But Mr. Townsend and other chess ‌‌aficionados say that goal is a long shot. Still, Maksym is clearly skilled, Mr. Townsend said.

“Does that mean he’s going to become a grandmaster ever, let alone at the age of 12? Not necessarily,” he said.

Still, Maksym is nothing if not determined. He wakes at 5 a.m. each day to practice online before school and until recently had regular online training sessions with a Ukrainian chess grandmaster through the Ukrainian Chess Federation.

So far, his lucky outfit and his hours of training have served him well as he wins competition after competition in England. In late July, he and his mother traveled to Greece for the European Youth Chess Championship, where he won in two categories — rapid and blitz — in his age group.

Like many former Soviet nations, Ukraine has a long tradition of strong chess grandmasters, Mr. Townsend explained, but often the expectation is of total dedication to the game from a young age.

“You would see it as a place where chess is taken a lot more seriously than it is here,” Mr. Townsend said. Parents put young children into rigorous training programs, and school is often second to chess.

“It’s such a massive, culturally different approach to chess playing,” Ms. Townsend said. As a diversion from chess, she has enjoyed showing Maksym how to cook, taking him on nature walks, and building with Lego pieces.

But much of Maksym’s time is still dedicated to chess, and Mr. Townsend has been keen to help him get involved in local tournaments.

On a recent Saturday morning, he took Maksym and Ms. Kryshtafor to a Quaker school in York for a competition involving 120 youths ages 7 to 18. Boards were lined up on tables in a gym, filled with row after row of children tapping clocks and moving pieces.

Some of the children were so small that when seated, their feet swung above the floor. Maksym’s sneakers barely touched it.

He sat, fidgeting slightly, while the organizers rattled off the rules in English. He did not understand much of what was being said, but he knows how to play. His first match was over in under a minute.

He ran into the hall where Ms. Kryshtafor was waiting and embraced her. After the next match, Maksym again went running out to his mother.

“Too easy,” he said with a smile. “I made a checkmate.”

Before the fifth match, Maksym pressed his forehead against his mother’s and she whispered some words of encouragement. His opponent, an older boy, arrived just before play began.

Maksym rested his chin on his hand and smiled until, suddenly, he realized he had made a mistake. He pulled at tufts of his hair, twisting them around his fingers. He eventually lost to the boy, and after they shook hands, he wiped tears from his eyes.

Maksym eventually placed second in the competition. By the end, he seemed more interested in chatting with a group of children who had organized a game of tag outside.

His long hair flew behind him as one of the children chased him.

“He’s just a child,” his mother said as she watched him frolic. “He works so hard with chess that sometimes you forget he’s just a child.”

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Firefighters Combat Major Wildfire In Southwestern France

By Associated Press
August 11, 2022

The blaze in the Gironde and Landes regions near Bordeaux forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people and destroyed at least 16 houses.

More than 1,000 firefighters were struggling Thursday to contain a major wildfire that has burned a large area of pine forest in southwestern France, in a region that was already ravaged by flames last month.

Local authorities said more than 26 square miles have burned since Tuesday in the Gironde region and neighboring Landes as France, like other European countries, swelters through a hot and dry summer.

Temperatures were expected to reach 104 F on Thursday in the region.

The blaze forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people and destroyed at least 16 houses.

SDIS 33 via AP

Spanish state television showed dozens of trucks having to turn around and stay in Spain because of a border closure because of the fire raging in France. TVE reported that truckers, many carrying perishable goods, were looking for ways to cross the border because the parking areas in and around the Irun crossing are full.

A major highway near the French city of Bordeaux was also closed.

Photos released by firefighters showed flames raging through pine forests overnight, sending clouds of smoke in the air and illuminating the sky with intense orange light.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin were due to visit the evacuated small town of Hostens Thursday to meet with firefighters, rescuers, local officials and volunteers.

Darmanin said that nine aircraft and two helicopters have been mobilized to fight the blaze.

The Gironde region was hit last month by major wildfires that forced the evacuation of more than 39,000 people, including residents and tourists.

France is this week in the midst of its fourth heat wave of the year as the country faces what the government warned is its worst drought on record.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that several European countries have offered their help to combat French wildfires, listing Germany, Greece, Poland, Romania and Austria.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Illegal Logging Is Rampant. Can IKEA Help Slow It Down?

IKEA and other major furniture retailers get much of their wood from forests crucial for biodiversity, stripping land of trees faster than is healthy.

IKEA is one of the largest furniture retailers in the world and a leader in a booming global furniture market. The market hit an estimated value of over $490 billion last year.

The IKEA brand in particular is known for its pretty affordable products, but there are a lot of unseen costs that go into supplying cheap, mass-produced wooden furniture to major retailers — namely costs from how and where that wood gets harvested.

Eastern Europe and Russia offer a huge supply of high-quality and high-value woods like spruce and beech, and countries like Ukraine and Romania are home to huge old-growth forests. Old growth forests are well sought after but also some of the most important to protect. They’re particularly crucial for biodiversity, and old trees absorb carbon dioxide at higher rates than younger ones.

Now, estimates vary, but one environmental watchdog group determined more than half of IKEA’s wood supply comes from that region. To be clear, IKEA is far from the only major furniture supplier here, but it is arguably the biggest: The company alone is the largest individual consumer of wood in the world and doubled its consumption in the last decade.

IKEA has said before that “under no circumstances” would they accept wood that doesn’t meet their sustainability requirements. They’ve also taken action against problematic suppliers before.

To balance the growing global demand for wood with conservation of these crucial forests, the EU and national governments have established massive protected areas, and quotas limiting how much of a certain wood gets harvested.

These protections, by the way, apply to both public and private land. That’s important to note because IKEA itself is the largest private landowner in Romania. It owns about 83,000 acres — that’s almost 63,000 football fields-worth of land. It made this massive purchase back in 2015, buying from the previous owner, the Harvard Endowment Fund.

But despite the legal limits and forest management, the woods of Eastern Europe are vanishing much faster than they should be, and it’s only ramping up.

Maps form Global Forest Watch show the total tree cover loss in Ukraine, Russia and Romania over the past two decades.  

Part of this is due to deforestation, legally or otherwise. In 2018, for example, the Romanian government licensed about 18.5 million cubic meters of wood to be harvested, but instead, about 38.6 million was taken — more than twice the legal limit. 

“It’s also a breakdown of the sort of European laws meant to deal with this,” said David Gehl, manager for traceability and technologies at the Environmental Investigation Agency. “Romania designated quite large amounts of its forest as protected areas. They never created the implementing regulations to actually implement those laws.”

So, how is this happening right under regulators’ noses? 

The problems often start early in the supply chain. For example, loggers can use false documentation to hide the amount or quality of the wood they’re harvesting. Sometimes it’s as simple as submitting unclear or misleading photos to the local government’s tracking system, obscuring how much wood is really being harvested. Then, the illegal wood is taken to a log depot, where it often gets mixed in with legal wood. 

Enforcing rules on the ground becomes next to impossible thanks to what the press has dubbed the so-called “Timber Mafia,” which is a group well-ingrained in local communities.  

“There’s many excellent Romanian news reports and investigative reports about this, and many interviews, for example, with police officers who are just admitting very clearly on camera that they cannot touch these people,” Gehl said.

Standing up to illegal loggers is dangerous work. Like other hotspots for illegal logging in the world, a number of forest managers, rangers, activists and journalists have been attacked or even killed throughout Eastern Europe and Russia. In Romania alone, at least six forest rangers have been killed in recent years, with 650 incidents of people being beaten, shot at or attacked in relation to illegal logging.

So how can furniture retailers ensure the wood they’re using was safely and legally sourced? 

Furnishers often rely on something called the Forest Stewardship Certification, or FSC, to vet the sourcing for wood products. Third-party companies can be hired to conduct an audit along the supply chain — from the log depots to sawmills and more. They can award an FSC certification if the work there seems legit.

But critics have pointed out some central flaws to the audit process and warned FSC certifications may be giving a false sense of security.

“There’s this kind of conflict of interest because IKEA is paying directly for an FSC certificate,” said Tara Ganesh, head of investigations at Earthsight. “So this does not create much incentive for these auditors to independently look for problems because, in effect, these auditing companies within Russia are all competing for business from companies like IKEA.”

“So we’ve talked to some certifying bodies that have said, you know, ‘I was commissioned by this company. I spent three days in the forest. I gave them this list of 20 things that they would need to change to get their certification,'” Gehl said. “They said, ‘Thank you very much,’ and three days later, they got their certification from a different company.”

There have been a number of separate investigations throughout Eastern Europe which found illegal timber processing at partners with IKEA, all of which were FSC-certified.

The U.K. watchdog group Earthsight published two reports showing illegal wood from forests in Ukraine and Russia has been widely used in popular IKEA furniture lines.

“It was a combination of looking at shipment records and undercover work calls to the suppliers concerned to try to get admissions from them about various practices and their links to IKEA,” Ganesh said. “It was also in both cases in Ukraine and in Russia. There’s actually a lot of information that’s available publicly, which is fantastic. But also then begs the question that if we could find it, why did it take IKEA so long to find that, or FSC, for that matter?”

IKEA’s response was to defend its reliance on FSC certifications. The company insisted it was improving its system of “due diligence” checks. Newsy reached out to IKEA and the Forest Stewardship Council for a response on this but didn’t hear back.

“I think IKEA is doing perhaps more than any other large wood processor in the world,” Gehl said. “The problem is that the status quo, the bar of the status quo, is so low that even though they’re doing better than that status quo, that’s still very far from what is necessary to make sure that they’re not getting illegal wood.”

It’s hard to know where to start with a system like this: the danger for those working on the ground, the corruption along supply chains, the documented abuse of the FSC labels. What these problems really come down to is a lack of enforcement.

Source: newsy.com

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Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski Killed In Car Crash, Her Office Says

By Associated Press
August 3, 2022

Rep. Jackie Walorski’s office said, “She has returned home to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” in a statement.

Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski was killed Wednesday in a car accident in her northern Indiana District, according to her office.

“Jackie’s husband, was just informed by the Elkhart County Sheriff’s office that Jackie was killed in a car accident this afternoon. She has returned home to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers. We will have no further comment at this time,” her office said in a statement.

The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office said they were called to the scene of a two-vehicle crash shortly after noon. Police said a car traveled left of the center lane and collided head-on with an SUV Walorski was riding in, killing Walorski, 58, and two others in the vehicle.

A 55-year-old woman driving the other car was also killed in the crash, police said.

Walorski, who served on the House Ways and Means Committee, was first elected to represent Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District in 2012. She previously served three terms in the state’s legislature.

Walorski, was born in South Bend and lived near Elkhart, Indiana. She and her husband were previously missionaries in Romania, where they established a foundation that provided food and medical supplies to impoverished children. She worked as a television news reporter in South Bend before her turn to politics.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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As Russia Threatens Europe’s Energy, Ukraine Braces for a Hard Winter

In a thickly forested park bordered by apartment blocks and a playground, a dozen workers were busy on a recent day with chain saws and axes, felling trees, cutting logs and chopping them into firewood to be stashed in concealed sheds around Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine.

Ironworkers at a nearby forge are working overtime to produce wood-burning stoves to be stored in strategic locations. In municipal depots, room is being made to stockpile reserves of coal.

The activity in Lviv is being played out in towns and cities across Ukraine, part of a nationwide effort to amass emergency arsenals of backup fuel and critical provisions as Russia tightens its chokehold on energy supplies across Europe.

curtailed gas supplies to Europe last week, leading the European Union to announce that it will reduce imports of Russian gas so as not to be held hostage. Russia turned off the gas taps to Latvia on Saturday, after the government there announced additional military assistance for Ukraine, the latest in a string of European countries to do so.

Ukraine buys its natural gas from European neighbors, so the restriction of deliveries to Europe threatens its access to energy, too.

ordered to evacuate this past weekend after months of relentless Russian bombardment destroyed the infrastructure needed to deliver heat and electricity.

“We understand that the Russians may continue targeting critical energy infrastructure before and during the winter,” said Oleksiy Chernyshov, Ukraine’s minister for communities and territories development, in an interview.

“They’ve demolished central heating stations in big cities, and physical devastation is still happening nationwide,” he said. “We are working to repair damage, but it doesn’t mean we won’t have more.”

Far from Ukraine’s embattled southeastern front, the campaign is being waged in forests and in steel forges, at gas storage sites and electrical stations, and even in basement boiler rooms, as the government mobilizes regions to activate a blueprint for amassing fuel and shelter.

disconnect Ukraine’s energy grid from Russia and Belarus and link it directly to the European Union’s. Last month, Ukraine began exporting small amounts of electricity to Romania, with hopes of eventually supplying European companies that have been hit by Russian natural gas cuts, a potential source of valuable income.

But Ukrainian officials say the ability to supply electricity at home, especially over the coming winter, when temperatures can fall far below freezing, is increasingly threatened as Russia intensifies a campaign of targeting the infrastructure that delivers energy.

Russian shelling has hit thermal power plants around the country and over 200 gas-fired boiler plants used for centralized heating. Around 5,000 kilometers of gas pipelines have been damaged, along with 3,800 gas distribution centers, according to an analysis by the Woodrow Wilson International Center’s Kennan Institute, a think tank focused on Russia.

Gas is especially critical for Ukraine because it is used to warm thousands of high-rise apartment complexes, schools, post offices and municipal buildings that rely on centralized heating systems.

largest gas reserves in Europe and has 11 billion cubic meters in storage. Andrii Zakrevskyi, head of the Ukrainian oil and gas association, said Monday that was enough to meet Ukraine’s needs before the war — but the level is roughly half what the government would like it to be.

racing to secure new energy sources, the pain circles back to Ukraine, which imports gas from Europe after halting direct imports from Russia after the 2014 annexation of Crimea. Russia’s squeeze has pushed European gas futures prices to record levels, making imports more expensive at a time when the government in Kyiv is facing a budget crisis.

All of which has gotten the country mobilized in a hurry.

Swiatoslaw and Zoriana Bielinski recently stocked the cellar of their modest Lviv home with wood. The couple has purchased scores of batteries and several battery-operated lamps in case the lights go out, and they were preparing to buy gas bottles for cooking.

“We have to start thinking about this,” said Alicja Bielinska, Mr. Bielinski’s sister, who had helped the couple stock up. “Ultimately, we can survive without light and gas, but we won’t be able to survive if the invaders take over.”

Officials responsible for city planning have stockpiled on a much grander scale, collecting thousands of tons of wood and a large stash of coal in the last week alone. Mr. Sadovyi, Lviv’s mayor, said more supplies were on the way and has ordered thermostats to be lowered to 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit) when winter sets in.

On a recent day, Mr. Sadovyi buzzed around the city hall courtyard, greeting locals who had gathered for now-regular demonstrations on how to prepare for heat and electricity cuts — or worse. Two emergency workers showed residents how to put on a chemical suit in case of an attack: gas mask firmly in place, the suit sealed tight over the head.

Forges have shifted some production to put a priority on making tens of thousands wood-burning stoves, some emblazoned with the Ukrainian coat of arms. Town halls in over 200 cities are building stockpiles, along with tents that can house up to 50 people apiece in the event that multifamily apartment buildings are left without gas needed to heat them.

The tents can be moved quickly to sites without electricity or heat, providing emergency shelter and stoves for boiling water and cooking, said Mr. Chernyshov, the development minister.

“We hope we won’t have to use them,” said Iryna Dzhuryk, an administrative director in Lviv. “But this is an absolutely unusual situation. We are shocked by what we’re facing and worried about making sure we have enough to keep people warm.”

Nearby, sheds recently built to stock firewood have been camouflaged by locals. Additional wood is expected to arrive in the coming weeks, hewn from groves of trees inside the city and from the vast forests of western Ukraine.

One hour’s drive north of Lviv, in a dense wood streaked with yellow sunlight, forestry service workers labored to generate enough firewood to supply a beleaguered nation. On a recent weekday, they cut into a grove of weathered oak trees and trucked them to a sawmill, where a lumberyard half the size of a football field was stacked a meter high with freshly hewn logs.

Firewood sales have doubled from a year ago, and prices have nearly tripled as the country stocks up, said Yuriy Hromyak, vice director of the Lviv Regional Department of Forestry.

Even the forest isn’t sheltered from Russian attacks, he added. Ukrainian forces recently shot down a rocket fired from Belarus on a nearby oil storage facility. The tanks — which were empty — weren’t damaged, but the blast blew out all the windows in a wood storage warehouse and in parts of the sawmill.

“The Russians will do anything to try to destroy us,” he said. “But no one has managed to unite us as much as Putin has.”

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As Russia Chokes Ukraine’s Grain Exports, Romania Tries to Fill In

Stopping at the edge of a vast field of barley on his farm in Prundu, 30 miles outside Romania’s capital city of Bucharest, Catalin Corbea pinched off a spiky flowered head from a stalk, rolled it between his hands, and then popped a seed in his mouth and bit down.

“Another 10 days to two weeks,” he said, explaining how much time was needed before the crop was ready for harvest.

Mr. Corbea, a farmer for nearly three decades, has rarely been through a season like this one. The Russians’ bloody creep into Ukraine, a breadbasket for the world, has caused an upheaval in global grain markets. Coastal blockades have trapped millions of tons of wheat and corn inside Ukraine. With famine stalking Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia, a frenetic scramble for new suppliers and alternate shipping routes is underway.

barge that had sunk in World War II.

Rain was not as plentiful in Prundu as Mr. Corbea would have liked it to be, but the timing was opportune when it did come. He bent down and picked up a fistful of dark, moist soil and caressed it. “This is perfect land,” he said.

67.5 million tons of cargo, more than a third of it grain. Now, with Odesa’s port closed off, some Ukrainian exports are making their way through Constanta’s complex.

Railway cars, stamped “Cereale” on their sides, spilled Ukrainian corn onto underground conveyor belts, sending up billowing dust clouds last week at the terminal operated by the American food giant Cargill. At a quay operated by COFCO, the largest food and agricultural processor in China, grain was being loaded onto a cargo ship from one of the enormous silos that lined its docks. At COFCO’s entry gate, trucks that displayed Ukraine’s distinctive blue-and-yellow-striped flag on their license plates waited for their cargoes of grain to be inspected before unloading.

During a visit to Kyiv last week, Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, said that since the beginning of the invasion more than a million tons of Ukrainian grain had passed through Constanta to locations around the world.

But logistical problems prevent more grain from making the journey. Ukraine’s rail gauges are wider than those elsewhere in Europe. Shipments have to be transferred at the border to Romanian trains, or each railway car has to be lifted off a Ukrainian undercarriage and wheels to one that can be used on Romanian tracks.

Truck traffic in Ukraine has been slowed by backups at border crossings — sometimes lasting days — along with gas shortages and damaged roadways. Russia has targeted export routes, according to Britain’s defense ministry.

Romania has its own transit issues. High-speed rail is rare, and the country lacks an extensive highway system. Constanta and the surrounding infrastructure, too, suffer from decades of underinvestment.

Over the past couple of months, the Romanian government has plowed money into clearing hundreds of rusted wagons from rail lines and refurbishing tracks that were abandoned when the Communist regime fell in 1989.

Still, trucks entering and exiting the port from the highway must share a single-lane roadway. An attendant mans the gate, which has to be lifted for each vehicle.

When the bulk of the Romanian harvest begins to arrive at the terminals in the next couple of weeks, the congestion will get significantly worse. Each day, 3,000 to 5,000 trucks will arrive, causing backups for miles on the highway that leads into Constanta, said Cristian Taranu, general manager at the terminals run by the Romanian port operator Umex.

Mr. Mircea’s farm is less than a 30-minute drive from Constanta. But “during the busiest periods, my trucks are waiting two, three days” just to enter the port’s complex so they can unload, he said through a translator.

That is one reason he is less sanguine than Mr. Corbea is about Romania’s ability to take advantage of farming and export opportunities.

“Port Constanta is not prepared for such an opportunity,” Mr. Mircea said. “They don’t have the infrastructure.”

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Europe steps up support for Ukraine as Russia presses offensive

  • Ukraine EU candidacy signals major shift in European geopolitics
  • ‘Europe can create a new history of freedom’ Zelenskiy says
  • Battle for Sievierodonetsk grinds on
  • Ukraine claims strike on Russian tugboat

BRUSSELS/KYIV, Ukraine, June 17 (Reuters) – The European Union gave its blessing on Friday for Ukraine and its neighbour Moldova to become candidates to join, in the most dramatic geopolitical shift to result from Russia’s invasion.

Ukraine applied to join the EU just four days after Russian troops poured across its border in February. Four days later, so did Moldova and Georgia – smaller ex-Soviet states also contending with separatist regions occupied by Russian troops.

“Ukraine has clearly demonstrated the country’s aspiration and the country’s determination to live up to European values and standards,” the EU’s executive Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels. She made the announcement wearing Ukrainian colours, a yellow blazer over a blue shirt.

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President Voloymyr Zelenskiy thanked von der Leyen and EU member states on Twitter for a decision he called “the first step on the EU membership path that’ll certainly bring our victory closer”.

Moldova’s President Maia Sandu hailed a “strong signal of support for Moldova & our citizens!” and said she counted on the support of EU member states.

“We’re committed to working hard,” she said on Twitter.

While recommending candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova, the Commission held off for Georgia, which it said must meet more conditions first.

Von der Leyen said Georgia has a strong application but had to come together politically. A senior diplomat close to the process cited setbacks in reforms there.

Leaders of EU countries are expected to endorse the decision at a summit next week. The leaders of the three biggest – Germany, France and Italy – had signalled their solidarity on Thursday by visiting Kyiv, along with the president of Romania.

“Ukraine belongs to the European family,” Germany’s Olaf Scholz said after meeting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Ukraine and Moldova will still face a lengthy process to achieve the standards required for membership, and there are other candidates in the waiting room. Nor is membership guaranteed – talks have been stalled for years with Turkey, officially a candidate since 1999.

But launching the candidacy process, a move that would have seemed unthinkable just months ago, amounts to a shift on par with the decision in the 1990s to welcome the ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe.

“Precisely because of the bravery of the Ukrainians, Europe can create a new history of freedom, and finally remove the grey zone in Eastern Europe between the EU and Russia,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

If admitted, Ukraine would be the EU’s largest country by area and its fifth most populous. All three hopefuls are far poorer than any existing EU members, with per capita output around half that of the poorest, Bulgaria.

All have recent histories of volatile politics, domestic unrest, entrenched organised crime, and unresolved conflicts with Russian-backed separatists proclaiming sovereignty over territory protected by Moscow’s troops.

PORT BLOCKADE

President Vladimir Putin ordered his “special military operation” officially to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. One of his main objectives was to halt the expansion of Western institutions which he called a threat to Russia.

But the war, which has killed thousands of people, destroyed whole cities and set millions to flight, has had the opposite effect. Finland and Sweden have applied to join the NATO military alliance, and the EU has opened its arms to the east.

Within Ukraine, Russian forces were defeated in an attempt to storm the capital in March, but have since refocused on seizing more territory in the east.

The nearly four-month-old war has entered a punishing attritional phase, with Russian forces relying on their massive advantage in artillery firepower to blast their way into Ukrainian cities.

Ukrainian officials said their troops were still holding out in Sievierodonetsk, site of the worst fighting of recent weeks, on the east bank of the Siverskyi Donets river. It was impossible to evacuate more than 500 civilians who are trapped inside a chemical plant, the regional governor said.

In the surrounding Donbas region, which Moscow claims on behalf of its separatist proxies, Ukrainian forces are mainly defending the river’s opposite bank.

Near the frontline in the ruins of the small city of Marinka, Ukrainian police made their way into a cellar searching for anyone who wanted help to evacuate. A group of mainly elderly residents huddled on mattresses in candlelight.

“There’s space down here, you could join us,” joked one man as the officers came in. A woman named Nina sighed in the darkness: “There is nowhere. Nowhere. Nowhere to go. All the houses have been burnt out. Where can we go?”

In the south, Ukraine has mounted a counter-offensive, claiming to have made inroads into the biggest swath still held by Russia of the territory it seized in the invasion. There have been few reports from the frontline to confirm the situation in that area.

Ukraine claimed its forces had struck a Russian tugboat bringing soldiers, weapons and ammunition to Russian-occupied Snake Island, a strategic Black Sea outpost.

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Additional reporting by Abdelaziz Boumzar in Marinka and Reuters bureaux; Writing by Peter Graff, Editing by Angus MacSwan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Ukrainian Railways limit exports of some food staples, consultancy says, article with image

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Ears of wheat are seen in a field near the village of Hrebeni in Kyiv region, Ukraine July 17, 2020. Picture taken July 17, 2020. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo

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KYIV, April 16 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s state-owned railway company has temporarily restricted the transportation of some agricultural goods through border crossings to Poland and Romania, consultancy APK-Inform said on Saturday.

It gave no reason for the restrictions.

Ukraine, a major agricultural producer, used to export most of its goods through seaports but since Russia’s invasion has been forced to export by train via its western border.

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APK-Inform said restrictions on the movement of goods to Poland through Yahodyn have been put in place from April 16 to April 18.

There are also restrictions on the transportation of cereals, oilseeds, grains and other food products through Izov to the Polish towns of Hrubeszew and Slawkov.

From April 16 until further notice, there are restrictions on the export of grain and seeds to Romania through the Dyakovo and Vadul-Siret crossings, the consultancy said.

The railway company was not available for immediate comment.

Ukrainian agriculture minister Mykola Solskyi said this week the main task of the ministry was to find alternative ways to export Ukrainian grain. The country has millions of tonnes of various commodities available for exports.

Solskyi also said 1.25 million tonnes of grain and oilseeds were on commercial vessels blocked in Ukrainian seaports and may soon deteriorate.

Before the war, Ukraine exported up to 6 million tonnes of grain and oilseed a month. In March, exports fell to 200,000 tonnes.

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Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Christina Fincher

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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