Ukraine war: Moscow rejoins grain deal; Russian missile strikes continue; and UK sanctions

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP, Reuters
The Panama-flagged cargo ship Lady Zehma anchors in the Marmara Sea in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sept. 2, 2022
The Panama-flagged cargo ship Lady Zehma anchors in the Marmara Sea in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sept. 2, 2022   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

Here are the latest news developments from Russia's war in Ukraine.

1. Russia renews UN grain deal after four days in abrupt U-turn

Russia has performed an abrupt U-turn and again agreed to allow the safe shipment of millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.

Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu told his Turkish counterpart on Wednesday that Moscow has agreed to return to the Turkish and UN-brokered deal.

In a statement, the ministry later confirmed that Ukraine had pledged not to use a designated Black Sea corridor to attack Russian forces.

"The Russian Federation considers that the guarantees received at the moment appear sufficient, and resumes the implementation of the agreement," the ministry statement said.

Moscow had suspended its participation in the grain deal over the weekend, citing allegations of a Ukrainian drone attack against its Black Sea fleet.

The defence ministry also said it would summon the UK ambassador to Moscow, claiming that "British specialists" were involved in the drone strike in Crimea. Ukraine did not claim responsibility for the attack and Britain has denied involvement.

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Monday that "unacceptable" ship traffic from ports in southern Ukraine was halted. Ships loaded with grain departed Ukraine on Tuesday despite Russia's absence from the deal.

Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Moscow had informed Ankara that the grain corridor agreement would “continue in the same way as before”.

Erdogan said on Wednesday that the deal would prioritise the shipment of critical food supplies to African nations, including Somalia, Djibouti, and Sudan.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths has stated that 23% of the total cargo exported from Ukraine under the grain deal went to lower or lower-to-middle-income countries.

But the United Nations had said vessels would not move on Wednesday, raising concerns about future shipments.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed Russia's resumption of participation in the deal, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

"The Secretary-General continues his engagement with all actors towards the renewal and full implementation of the Initiative, and he also remains committed to removing the remaining obstacles to the exports of Russian food and fertiliser," Dujarric said on Wednesday.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated that Moscow "reserves the right" to quit the agreement again if Kyiv "violates [their] guarantees".

2. Ukraine president Zelenskyy calls on Europe to remain united

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged European allies to stick together through the winter months to help his country. 

In a Tuesday night address, Zelenskyy called on Europe to make Russia's bet on the winter unsuccessful.

"Moscow will present any winter difficulties in its propaganda as alleged proof of the failure of a united Europe," said Zelenskyy, stressing that failure was not an option.

Speaking about power in Ukraine, Zelenskyy said that planned blackouts were still possible to protect the system in nine regions.

Thousands of homes in the Kyiv region and elsewhere remained without power as Russian drone and artillery strikes continued to target Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

"As of this time, we can report that the technical possibility of the water supply has already been restored for all consumers in Ukraine. 

"For the majority, there is also the technical possibility of supplying electricity."

The president said he would do everything in his power to make sure Ukrainians have heat and electricity this winter. 

"But we must understand that Russia will do everything to destroy the normality of life."

Zelenskyy said that Russia was also paying a price for targeting Ukraine's energy and water infrastructure, claiming that Monday's missile and drone strikes "cost Russia the equivalent of more than 2.3 million average Russian senior pensions". 

"Instead of overcoming poverty in their country, the Russian leadership spends everything to avoid admitting what a historical mistake they made with this war against Ukraine," Zelenskyy said.

AP Photo/Aleksandr Shulman
Ukrainian soldiers on captured Russian tanks hold military training close to the border near Chernihiv.AP Photo/Aleksandr Shulman

3. Russian missile strikes continue across Ukraine

Continued Russian shelling across nine regions in southern and eastern Ukraine resulted in the deaths of at least four civilians and the wounding of 17 others between Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Zelenskyy's office.

The shelling also pounded cities and villages retaken by Ukraine last month in the northeastern Kharkiv region, wounding seven people.

Russian fire damaged a hospital and apartment buildings in the Donetsk region city of Toretsk, according to the region's governor.

Ukrainian officials said on Wednesday that Ukrainian and Russian forces continued to fight for control of the cities of Avdiivka and Bakhmut.

Power outages were also reported in the southern cities of Nikopol and Chervonohryhorivka following "a large-scale drone attack," Dnipropetrovsk Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said.

The two cities are located across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest nuclear facility.

Russia and Ukraine have for months traded blame for shelling around the plant that the UN’s nuclear watchdog warned could cause a radiation emergency.

4. US expresses concern over Russia's nuclear risk

The White House on Wednesday is saying that the United States has "grown increasingly concerned" about a potential Russian nuclear strike on Ukraine.

The New York Times reports top Russian military leaders had conversations on when and how Moscow might use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine and outlines heightened concern amongst the United States and its allies, according to multiple senior American officials.

At the White House on Wednesday, John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, said "We still have not seen any indication that the Russians are making preparations for such use... But this is all deeply concerning to us."

"We have grown increasingly concerned about the potential as these months have gone on," Kirby added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently denied having any intentions of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine but described the conflict there as part of alleged efforts by the West to secure its global domination, which he insisted are doomed to fail.

Speaking last month at a conference of international foreign policy experts, Putin said it's pointless for Russia to strike Ukraine with nuclear weapons.

Putin said an earlier warning of his readiness to use "all means available to protect Russia" didn't amount to nuclear saber-rattling but was merely a response to Western statements about their possible use of nuclear weapons.

Kirby told reporters, "we have maintained, I believe, an appropriate level of concern about the potential use of weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine to include nuclear weapons."

On Wednesday the NSC spokesman also accused North Korea of covertly shipping a “significant number” of artillery shells to Russia in support of its invasion of Ukraine.

5. UK sanctions four more Russian oligarchs

Britain's government has sanctioned four more Russian oligarchs, including the former head of steel producer Evraz.

Those sanctioned include Alexander Abramov and Alexander Frolov, who are described as known associates of oligarch and former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

They were targeted for their involvement in the transport, and construction sectors, the UK government said.

Evraz was also sanctioned by Britain for operating in sectors of "strategic significance to the government of Russia".

"Today we are sanctioning an additional four oligarchs who rely on Putin for their positions of authority and in turn fund his military machine," UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Wednesday.

"By targeting these individuals, we are ramping up the economic pressure on Putin and will continue to do so until Ukraine prevails."

The sanctions implemented include travel bans, asset freezes, and transport sanctions, the foreign office said.

6. Switzerland imposes sanctions on deliveries of Iranian drones to Russia

Switzerland has decided to adopt the European Union's sanctions on delivering Iranian drones to Russia, the government said in a statement on Wednesday.

However, the economic affairs and foreign affairs departments decided not to adopt EU sanctions imposed on Iran in connection with the current protests, it added.

"The decision was made taking into account all of Switzerland's domestic and foreign policy interests," it said.