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Ukraine war: New grain deal, US extends offer to Ukrainians

This photo shows damaged on an Expocentre building following a drone attack in Moscow on August 18, 2023
This photo shows damaged on an Expocentre building following a drone attack in Moscow on August 18, 2023 Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By Euronews with AP
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Here's all the latest developments from the war in Ukraine.

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Ukraine and neighbouring Romania signed a deal on Friday to work together to boost Kyiv’s export of grain through the latter's territory after Moscow broke off a shipping agreement that allowed safe passage through the Black Sea.

The accord was signed during a trip by Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal to the Romanian capital, Bucharest, for talks with his Romanian counterpart Marcel Ciolacu.

The two leaders discussed ways to ramp up the war-torn nation's key grain exports, and improve infrastructure for transportation across river, rail, road, sea, including at border crossings. 

Ukraine’s economy is heavily dependent on farming, and its grain is crucial for world supplies of wheat, barley, and sunflower oil.

Ciolacu told a news conference after the meeting that he hopes Romania can transport more than 60% of Ukraine’s grain exports.

He also noted the “ambitious” target to double the transport of Ukrainian grain through Romania that was set last week during a meeting that included Western and Ukrainian officials in Romania’s Danube River town of Galati.

Romania intends to double the amount from 2 million to 4 million tons per month, but Ciolacu did not specify a timeframe for the increase.

US boost for Ukrainians

The Biden administration on Friday announced a major expansion of temporary legal status for Ukrainians already living in the United States, granting a reprieve for those who fled Russia's invasion.

The move is expected to make 166,700 Ukrainians eligible for Temporary Protected Status, up from about 26,000 currently, the Homeland Security Department said. 

To qualify, Ukrainians must have been in the United States by 16 August, two days before the announcement. They are eligible for work authorisation.

The temporary status was originally scheduled to expire on 19 October but is being extended 18 months to 19 April, 2025.

“Russia’s ongoing military invasion of Ukraine and the resulting humanitarian crisis requires that the United States continue to offer safety and protection to Ukrainians who may not be able to return to their country,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Election monitoring group leader arrested

A Moscow judge has formally arrested and detained one of the leaders of a prominent independent election monitoring group on suspicion of being involved with an “undesirable” organisation, his lawyer said Friday.

The case against Grigory Melkonyants, co-chair of Russia’s leading election watchdog Golos, is the latest in the months-long crackdown on Kremlin critics and rights activists the government ratcheted up after sending troops into Ukraine.

Melkonyants was charged and detained Thursday in Moscow and appeared in the city's Basmanny District Court on Friday where a judge arrested him, his lawyer told The Associated Press. Russian media report he has been detained until 17 October. He faces up to six years in prison if convicted.

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Drone crash

Russian authorities said a Ukrainian military drone crashed into a building in central Moscow on Friday morning.

Local air defence system shot down the drone before the debris fell in the city's Expo Centre complex, the defence ministry said in a statement.

The "unmanned aerial vehicle" was hit at about 4am local time but caused no casualties after interception, the statement added.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said emergency services were operating around the non-residential building although no significant damage was done.

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One of the walls had temporarily collapsed as a result of the falling wreckage, emergency services told the local media. Airspace near Moscow's international airport was temporarily closed following the strikes.

Russia also claimed it had successfully defended against a Ukrainian drone attack which targeted its warships in the Black Sea on Thursday night.

US approves sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine

The United States has approved sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine via Denmark and the Netherlands. 

Washington has assured the delivery of highly sought-after fighter jets will start as soon as the Ukrainian pilots complete the required training, a US official told the Guardian. 

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“I welcome the US decision to clear the way for delivery of F-16 jets to Ukraine. It allows us to follow through on the training of Ukrainian pilots,” Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said in a message on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Ukraine’s allies first agreed on training the country’s air force on advanced fighter jets at the G7 summit held in Japan in May, without ironing out the details. 

Officials attending the NATO summit in July hinted the training could start as early as August. 

The approval comes as a relief for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has repeatedly called on the allies to provide aerial arms to bolster Ukraine's slow-progressing counteroffensive. 

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Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov thanked Denmark and the Netherlands for "outstanding leadership" in July after the summit. 

Russia, in response to the support, warned that allowing Kyiv to use F-16s would be a “colossal risk” and would spread the war across Europe.

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