing supply. Our perpetual capital will enable ACC to invest in its existing assets and create much-needed new housing in university markets.”

BofA Securities served as ACC’s lead financial advisor. KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc. also acted as a financial advisor. Dentons US LLP served as ACC’s legal counsel.

Wells Fargo Securities LLC, J.P. Morgan Securities LLC, Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, SMBC, a member of SMBC Group, and TSB Capital Advisors served as Blackstone’s financial advisors, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP acted as Blackstone’s legal counsel.

The transaction was announced on April 19, 2022.

About American Campus Communities

American Campus Communities, Inc. is the largest owner, manager and developer of high-quality student housing communities in the United States. The company is a fully integrated, self-managed and self-administered equity real estate investment trust (REIT) with expertise in the design, finance, development, construction management and operational management of student housing properties. As of June 30, 2022, American Campus Communities owned 166 student housing properties containing approximately 111,900 beds. Including its owned and third-party managed properties, ACC’s total managed portfolio consisted of 204 properties with approximately 143,100 beds. Visit www.americancampus.com.

Blackstone Real Estate

Blackstone is a global leader in real estate investing. Blackstone’s real estate business was founded in 1991 and has US $320 billion of investor capital under management. Blackstone is the largest owner of commercial real estate globally, owning and operating assets across every major geography and sector, including logistics, residential, office, hospitality and retail. Our opportunistic funds seek to acquire undermanaged, well-located assets across the world. Blackstone’s Core+ business invests in substantially stabilized real estate assets globally, through both institutional strategies and strategies tailored for income-focused individual investors including Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust, Inc. (BREIT), a U.S. non-listed REIT, and Blackstone’s European yield-oriented strategy. Blackstone Real Estate also operates one of the leading global real estate debt businesses, providing comprehensive financing solutions across the capital structure and risk spectrum, including management of Blackstone Mortgage Trust (NYSE: BXMT).

Forward-Looking Statements

In addition to historical information, this press release contains forward-looking statements under the applicable federal securities law. These statements are based on the Company’s (as defined below) and BREIT’s, as applicable, current expectations and assumptions regarding markets in which American Campus Communities, Inc. (the “Company”) and BREIT respectively operates, their respective operational strategies, anticipated events and trends, the economy, and other future conditions. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties, which are difficult to predict. These risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements include those discussed in the Company’s and BREIT’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2021 under the heading “Risk Factors” and under the heading “Business – Forward-looking Statements” and subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, as well as BREIT’s Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2021 in the section entitled “Risk Factors”, BREIT’s prospectus and in the other periodic reports BREIT files with the SEC. Neither ACC nor BREIT undertakes any obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements.

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NewPoint Real Estate Capital and Morgan Properties Launch NewPoint Impact Providing Innovative Suite of Affordable Housing Financing Solutions

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–NewPoint Real Estate Capital (“NewPoint”), a pioneering real estate finance company, announces the launch of NewPoint Impact, a proprietary affordable housing lending platform that pairs private capital with government-subsidized products to deliver an innovative set of next-generation affordable housing financing solutions. NewPoint Impact is a partnership between NewPoint and Morgan Properties, one of the largest multifamily owners in the US.

Under the leadership of NewPoint’s Rob Wrzosek, who was recently elevated to President – Affordable Strategies, NewPoint’s Proprietary Affordable Team will work closely with the firm’s originators and mortgage broker partners to offer the suite of NewPoint Impact products that provides affordable housing developers with a full gamut of flexible, custom-tailored solutions from construction loans to long-term permanent financing. Financing amounts start at $8 million and are available to both for-profit and non-profit 501(c)(3) developers, with terms ranging from 2 to 40 years, depending on the execution.

NewPoint Impact will finance the construction and/or acquisition/rehabilitation of affordable housing through a variety of financial products, including:

“We created NewPoint to transform multifamily finance, and it’s impossible to do so without breaking new ground in affordable housing finance,” said David Brickman, Chief Executive Officer of NewPoint. “We have already established an affordable housing platform comprised of the foremost experts in Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA executions – now, through our partnership with Morgan Properties, we have created additional tools to bring unmatched value, speed and creativity to the organizations working to solve our nation’s affordable housing crisis.”

“Our goal with the NewPoint Impact products is to provide investors and developers with something fundamentally different in a sector that has remained relatively unchanged in recent years, despite a market that has evolved,” Wrzosek added. “These solutions solve for contemporary challenges and provide additional certainty in creating and preserving desperately needed affordable housing during an increasingly volatile environment.”

In 2017, Morgan Properties established its Special Situations platform to invest in equity recapitalizations, fixed-income securities and other alternative investment opportunities. Since launching the endeavor, Morgan Properties has been one of the most active Freddie Mac K Series investors, having closed on the acquisition of 29 B-Piece deals across $28 billion in loans. The partnership with NewPoint will afford Morgan Properties with the ability to provide liquidity to an increasingly supply-constrained affordable housing sector.

“The diminishing supply of affordable housing has put a massive strain on renters across the country. At Morgan Properties, it is in our DNA to provide solutions that make renting more accessible and provide a better living experience for all,” said Jason Morgan, Principal and President of Morgan Properties Special Situations. “Partnering with NewPoint is a great opportunity to not only lend our expertise and expand our credit platform, but also help developers jumpstart construction on these critically-needed affordable housing projects.”

With nearly a quarter of US rental households spending more than 50% of income on rent (Harvard JCHS), NewPoint Impact is committed to providing creative solutions to help expand the supply of high-quality, affordable rental housing to those in need. The NewPoint Impact financing solutions were created with direct input from leading affordable housing developers to provide a single source of low-cost financing focused on mitigating risks and maximizing efficiencies across all stages of a community’s lifecycle.

About Morgan Properties

Established in 1985 by Mitchell Morgan, Morgan Properties is a national real estate investment and management company headquartered in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Jonathan and Jason Morgan represent the next-generation leaders growing the platform and overseeing the business operations. Morgan Properties and its affiliates currently own and manage a multifamily portfolio comprised of more than 350 apartment communities and over 95,000 units located in 19 states. The Company is among the three largest multifamily owners in the nation and the largest in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York. With over 2,300 employees, Morgan Properties prides itself on its quick decision-making capabilities, strong capital relationships and proven operational expertise.

About NewPoint Real Estate Capital

NewPoint Real Estate Capital (NewPoint) is a prominent commercial real estate finance company delivering lending solutions to investors of multifamily, affordable housing, seniors housing, healthcare, and manufactured housing properties nationwide. NewPoint leverages technology, data, capital, and the expertise of its industry-leading team to provide loan origination, servicing, execution, and a suite of Agency and curated proprietary products to meet the evolving needs of borrowers. In addition to being a Fannie Mae DUS®, Freddie Mac Optigo®, and HUD/FHA MAP and LEAN Lender, NewPoint also offers proprietary bridge and affordable housing financing. For more information, please visit https://newpoint.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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