War in Ukraine: five recent developments related to the Russian invasion

1. Cautious hopes for an increase in the supply of Ukrainian grain

departure of the first Ukrainian ship with grain from Odessa, following the start of the Russian blockade of the Black Sea ports five months ago, was widely acclaimed.

The belligerent governments in Kyiv and Moscow hailed the development as a positive step, while the European Union, the United Nations and NATO also expressed their approval and relief.

The Ukraine Ministry of Infrastructure said that 16 more ships, blocked since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, are waiting in Odessa.

Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said that Ukraine is the fourth largest exporter of corn in the world, “therefore, the ability to export it through ports is a huge success in ensuring global food security.”

He added that the supplies would also help Ukraine’s war-ravaged economy. “The opening of ports will bring the economy at least $1 billion (970 million euros) in foreign exchange earnings and give the agricultural sector the opportunity to plan for the next year,” Kubrakov said.

The agreement, signed in July, brokered by Turkey and backed by the UN, allows Ukrainian exports, blocked since the start of the Russian invasion, to resume under international control.

It provides for safe corridors that allow merchant ships to sail in the Black Sea and allow the export of 20 to 25 million tons of grain.

An important part of the deal is that it also allows Moscow to export its agricultural products and fertilizers despite Western sanctions.

Kyiv, which accuses Russia of seeking to destroy the Ukrainian economy, has expressed skepticism that Moscow will stick to the agreement.

“If Russia really understands that we are doing a good job and we manage to stabilize our economy and maybe even increase part of our reserves, this will mean that they have every reason to sabotage these deals again,” Alexander Rodnyansky. This was stated in an interview with the BBC by the adviser to the President of Ukraine on economic issues.

2. Ukraine “selects 46 settlements” in the Kherson region

Ukrainian forces have recaptured 46 communities in the strategic southern region of Kherson as part of a counteroffensive, the region’s governor told state television on Monday.

Dmitry Butri said that the liberated villages are located in the northern part of the region on the border with Dnepropetrovsk and in the southern part on the border with the heavily shelled Mykolaiv region.

He added that some of the recaptured villages “were 90% destroyed and are still under constant shelling.” Describing the humanitarian situation in the region as “critical”, he reiterated the authorities’ call for those still in the area to “evacuate to safer areas”.

In the early days of the invasion, launched in late February, Russian forces captured almost the entirety of this strategic region bordering Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014.

But in recent weeks, the Ukrainian army, backed up by supplies of Western long-range artillery, has launched a counteroffensive.

Kyiv forces hit Russian warehouses and military positions, and damaged bridges that served as the most important supply routes for Moscow troops in Kherson.

Last month, a Ukrainian official promised that the Kherson region would be recaptured by Ukrainian forces by September.

On March 3, Russian troops took the capital of the Kherson region. It was the first major city captured by the Russians after the start of the invasion.

3. Ukrainian attacks in the south “slow down” the Russian campaign in the east

Russia’s slow advance in the eastern region of Donbass has been compromised by increased Ukrainian counterattacks aimed at regaining territory in the Russian-occupied south, according to experts cited by AP.

Ukrainian military analyst Oleg Zhdanov noted that Kyiv, by stepping up attacks in the south, forced Russia to disperse its forces.

“The Russian military command is faced with a dilemma: try to advance in the Donetsk region or build up defenses in the south,” Zhdanov said. “It will be difficult for them to do both tasks at the same time for a long time.”

Mykola Sungurovsky of the Razumkov Center, a Kyiv-based think tank, said Western weapons have enhanced Ukraine’s capabilities, allowing it to hit targets far behind the front lines with a high degree of accuracy.

Ukraine received about a dozen US-made HIMARS multiple rocket launchers with a range of 80 kilometers and used them to strike Russian ammunition depots.

“This is a significant advantage,” said Sunhurovski. “Ukrainians have begun to deliver targeted strikes against Russian warehouses, command posts, railway stations and bridges, destroying supply chains and undermining Russian military potential.”

Ukrainian strikes on ammunition depots caught the Russian army by surprise, forcing it to relocate equipment to scattered locations farther from combat areas, lengthening supply routes, eroding Russia’s firepower advantage and helping to slow Russia’s advance in the east.

“They have to deliver everything to smaller, more dispersed depots,” said Justin Crump, a former British tank commander who heads Sibylline, a strategy consulting firm. “All these are real irritants that slow down Russia.”

Crump noted that the very prospect of a major Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south helped Kyiv by forcing the Russians to divert some of their forces from the main battlefield in the east.

“It slows down the advance into Donbass,” Kramp said. “So even the threat of an offensive for Ukraine is actually successful at the moment.”

4. Calls for evacuation resumed from Donetsk as Russian shelling continues

The Office of the President of Ukraine said that over the past day, as a result of Russian shelling in the Donetsk region, at least three civilians were killed and 16 more were injured.

Donetsk Governor Pavel Kirilenko repeated the call for all residents to evacuate. He emphasized the need to evacuate about 52,000 children left in the region.

In the morning in Kharkov, as a result of a strike by Russian troops, two people were injured. One was wounded while waiting for a bus, and the other was injured when a Russian shell exploded near a residential building.

The southern city of Nikolaev was also subjected to repeated shelling, as a result of which fires broke out near a medical facility, and a consignment of humanitarian aid with medicines and food was destroyed.

According to the governor of the region Vitaly Kim, on Monday the city was again subjected to heavy shelling. Three people died, he said.

“The city is falling apart. But, fortunately, there were few dead, few injured, ”he wrote in his Telegram account. “Everything is open, shops are open,” the governor added, saying he even envisages opening the port “within two weeks.”

One of Ukraine’s richest men, grain trader Oleksiy Vadatursky, was killed in Mykolayiv along with his wife Raisa Vadaturskaya over the weekend in what Ukrainian authorities described as a targeted Russian missile attack on his home. Zelensky paid tribute, calling the businessman a “hero of Ukraine.”

AFP journalists also saw heavy Russian shelling of the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut. Local authorities said on Monday that three civilians had been killed in the Donetsk region the day before, including two in Bakhmut, and 16 more were injured.

5. France to donate DNA lab to Ukraine to help investigate war crimes, Macron says

President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that France would donate a mobile DNA lab to the Kyiv authorities to help investigate Russian war crimes and try to ensure atrocities do not go unpunished.

After a telephone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, Macron also welcomed the departure of the first ship carrying grain from Odessa and said that Europe would continue to facilitate the export of Ukrainian grain by sea and land.

The two leaders spoke by phone for an hour and a half, their first exchange since the June 16 meeting in Kyiv, where Emmanuel Macron visited German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

The French President once again asked Zelensky about “his military, humanitarian and economic needs” and reaffirmed France’s desire to continue to support the Ukrainian armed forces so that they can resist Russian aggression,” the Elysee Palace reports.

He also reaffirmed “his willingness to provide short-term macroeconomic support” to Ukraine, without going into details.

The two presidents “agreed to continue their joint efforts to counter Russian disinformation on a global scale,” the Élysée Palace said in a statement.