Just a few months ago, Yandex stood out as a rare Russian business success story, having mushroomed from a small start-up into a tech colossus that not only dominated search and ride-hailing across Russia, but boasted a growing global reach.
A Yandex app could hail a taxi in far-flung cities like Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Oslo, Norway; or Tashkent, Uzbekistan; and the company delivered groceries in London, Paris and Tel Aviv. Fifty experimental Yandex robots trundled across the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus, bringing Grubhub food orders to students — with plans to expand to some 250 American campuses.
Often called “the coolest company in Russia,” Yandex employed more than 18,000 people; its founders were billionaires; and at its peak last November, it was worth more than $31 billion. Then President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia invaded Ukraine.
massacre by Russian troops. “In any other situation, it would be a perfect company, like Google, like any tech company. But Yandex has a problem since it is a Russian company.”
Founded by two math wizards in 1997, it has long claimed to generate around 60 percent of the web searches in Russia. (Google has about 35 percent, Dr. Bunina said.)
Before Yandex, Russian taxis consisted of random drivers trying to earn a few rubles. Uber tried to muscle into the market, but eventually relented and became a partner with Yandex in Russia and numerous former Soviet states. Yandex Taxi has expanded to about 20 countries.
Like many successful companies in Russia, particularly those involved in news in any format, Yandex soon caught the eye of the Kremlin. Mr. Putin’s image keepers inevitably noticed that news critical of Mr. Putin was featured frequently on Yandex.News, the company’s aggregator. During street protests in 2011 and 2012, and then the assaults on Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014, Kremlin officials sought to edit the list of acceptable news sources and sometimes even individual headlines.
Yandex tried to push back by explaining that an algorithm generated the list automatically from thousands of sources based on popularity.
“The pressure has been ramping up on us since 2014, and we have done everything we can to preserve a neutral role,” John W. Boynton, an American entrepreneur and the chairman of its board of directors, said in a June interview. “We do not get involved in politics, we have never wanted to.”
But Yandex was too big not to be enmeshed in politics, and the Kremlin kept chipping away at its independence. New laws forced news aggregators and search engines to use officially endorsed sources, while the government wrangled more control over the company’s management structure.
“They were just making it easier to pull the strings if they wanted to,” said Esther Dyson, one of two Americans who resigned from the board when the war started. It became clear that the Kremlin “was going further toward complete control,” she said.
After the Feb. 24 invasion, Mr. Putin quickly signed a law making it a crime to spread “fake news” about the military, subject to jail sentences of up to 15 years and hefty fines. What had been a manageable problem, fending off the Kremlin while maintaining an image of independence, suddenly became a crisis.
For users like Tonia Samsonova, a tech entrepreneur who had sold her start-up to Yandex for several million dollars but was still running it, the impact was jarring. Having read an online story from a British newspaper that the Kremlin had placed the country’s nuclear forces on high alert, she checked the headlines on Yandex.
There she found a bland story from a state-run agency about “deterrent” forces. Alarmed, she texted several Yandex executives to suggest that it present news that would rally opposition to the war; that elicited a firm “No,” she said.
Ms. Samsonova then posted her handwritten resignation letter on Instagram, accusing the company of hiding civilian deaths perpetrated by the Russian military.
“It is not accurate by design and the management knows it,” Ms. Samsonova said in an interview. “It is a crime to continue to do that when your country is invading another one.”
Aleksei A. Navalny, the imprisoned opposition leader, wrote on Twitter: “Don’t forget that the main propagandist of the war is not TV at all, but the Russian IT giantYandex.”
In its first sanctions against one top executive, the E.U. cited online accusations of disinformation made by a former head of Yandex.News.
The company responded to the accusations that it spread disinformation by saying that Russian law tied its hands, and that it wanted to preserve the livelihoods of its employees and the interests of its investors.
Keenly aware that the government had wrested control over another social media giant, VKontakte, the equivalent of Facebook, Yandex executives tread carefully, worried about a similar nationalization.
Facing internal questions, Dr. Bunina said that, during a weekly company forum soon after the war started, she told employees that putting independent news onto the home page would last about 10 minutes, bring no change and potentially bring an end to Yandex as they knew it.
Executives figured that as long as they controlled the Yandex search engine, users could find credible news on the war from abroad, she said, noting that Russia was not yet China.
But that proved to be far too optimistic. The company soon announced that it would spin off Yandex.News and Yandex.Zen, a kind of blogging platform that had attracted government wrath as a main vehicle for spreading videos that Mr. Navalny regularly produced exposing Kremlin corruption.
For now, Yandex executives say their main concern is to continue to innovate while the heart of the company remains in Russia, cut off from most Western technology.
“Since the war, we have put all our initiatives to take our services global on hold,” said Mr. Boynton.
Some 2,500 employees who left Russia remain outside, Dr. Bunina said, and the pace of departures from the company is accelerating.
Yandex is further bedeviled by a growing split between the employees who stayed in Russia and those outside, which makes even conversation difficult, much less collaboration. Those inside anxiously refuse to discuss the war or the world, sticking to IT, while those who left in disgust often want nothing more to do with their native land.
“Whether you leave, or whether you stay, these are such different worlds right now, so you will not understand each other,” Mr. Krasilshchik said. “This is not only about Yandex, Yandex is like the country in miniature.”
DONETSK REGION, Ukraine — Between the cracks of mortar fire and the metallic bangs of Russian self-detonating mines, Yurii, a Ukrainian Army medic, readied an intravenous line for the soldier sprawled on the stretcher below him.
The soldier looked to be in his mid-20s. His face was smeared with dirt and fear.
“Do you remember your name?” Yurii asked.
“Maksym,” the soldier whispered back.
Earlier that morning Maksym had been under a Russian bombardment at the front in eastern Ukraine that had left him severely concussed. Yurii and other Ukrainian medics were tending to him at an aid station barely removed from what has come to be known as the “zero line” where the shelling is relentless.
several anti-vehicle mines around the road and aid station where Yurii and his crew were treating Maksym. Even if the mines are not disturbed, they are set to detonate on a daylong timer.
Ukrainian forces had cleared some of the soda-bottle-shaped explosives, one soldier said, pointing to a video taken on his phone in the predawn darkness that showed troops shooting at a mine until it exploded. But mines were still in the bushes, waiting to detonate.
Yurii and the other medics tried to keep their focus on the wounded soldier. But the immediate demands stretched beyond their checklist of treating intense bleeding or assessing the airway. How to comfort the wounded? How to reassure them that they have survived and made it away from the front? How to give hope even if dozens of their friends have died?
“Don’t be afraid, my friend. You’ve arrived,” Yurii said soothingly as Maksym wormed around on the stretcher, his eyes wide and frantic.
It was clear that in Maksym’s mind, the shelling hadn’t stopped. He was breathing hard, his chest rising and falling in rapid bursts.
“Don’t worry. I am putting the needle in the vein. You’ve arrived, it’s a hard concussion,” Yurii soothed again.
The soldiers who carried Maksym to the aid station piled back in their truck to drive the roughly two miles back to the front line. They were returning to the same task their friend had been carrying out before he was nearly killed: waiting for a Russian attack or for an incoming Russian artillery round to find them.
As they departed, a soldier beyond the trees yelled “Fire!” A Ukrainian mortar launched a shell toward Russian positions. Smoke drifted up from the firing site.
The artillery war in Ukraine’s east is seemingly never-ending. Even without either side attacking or counter attacking, the shelling is constant — wounding and killing and driving those soldiers cowering in trenches and foxholes slowly insane.
At the sound of mortar fire, Maksym lurched on the stretcher once more.
“It’s all good! Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. It’s all fine. All fine. These are ours. These are ours,” Yurii told Maksym, assuring him that he wasn’t being shelled again.
Maksym’s breathing slowed. He covered his face with his hands and then looked around.
The first complete thought Maksym organized and communicated was a string of expletives directed at the Russians.
“Go on, talk to us. You got a wife? You got kids?” Yurii nudged, seizing the opportunity to bring Maksym back among the living.
“The shrapnel,” he muttered.
“Shrapnel?” Yurii asked. He was surprised. Maksym was clearly concussed, but showed no signs of other wounds.
“He’s got shrapnel right here, and here,” Maksym said, his voice trailing off. The medics quickly realized that he was talking about his friend who was wounded when the Russian artillery struck earlier.
“He’s been driven away, taken to the hospital,” Yurii said, though the medic had no idea what had happened to Maksym’s friend. He was just trying to keep his patient from panicking again.
“Is he alive?” Maksym asked cautiously.
“He has to be,” Yurii replied, though he didn’t know.
For Yurii’s ambulance crew and other medics assigned to the area, these types of calls are common. Some days they wait a few miles from the bus station-turned-aid station, the determined pickup point between the front lines and safety, and their 24-hour shift ticks by uneventfully: Yurii calls his wife several times a day. Ihor sleeps. Vova, the son of an armorer, thinks about how to modernize Ukraine’s Soviet-era weaponry.
Other days the casualties are frequent and the medics are left with a constant rotation between the hospital and the aid station as they place bloodied men with tourniquets strapped to their extremities in the back of their ambulances.
Yurii stared down at Maksym, encouraged by his newfound ability to communicate.
“You’re not hurt anywhere else?” Yurii asked.
Maksym put his hand behind his neck and pulled away, looking at his appendage, almost expecting blood to be there.
“We were all covered by shelling,” Maksym said quietly.
“It’s all good, you’re alive,” Yurii said, trying to change the subject. “The main thing is you did well. Good lad.”
As Yurii readied the stretcher and Maksym for the ambulance, an aging red sedan, a Russian Lada, pulled up to the aid station. The Soviet-era staple came to an abrupt halt, practically skidding on the churned up pavement.
The dust settled. In the distance artillery thudded in a familiar rhythm.
A man in a baggy gray T-shirt, clearly distraught, jumped from the car’s driver seat. The passenger opened his door and yelled: “The woman is wounded!”
She was an older woman named Zina, they would soon learn, and she was facedown in the back seat.
Another group of medics would take Maksym to the hospital while Yurii’s crew handled the newly arrived patient in the sedan, the medics decided.
The two men who had driven Zina to the aid station — her husband and her son-in-law — had asked Ukrainian military positions near their home where to take her after shrapnel from an artillery blast struck her head. The troops had directed them to Yurii’s aid station.
In the Lada, Zina’s blood had begun to pool on the fabric. She seemed to be at least in her 50s, unconscious, another civilian wounded in the four-month-old war, like so many who have been caught between the guns.
“Get the stretcher!” Yurii called.
It was not quite 11 a.m., and another of the Russian-strewn mines suddenly exploded near the aid station.
HOUSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In a celebratory dedication event, U.S. Army Sergeant James Ford and U.S. Army Specialist Kisha Dorsey were presented with the keys to their brand-new, mortgage-free Pulte homes in the Windrow community located in Hockley, Texas. The two homes were awarded through PulteGroup’s Built to Honor® program, which provides the gift of a new home to deserving veterans and their families.
After being surprised with the life-changing news that they were selected to receive a new home late last year, and breaking ground in February, Sergeant Ford and Specialist Dorsey saw their completed homes for the very first time during the dedication event. With family, friends and community members in attendance, the ceremony featured performances by the local Waller High School cheerleaders, drumline and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), and a special appearance by County Commissioner Precinct 4 Jack Cagle to present each veteran with a prized seedling from the Muster Oak, a historical landmark in La Grange, Texas.
“It’s a tremendous honor to welcome Sergeant Ford and Specialist Dorsey to their new homes as a token of our appreciation for their service to our country,” said Lindy Oliva, president of PulteGroup’s Houston division. “We are grateful for the generous support of Operation Homefront, Sempra, Four Hands and all of our trade partners and suppliers who made these homes possible.”
Each veteran received a brand-new 1,500+ square foot single-family home with three bedrooms and two baths. As an extra surprise for the Ford and Dorsey families, the homes were fully furnished, complete with personalized kids’ rooms and well-stocked kitchens. The décor and furniture items were graciously donated by Four Hands, a global designer and wholesaler of trend-forward home furnishings, based in Austin, Texas.
“We are honored to partner with PulteGroup to make these new houses feel like home,” said Candace Bridges, Four Hands Chief People Officer. “At Four Hands, we are committed to giving back to our local communities and are proud to support veterans and their families in this new chapter of their lives.”
PulteGroup partnered with Operation Homefront to award the homes to Sergeant Ford and Specialist Dorsey. Operation Homefront is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to build strong, stable, and secure military families so that they can thrive – in the communities they have worked so hard to protect.
“PulteGroup’s longstanding commitment to our important mission through their Built to Honor program has literally opened the doors for many military families to realize their dreams of homeownership,” said retired Brig. Gen. John I. Pray, Jr., president and CEO of Operation Homefront. “We are grateful for PulteGroup’s continued support and are proud to stand alongside them, our partners at Sempra, and all those who made this special day possible for the Ford and Dorsey families.”
Construction of the homes was made possible through the generous support of Sempra, a leading energy infrastructure company serving nearly 40 million consumers worldwide, with operations in the Houston area. The award is part of a broader commitment by Sempra and its family of companies to improve lives and help build stronger, more resilient communities.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to continue advancing a better future for all, especially the futures of these two veterans and their families, as we recognize their service and sacrifices by providing a path to homeownership,” said Mitch Mitchell, senior vice president of diversity and community partnerships for Sempra. “It is an honor to support these veterans and work with Operation Homefront and Pulte Group to provide new homes and strengthen the Texas communities we serve.”
About Built to Honor®
PulteGroup’s Built to Honor® program recognizes and thanks returning military personnel who have been injured during their term of service by providing mortgage-free homes to veterans and their families. Launched in 2013, the program has built and donated more than 70 homes across the country. Built to Honor works in partnership with nonprofit organizations to identify veteran candidates. For more information about Built to Honor, go to builttohonor.org. Follow Built to Honor on Twitter: @BuiltToHonor and Facebook.com/BuiltToHonor.
PulteGroup, Inc. (NYSE: PHM), based in Atlanta, Georgia, is one of America’s largest homebuilding companies with operations in more than 40 markets throughout the country. Through its brand portfolio that includes Centex, Pulte Homes, Del Webb, DiVosta Homes, American West and John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods, the company is one of the industry’s most versatile homebuilders able to meet the needs of multiple buyer groups and respond to changing consumer demand. PulteGroup’s purpose is building incredible places where people can live their dreams.
For more information about PulteGroup, Inc. and PulteGroup brands, go to pultegroup.com; pulte.com; centex.com; delwebb.com; divosta.com; jwhomes.com; and americanwesthomes.com. Follow PulteGroup, Inc. on Twitter: @PulteGroupNews.
KOROPY, Ukraine — Four men tugged at long strips of fabric to lift a coffin out of the gaping hole in the backyard of a small house. They flung the lid open to reveal the moldy corpse of Oleksiy Ketler, who had been killed instantly by shrapnel when a mortar fell on the road in Koropy, a village outside Khavkiv in northeastern Ukraine, in March.
Mr. Ketler, a father of two young children, would have celebrated his 33rd birthday on June 25, if he had not been outside his house at the wrong time. Now, his body has become another exhibit in Ukraine’s wide-ranging effort to collect evidence to prosecute Russia and its military for war crimes in the brutal killings of Ukrainian civilians.
Experts say the process is proceeding with extraordinary speed and may become the biggest effort in history to hold war criminals to account. But it faces an array of formidable challenges.
rape, execution-style killings and the deportation of what Mr. Belousov said could be tens of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia — were being investigated.
Better Understand the Russia-Ukraine War
At the same time, hundreds of international experts, investigators and prosecutors have descended on Ukraine from an alphabet soup of international agencies.
Early in the war, the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, arrived in Ukraine with several dozen investigators. But the court, which is based in the Netherlands, tries a limited number of cases, and usually seeks to prosecute only the upper echelon of political and military leaders.
It is also slow: Investigators working on the 2008 Russian-Georgian war did not apply for arrest warrants until this year.
There are a number of other initiatives, too. Amal Clooney, an international human rights lawyer, is part of a team advising the Ukrainian government on bringing international legal action against Russia. The United Nations has started a commission to investigate human rights violations in Ukraine — with three human rights experts — but cannot establish a formal tribunal because Russia wields veto power on the U.N. Security Council.
Investigators in Poland are collecting testimonies from refugees who fled there to feed to Ukrainian prosecutors. France has sent mobile DNA analysis teams to embed with the Ukrainian authorities to collect evidence. Nongovernmental organizations based in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, are going to territories recently occupied by Russian soldiers to collect witness statements.
The involvement of multiple countries and organizations does not necessarily lead to a more productive investigation, said Wayne Jordash, a British criminal lawyer who lives in Ukraine. Mr. Jordash, who is part of an international task force supporting Ukrainian prosecutors, was critical of some of the efforts to assist Ukraine judicially, describing it as “smoke and mirrors,” without results and clear priorities.
The International Criminal Court’s investigators were only just getting going, he noted, and experts from other countries have also been cycling in for stints of several weeks.
“You can’t just parachute into an investigation for two weeks and expect it to be meaningful,” Mr. Jordash said.
Iva Vukusic, a scholar of post-conflict justice at the University of Utrecht, said, “Resources are being poured in, but maybe down the line we will see that they were not being spent the right way,” for instance, duplicating investigation efforts rather than providing psychosocial support to victims.
Ms. Vukusic pointed out the large size of the endeavor. Across the country, she said, “there are thousands of potential suspects, and thousands of potential trials.” All of the material needs to be properly marshaled and analyzed, she said.
“If you have 100,000 items — videos, statements, documents — if you don’t know what you’re sitting on, it limits the use of material,” Ms. Vukusic said.
She also cautioned that the International Criminal Court’s leadership could face criticism by collaborating too closely with the Ukrainian authorities because, she said, Ukraine was also “an actor in this war.”
She feared Ukrainian officials were setting expectations for justice very high, and possibly wasting scarce resources on absentia trials.
“No big caseis going to be finished in two years or five years because of the scale of the violence and the fact it is going on for so long,” she said.
Mr. Belousov, the Ukrainian war crimes prosecutor, acknowledged as much. “We are playing a long game,” he said. Even if the perpetrator is tried and convicted in absentia, Mr. Belousov said, “We understand in a year, or two or three or five, these guys won’t be able to avoid punishment.”
Mr. Belousov said that he appreciated the international assistance but that coordinating it was the “biggest challenge” law enforcement authorities experienced.
For example, the Kharkiv prosecutors used a shiny new forensic investigation kit donated by the European Union for their exhumation in Koropy, the village in northeast Ukraine. But a police officer from a unit in Dmytrivka, a 45-minute drive west of Kyiv, said they had not seen or met with any international investigators or received any equipment from them.
Mr. Belousov said Ukraine wanted to take the lead in prosecuting the cases — a divergence from previous post-conflict situations in which the national authorities initially left the process to international tribunals.
But most Ukrainian investigators have little experience in these kinds of inquiries.
For example, Andriy Andriychuk, who joined the police force in the region west of Kyiv two years ago, said his work previously involved investigating local disputes or livestock theft. Now it involves “a lot more corpses,” he said.
On a recent sunny afternoon, he was called to a wooded area near the town of Dmytrivka. Several days before, police officers had received a call from foresters who had come upon a man’s grave. The dead man, Mykola Medvid, 56, had been buried with his passport; his hat was hung on top of a cross made out of sticks.
His daughter and his cousin identified his body. The local morgue officially established the cause of death: a fatal shot in the chest.
Since then, his daughter Mariia Tremalo has not heard from the investigators. No witnesses have come forward, and it was unclear who might have killed her father, or why. Still, she is hungry for justice.
“My father will never be returned,” she said. “But I would like the perpetrators to be punished.”
Right now that seems all but impossible.
In Koropy, the village near Kharkiv, Mr. Ketler’s mother, Nadezhda Ketler, was inconsolable as the gravediggers and inspectors worked. She wandered down the road to another part of her property. Six officials stood over her son’s body, photographing and documenting as his best friend, Mykhailo Mykhailenko, who looked petrified and smelled of stale alcohol, identified him.
The next day, Mr. Ketler’s body was taken to the city’s morgue, where the final cause of death was established.
Eventually, Ms. Ketler gathered the strength to show investigators the crater made by the bomb that killed him, leading the police to the exact spot where he died. Ms. Ketler stood looking at the trees as they rustled in the wind. She did not speak to anyone. She said she did not know if a guilty verdict in a war crimes trial, if it ever came, would ease the pain of losing her child.
“I had to bury my son twice,” Ms. Ketler said later. “You understand, this is hard enough to do once, and to have to do it a second time. The pain of a mother will not go anywhere.”
Evelina Riabenko, Diana Poladova and Oleksandr Chubko contributed reporting.
RUDNE, Ukraine — Yurii Brukhal, an electrician by trade, didn’t have a very dangerous role when he volunteered for Ukraine’s territorial defense forces at the start of the war. He was assigned to make deliveries and staff a checkpoint in the relative safety of his sleepy village.
Weeks later, his unit deployed from his home in the west to a frontline battle in eastern Ukraine, the epicenter of the fiercest fighting against Russian forces. He was killed on June 10.
Andrii Verteev, who worked in a grocery store in the village, spent the first months of the war guarding a small overpass after work and returning home to his wife and daughter at night. Then he, too, volunteered to head east. He died in battle in Luhansk, just weeks before Mr. Brukhal.
small protests as wives, mothers and daughters of some of the those who died express their discontent.
But others, like Mr. Brukhal’s family, said they supported their family members’ decision, despite their grief.
Before he left for the war, he had been building a home for his two daughters. At a memorial two weeks after his death, villagers gathered in prayer around a long table inside the house, its cinder block walls still exposed, a spread of food laid out in front of them.
It was the first meal in the still unfinished home, Ms. Datsko, his sister, said.
“It’s just horrible when you see what’s happening in the cemetery, and you don’t know when it will stop,” she said, reflecting on the rows of new graves appearing in Lviv’s military cemetery since her brother’s burial. “We are going to have lots of women without husbands and children without fathers.”
Oksana Stepanenko, 44, is also dealing with grief, along with her daughter Mariia, 8. Her husband, Andrii Verteev, was killed on May 15.
Like Mr. Brukhal, he had been a volunteer, tasked with protecting an overpass just up the road during the early weeks of the war. Then he joined an anti-aircraft unit of the military, and was redeployed to the east.
His death added a new level of pain to the family. Ms. Stepanenko’s son, Artur, died of an illness at age 13 three years ago. Now a corner of their small living room has become a shrine to the boy and his father.
Ms. Stepanenko said she finds solace in her faith and the fact that it was her husband’s choice to go to the front lines. But, like so many others in Ukraine she asked, “How many guys have to die before this ends?”
Despite the losses, families of fighters sent to the east said they viewed it as their patriotic duty to defend their nation.
Natalia Rebryk, 39, who married her husband, Anton Tyrgin, just three months before the Russian invasion, said she naïvely thought she would be spared any personal connection to the war.
“This war began twice for me,” Ms. Rebryk said. “The first time it started was the day of the invasion, and the second time was when Anton joined the arm
Mr. Tyrgin worked in the music industry before the war and had no military background when he volunteered for the Ukrainian National Guard. He spent the early weeks of the conflict guarding strategic sites, but in early June, his unit was told that it may also be sent east.
Ms. Rebryk said worries that he doesn’t have enough training and braces herself daily for that call she hopes never comes.
“We expected it to end in two or three weeks. Then in another two or three weeks,” she said. “When you talk with the soldiers, you realize it may not even end this year.”
In Rudne, away from the chaos, destruction and death on the frontline, the war’s brutality can sometimes seem remote. While air-raid sirens still ring out, it has been months since they sent residents scrambling for shelters.
But the funerals of men like Mr. Brukhal bring it startlingly close, and others from the small community of Rudne are still fighting in the east.
Yordana Brukhal, 13, said that her father felt it was his duty to join the war, even though he had been her primary caretaker after he separated from her mother last year.
“Up until recently, I felt this war only mentally, not physically,” she said. “And since my father died, I feel it physically as well.”
Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Natalia Yermak contributed reporting from Druzhkivka, Ukraine.
The United Nations is coordinating talks among Ukraine, Russia and Turkey in the hopes of hammering out security guarantees that would allow Ukraine to export its grain and help ease a global food crisis that is being exacerbated by the war.
But the Ukrainian government’s negotiator expressed skepticism in a recent interview with The New York Times that Russia would abide by any guarantee unless Kyiv had the military power to enforce it.
The Ukrainian negotiator, Rustem Umerov, told the Times that the country was preparing for talks in Istanbul to discuss a way to end Russia’s de facto blockade of the Black Sea port of Odesa to allow the shipment of the 20 million metric tons of grain Ukraine has in storage silos.
But he said that only the delivery of powerful naval weapons committed by Western allies would be an effective security guarantee, and he accused Russia of seeking to use the issue to shore up its own position in the Black Sea.
“If we will open up the ports, it means that the northwestern Black Sea will open up to them,” he said. No international backer, he added, “whoever guarantees us,” could be relied on to strike back if Russia then attacked Ukrainian shipping.
“And they understand it,” he said. “That’s why they are pressurizing the world to squeeze Ukraine to open up the ports.”
Before the war began, Ukraine exported about six million metric tons of grain a month, Kate Newton, an emergency coordinator for the U.N. World Food Program in Ukraine, said at a news conference in Kyiv on Thursday. Now, the country is only able to to export about one million metric tons per month, she said.
“We are doing everything we can,” she said, “exporting grain by truck, rail and river.” But, she said, without use of the Black Sea ports, it would not be possible to raise export levels much.
Russian forces have also bombed grain storage centers and fields across Ukraine. When Ukraine started shipping grain from a port on the Danube River, the Russians bombed the primary bridge trucks could use to get there.
In previous negotiations, Moscow has insisted on the right to “inspect” all vessels carrying Ukrainian grain — a condition that Kyiv would not accept.
Ukraine’s military on Thursday said it had driven Russian forces from Snake Island, a strategically important outcrop whose loss could undermine Moscow’s control over Black Sea shipping lanes. But Russia’s de facto blockade showed no sign of easing.
Mr. Umerov and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba have accused Russia of sowing disinformation about who is to blame for the blockade. The grain issue, and even the prospect of famine, have become part an information war waged by Moscow, Mr. Umerov said.
“They are weaponizing the famine,” Mr. Umerov said. “They are addressing the African states, saying, ‘We are always ready to support you, it’s Ukrainians who are not opening the ports.’” African countries are heavily dependent on grain from Russia and Ukraine.
The Russian defense ministry cast its withdrawal from Snake Island as a humanitarian gesture and repeated that it was not to blame for the food crisis. But at a recent appearance, Margarita Simonyan, the editor in chief of the Kremlin mouthpiece RT, appeared to suggest that the crisis could be to Moscow’s political benefit.
“I’ve heard it several times in Moscow from many people: ‘All our hope is in the famine,’” she told the St. Petersburg Economic Forum on June 20, adding that those people’s expectation was that famine would drive countries to lift sanctions on Russia.
Kyiv has been working to counter that narrative. Last week, Mr. Kuleba spent an hour speaking to journalists from Africa, emphasizing Ukraine’s urgency to resume exporting.
“The only country that is not really under time pressure here is Russia,” he said in an interview. “Everyone else is running out of time, be it us as suppliers, African and Asian countries as recipients, or the United Nations, whose reputation is at stake.”
CAIRO — Rowing up to the cheerful turquoise houseboat on the Nile, a fisherman saluted the white-haired woman swaying on its deck.
“How are you holding up?” he called to the woman, Ekhlas Helmy, 88, as his wife dragged back the oars. “May God bring down the bully!”
This week may be their last sharing that particular stretch of the Nile, a narrow tract in central Cairo that, since the 1800s, has been lined with wooden houseboats — homes that double as living lore. This month, the government suddenly ordered Ms. Helmy’s houseboat and 31 others demolished, saying they were unsafe and unlicensed.
famous films were set on others. On the riverbank, life was peaceful, airy and private, nothing like the dusty, frenzied metropolis whose imagination the floating homes had captured for so long.
modernize — and monetize — much of Cairo by handing it over to private developers or the military, bulldozing several historic neighborhoods to build new high-rises, roads and bridges.
singers Jalila, Zubayda and Zanuba.
Mounira al-Mahdia, a celebrated 1920s diva. The houseboat of another singer, Badia Masabni, was said to be so popular among Cairo’s elite that a rumor spread at the time that governments were formed aboard.
Back then, there were at least 200 houseboats up and down the Nile. But under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, many of the structures were moved to clear the river for water sports, said Wael Wakil, 58, who was born and raised in the houseboat he still lives on.
That left about 40 boats moored where they sit now, next to Kit Kat, a neighborhood named after a local World War II-era nightclub popular among Allied soldiers.
installed a pair of German spies on one houseboat in the area — with the help, in some tellings, of a belly dancer.
largely open to the public, became crowded with private clubs and cafes.
The authorities have made clear that they want more of those: The houseboat owners say they have been told that they can pay more than $6,500 to temporarily dock elsewhere while they apply for commercial licenses to open cafes or restaurants in their former homes. But that, they argue, is hardly a fair or attractive option.
“They’re destroying the past, they’re destroying the present, and they’re destroying the future, too,” said Neama Mohsen, 50, a theater instructor who has lived on one of the houseboats for three decades. “I see this as a crime, and no one can stop it. They’re taking away our lives as if we’re criminals or terrorists.”
Today, some of the houseboats are owned by politicians and businessmen, others by bohemians, still others by middle-class Egyptians who know no other life.
Mr. Wakil said his family moved to their houseboat in 1961. He remembers growing up fishing off its deck. Whenever he dropped a toy in the Nile, he said, a passing boatman would rescue it.
Now Mr. Wakil, a retired finance manager, has packed up, and is getting ready to move to an apartment his wife owns in the desert.
“But nothing will come close to compensating for this,” he said.
From Ms. Soueif’s favorite place in the house, the dressing room where she gives her grandchildren baths, she can see a mango tree in her riverbank garden that has not fruited for four years. Suddenly, this year, it produced what promises to be a bumper crop.
But this type of mango cannot be picked before mid-July. By then, if nothing changes, she and her houseboat will be gone.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a BRICS+ meeting during the BRICS summit via a video link in the Moscow region, Russia June 24, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Kremlin via REUTERS
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LONDON, June 26 (Reuters) – Vladimir Putin will visit two small former Soviet states in central Asia this week, Russian state television reported on Sunday, in what would be the Russian leader’s first known trip abroad since ordering the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion has killed thousands of people, displaced millions more and led to severe financial sanctions from the West, which Putin says are a reason to build stronger trade ties with other powers such as China, India and Iran.
Pavel Zarubin, the Kremlin correspondent of the Rossiya 1 state television station, said Putin would visit Tajikistan and Turkmenistan and then meet Indonesian President Joko Widodo for talks in Moscow.
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In Dushanbe, Putin will meet Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon, a close Russian ally and the longest-serving ruler of a former Soviet state. In Ashgabat, he will attend a summit of Caspian nations including the leaders of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran and Turkmenistan, Zarubin said.
Putin also plans to visit the Belarus city of Grodno on June 30 and July 1 to take part in a forum with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, RIA news agency citedValentina Matviyenko, the speaker of Russia’s upper chamber of parliament, as telling Belarus television on Sunday.
Putin’s last known trip outside Russia was a visit to the Beijing in early February, where he and Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled a “no limits” friendship treaty hours before both attended the opening ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games.
Russia says it sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 to degrade its neighbour’s military capabilities, keep it from being used by the West to threaten Russia, root out nationalists and defend Russian-speakers in eastern regions. Ukraine calls the invasion an imperial-style land grab.
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Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Graff and Mark Porter
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
This is not an accidental hit, Zelenskiy says of strike on mall
Russian attack on frontline eastern city kills eight: Ukraine
G7 leaders promise nearly $30 billion in new aid for Kyiv
KREMENCHUK, Ukraine, June 27 (Reuters) – Russian missiles struck a crowded shopping mall in central Ukraine on Monday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, as Moscow fought for control of a key eastern city and Western leaders promised to support Kyiv in the war “as long as it takes”.
More than 1,000 people were inside when two Russian missiles slammed into the mall in the city of Kremenchuk, southeast of Kyiv, Zelenskiy wrote on Telegram. At least 16 people were killed and 59 injured, Ukraine’s emergency services said. Rescuers trawled through mangled metal and debris for survivors.
“This is not an accidental hit, this is a calculated Russian strike exactly onto this shopping centre,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an evening video address, adding there were women and children inside. He said the death count could rise.
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Russia has not commented on the strike, which was condemned by the United Nations and Ukraine’s Western allies. But its deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, accused Ukraine of using the incident to gain sympathy ahead of a June 28-30 summit of the NATO military alliance.
“One should wait for what our Ministry of Defence will say, but there are too many striking discrepancies already,” Polyanskiy wrote on Twitter.
As night fell in Kremenchuk, firefighters and soldiers brought lights and generators to continue the search. Family members, some close to tears and with hands over their mouths, lined up at a hotel across the street where rescue workers had set up a base.
Kiril Zhebolovsky, 24, was looking for his friend, Ruslan, 22, who worked at the Comfy electronics store and had not been heard from since the blast.
“We sent him messages, called, but nothing,” he said. He left his name and phone number with the rescue workers in case his friend is found.
The United Nations Security Council will meet Tuesday at Ukraine’s request following the attack on the shopping mall. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the attack was “deplorable”.
Leaders of the Group of Seven major democracies, gathered for their annual summit in Germany, condemned what they called an “abominable” attack.
“We stand united with Ukraine in mourning the innocent victims of this brutal attack,” they wrote in a joint statement tweeted by the German government spokesperson. “Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held to account.”
Dmyto Lunin, governor for Poltava which includes Kremenchuk, said it was the most tragic day for region in more than four months of war.
“(We) will never forgive our enemies … This tragedy should strengthen and unite us around one goal: victory,” Lunin said on Telegram.
Elsewhere on the battlefield, Ukraine endured another difficult day following the loss of the now-ruined city of Sievierodonetsk after weeks of bombardment and street fighting.
Rescuers work at a site of a shopping mall hit by a Russian missile strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kremenchuk, in Poltava region, Ukraine June 27, 2022. REUTERS/Anna Voitenko
Russian artillery was pounding Lysychansk, its twin across the Siverskyi Donets River. Lysychansk is the last big city still held by Ukraine in the eastern Luhansk province, a main target for the Kremlin after Russian troops failed to take the capital Kyiv early in the war.
A Russian missile strike killed eight and wounded 21 others in Lysychansk on Monday, the area’s regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said. There was no immediate Russian comment.
Ukraine’s military said Russia’s forces were trying to cut off Lysychansk from the south. Reuters could not confirm Russian reports that Moscow’s troops had already entered the city.
‘AS LONG AS IT TAKES’
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” to rid the country of far-right nationalists and ensure Russian security. The war has killed thousands, sent millions fleeing and laid waste to cities.
During their summit in Germany, G7 leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, said they would keep sanctions on Russia for as long as necessary and intensify international pressure on President Vladimir Putin’s government and its ally Belarus.
“Imagine if we allowed Putin to get away with the violent acquisition of huge chunks of another country, sovereign, independent territory,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC.
The United States said it was finalising another weapons package for Ukraine that would include long-range air-defence systems – arms that Zelenskiy specifically requested when he addressed the leaders by video link on Monday. read more
In his address to the G7 leaders, Zelenskiy asked again for more arms, U.S. and European officials said. He requested help to export grain from Ukraine and for more sanctions on Russia.
The G7 nations promised to squeeze Russia’s finances further – including a deal to cap the price of Russian oil that a U.S. official said was “close” – and promised up to $29.5 billion more for Ukraine. read more
“We will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” a G7 statement said.
The White House said Russia had defaulted on its external debt for the first time in more than a century as sweeping sanctions have effectively cut the country off from the global financial system.
Russia rejected the claims, telling investors to go to Western financial agents for the cash which was sent but bondholders did not receive. read more
The war has created difficulties for countries way beyond Europe’s borders, with disruptions to food and energy exports hitting the global economy. read more
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Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by Angus MacSwan, Nick Macfie and Rami Ayyub; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Catherine Evans
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Ankara opposed Stockholm and Helsinki’s memberships
Turkey ready for months of talks if needed -sources
Stance helped Erdogan’s sagging polls ahead of vote
ANKARA, June 27 (Reuters) – A NATO summit this week is unlikely to see a breakthrough to overcome Turkey’s opposition to Sweden and Finland’s membership bids as Ankara takes an unrushed approach to negotiations, according to Turkish officials and Western diplomats.
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership in what would be a historic enlargement of the Western defence pact. But Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan surprised allies by opposing it in May over what he called the Nordic countries’ support for terrorist groups. read more
Any membership bid requires approval of all 30 members of NATO, whose leaders convene in Madrid on June 29-30 in what some had billed as a stage to seal a deal.
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Turkish negotiators are not concerned with deadlines imposed by foreign allies and are ready to press on for months if needed for the Nordic states to drop arms embargoes and crack down on what it sees as terrorist groups, the four sources told Reuters.
Based on draft language exchanged by NATO officials and the three sides this month, a big snag is Turkey’s demand that Sweden, in particular, extradites some Kurdish militants living there, said one person close to the matter.
The officials and diplomats did not rule out a last-minute deal. But Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin repeated a week ago that Ankara – NATO’s second-biggest military and a member for 70 years – awaits binding steps and does not see the summit as a deadline.
“There were meetings, but unfortunately steps we expected are not being taken,” said a Turkish government official involved in the talks. “It seems difficult for a result to come out of the NATO summit.”
In an interview with broadcaster Haberturk on Sunday, Kalin said he and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal would hold fresh talks with Finnish and Swedish officials in Brussels on Monday, followed by another round of talks between the leaders of NATO, Turkey, Finland and Sweden on Tuesday before the Madrid summit. read more
“Attending this summit does not mean we will take a step back from our position,” Kalin said, referring to Tuesday’s four-way meeting. “We have largely reached an agreement, there are some issues we don’t agree on. If we agree on those, that is how we’re going to go to Madrid.”
ELECTIONS AT HOME
The person close to the matter, who also requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of talks, said the document outlining Swedish and Finnish commitments had boiled down to a few sections not yet fully agreed.
They included the appropriate treatment of a NATO partner on arms export controls, which the Nordic states applied to Turkey in 2019; a recognition of certain groups as terrorists; and concrete action on extraditions of individuals, the person said.
Turkey ramped up engagement in mid-June but its approach “is not driven by internationally-set thresholds…like Madrid”, the person said, adding one step forward was Stockholm’s agreement to ongoing consultations on counter-terrorism.
Erdogan, facing tight general and presidential elections over the next 12 months, says the Nordics harbour people linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that is deemed a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and United States, as well as Gulenist followers of a cleric accused of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016.
The tough stance has helped his polls rebound even as Turkey’s inflation rate soars and its currency tumbles largely due to the president’s unorthodox economic policies. read more
A Western diplomat said Erdogan would likely eventually back the membership bids and declare victory to voters. “But this issue could last for several more months as he looks toward an election and NATO allies get increasingly frustrated.”
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Reporting by Orhan Coskun and Jonathan Spicer; Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Daren Butler and Alex Richardson
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