July 17, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Sana Noor Haq, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, July 18, 2023
31 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
6:12 p.m. ET, July 17, 2023

Western leaders condemn Russia's decision to withdraw from grain deal

From CNN staff

Commercial vessels including vessels that are part of the Black Sea grain deal wait to pass the Bosphorus strait off the shores of Yenikapi during a misty morning in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 31, 2022.
Commercial vessels including vessels that are part of the Black Sea grain deal wait to pass the Bosphorus strait off the shores of Yenikapi during a misty morning in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 31, 2022. Umit Bektas/Reuters

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted on Monday "strongly" condemning Russia's move to withdraw from the Black Sea grain deal despite efforts from the UN and Turkey.

“EU is working to ensure food security for the world’s vulnerable. #EUSolidarityLanes will continue bringing agrifood products out of Ukraine & to global markets,” she added. 

The United Kingdom called the decision a “blatant attempt to harm the most vulnerable as part of its illegal war.”

A spokesperson for the UK’s foreign office said they are monitoring the situation. “By unilaterally forcing the collapse of the BSGI, Russia has used food as a weapon and is preventing grain reaching those who need it most,” the spokesperson said.

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra called Russia's decision "utterly immoral" on Twitter.

The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell and the president of the EU Council Charles Michel have also condemned Russia's decision not to extend the crucial Black Sea grain deal. 

“I am so sorry to say that today Russia has refused to prolong this deal and this is something very serious that will create a lot of troubles for many people around the world. We, from our side, will do everything we can through our solidarity lanes in order to make available the Ukrainian grain for the people who eat from it," Borrell said Monday, speaking to the media arriving at the European Union–Latin America and Caribbean meeting in Brussels. 

"And I have to blame Russia for this decision. Completely unjustified, weaponizing, the hunger of the people," he added. 

The Black Sea grain deal "is very important, especially for the most vulnerable countries, because this agreement, together with the European solidarity lanes, is helping to make sure that the most vulnerable countries have access to the grains and to the fertilizers they need for the people, for the population," Michel said. 

"That's why we fully support all the efforts of Antonio Guterres to make sure that the continuity of this agreement will be guaranteed," he added. 

President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola also voiced her concern over Russia's decision. 

"For us, it is extremely worrying. What we have seen with the ongoing provision by Ukraine — notwithstanding the fact that it is under daily bombing attacks — is the possibility for Ukrainian grain to continue to feed the world," Metsola said. 

"The decision today means that could possibly no longer take place," she said adding that the bloc's concern "would be on the spillover effect on the impact of such a decision which is so regrettable, so worrying, and one that we would hope we would continue to find a resolution for. Because, countries are dependent on Ukrainian grain." 

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said that the "blame is on Russia's side. This is all Russia's fault. I think is extremely severe, very damaging, in many ways: damaging to Ukraine, damaging to African and Middle East countries. It's a very bad signal coming from Russia." 

France and Germany have also come out condemning Russia’s suspension its participation in the grain deal, saying it sends out a “bad message” to countries grappling with the food security crisis.

Earlier on Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia is allowing the deal to expire at 5 p.m. ET on Monday, effectively severing its participation in the UN-brokered arrangement.

“France condemns the suspension by Russia of its participation in the Black Sea grain initiative. Russia is solely responsible for blocking shipping in this maritime area and is imposing an illegal blockade on Ukrainian ports,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement Monday.

France called on Russia to “stop blackmailing global food security “and reverse its decision to exit the deal.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also strongly criticized the decision, highlighting its negative impact on countries hit by “higher prices.”

Speaking to reporters at the European Union–Latin America and Caribbean summit, Scholz stressed Russia’s withdrawal sends a “bad message” to the rest of the world.

“Everyone will understand exactly what’s behind it: an act which has a lot to do with Russia not feeling responsible for good coexistence in the world,” the German leader said.

Meanwhile, the director general of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said Monday she was "deeply disappointed" with Russia's decision, tweeting that she shared the UN chief Antonio Guterres' regret and concern. "Black Sea trade in food, feed & fertilizer is critical to the stability of global food prices. Sad to say that poor people & poor countries are hardest hit. Let’s keep hope alive on renewal," she said in a tweet.

CNN's Eve Brennan, Catherine Nicholls, Olga Voitovych, Sharon Braithwaite, James Frater, Niamh Kennedy, and Chris Stern contributed to this reporting.

11:21 a.m. ET, July 17, 2023

UN chief deeply disappointed in Russian decision to withdraw from grain deal

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he is “deeply disappointed” that his proposals to address obstacles to Russian exports of food and fertilizer products went “unheeded, and expressed “regret” that Moscow decided to withdraw from the grain deal.

“I deeply regret the decision by the Russian Federation to terminate the implementation of the Black Sea initiative, including the withdrawal of Russian security guarantees for navigation in the northwestern part of the Black Sea,” Guterres said in a televised statement on Monday. “The Black Sea initiative, together with the memoranda of understanding on facilitating exports of Russian food products and fertilizers have been a lifeline for global food security and the beacon of hope in a troubled world.”

Guterres explained the agreement had helped lower food prices by more than 23% since the beginning of the war.

“Ultimately, participation in these agreements is a choice, but struggling people everywhere and developing countries don't have a choice,” he said. “Hundreds of millions of people face hunger and consumers are confronting a global cost of living crisis and they will pay the price.”

“In the US we are already seeing a jump in wheat prices this morning,” he added.

Guterres concluded by saying he was aware certain obstacles had “remained in the foreign trade of Russian food and fertilizer products,” but said he had written a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin outlining solutions to those hurdles, as well as the benefits Russia had reaped from the deal. 

Guterres said that despite today's decision, the UN "will not stop our efforts to facilitate the unimpeded access to global markets for food products and fertilizers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation, I particularly want to recognize the efforts of the government of Turkey in this regard.”

11:59 a.m. ET, July 17, 2023

Collapse of Black Sea grain deal poses a massive threat that could bring higher food prices and more hunger

From CNN's Anna Cooban

Wheat and corn prices on global commodities markets jumped Monday after Russia pulled out of a crucial deal allowing the export of grain from Ukraine. The collapse of the pact threatens to push up food prices for consumers worldwide and tip millions into hunger.

The White House warned that Russia’s decision “will worsen food insecurity and harm millions of vulnerable people around the world.”

“The Black Sea Grain Initiative has been critical to bringing down food prices around the world, which spiked as a result of Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” Adam Hodge, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, said in a statement.

The Black Sea deal — originally brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in a year ago — ensured the safe passage of ships carrying grain from Ukrainian ports. So far the deal has allowed for the export of almost 33 million metric tons of food through Ukrainian ports, according to UN data.

The collapse of the deal is likely to have repercussions far beyond the region.

Before the war, Ukraine was the fifth-largest wheat exporter globally, accounting for 10% of exports, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) said in November that the deal’s collapse would “hit those on the brink of starvation the most.” The warning came after Moscow suspended its participation in the pact for several days following drone attacks in Sevastopol, a port city in Russian-controlled Crimea.

Read the full story here and learn more about the deal below:

CNN's Rob Picheta, Hanna Ziady, Mick Krever, Anna Chernova and Priscilla Alvarez contributed reporting.

10:29 a.m. ET, July 17, 2023

Zelensky says "everything" must be done to keep Black Sea grain corridor open

From Maria Kostenko and Vasco Cotovio

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said “everything” must be done to ensure his country can use the Black Sea to export grain after Russia announced it was pulling out of a UN-brokered deal. 

“Even without Russia, we must do everything possible so that we can use this Black Sea corridor,” he said according to his spokesperson Sergiy Nykyforov. 

Zelensky went on to suggest Ukraine could continue grain exports without Russian support. 

“We are not afraid. We have been approached by companies who own vessels,” he explained. “They said they are ready to continue grain deliveries if Ukraine ships out and Turkey lets them through.”

In withdrawing from the pact, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday that its government was removing guarantees for safe navigation in the Black Sea.

There are alternative routes for Ukrainian grain and oilseed exports by rail through eastern Europe, but they can’t readily cope with the volume that Ukraine wants to export.

“I have instructed our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after the official signal from the Russian Federation, to prepare our official signals to the United Nations and to Turkey so that they can answer back to me as to the President of Ukraine that they are ready to continue our initiative,” Zelensky added. 

CNN's Rob Picheta, Mick Krever and Anna Chernova contributed reporting to this post.

10:50 a.m. ET, July 17, 2023

White House warns Russia's decision to pull out of grain deal will worsen food insecurity

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

The White House warned Monday that Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the Ukraine grain deal “will worsen food insecurity and harm millions of vulnerable people around the world” and urged Russia to “immediately reverse its decision.”  

"Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative will worsen food insecurity and harm millions of vulnerable people around the world. The Black Sea Grain Initiative has been critical to bringing down food prices around the world, which spiked as a result of Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” National Security Council spokesperson Adam Hodge said in a statement. 

The Russian government on Monday said that it is allowing a deal, known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, that allows the export of Ukrainian grain to expire. The agreement, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July 2022, is officially set to expire on Monday afternoon. The deal allowed Ukraine to export grain from its ports and navigate safe passage through the Black Sea, to Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait.

“More than half of the 32 million metric tons of grain and foodstuffs shipped through the Initiative has gone to developing countries, including some of the most food insecure regions of the globe. And every shipment under the Initiative has contributed to reducing hardship in the world’s poorest countries, since bringing grain to world markets lowers food prices for all,” Hodge said.

Some context: The rate of exports made under the deal had started to tail off in recent months; UN figures show that May and June were the two months with the fewest metric tons exported since August 2022.

“Preventing this grain from getting to markets will harm people around the world, and indeed we are already seeing a spike in global wheat prices as a result of Russia suspending its participation in the Initiative. We urge the Government of Russia to immediately reverse its decision,” he added.

7:08 p.m. ET, July 17, 2023

Crimea bridge supports not damaged by explosion, Russian deputy prime minister says

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

The supports of the Kerch straight bridge, linking Russia to Crimea, were not damaged by Monday’s blast, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said.

"According to a preliminary assessment, the supports of the Crimean bridge were not damaged," Khusnullin told Russian journalists on Monday. 

Divers are currently completing the inspection of the bridge and the decision on the possibility of launching car traffic will be made within two hours, he added.

Some background: A source from Ukraine's security service (SBU) said the attack on the Kerch Bridge, which killed a couple and injured their daughter, was a joint operation of the SBU and Ukraine's naval forces.

The $3.7 billion Kerch Bridge is strategically important because it links Russia’s Krasnodar region with the Crimean Peninsula, which was illegally annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014. It was the physical expression of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s objective to take over Ukraine and bind it to Russia forever. 

7:10 p.m. ET, July 17, 2023

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN's staff

The key Crimean Bridge linking the annexed peninsula to Russia was hit by two strikes early Monday. According to a source, Ukraine's security service and naval forces carried out the attack, which left two people dead.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin is allowing the Black Sea grain deal to expire — a move fiercely criticized by Western leaders.

Here are the latest developments:

Bridge attack:

  • What we know: A source from Ukraine's security service (SBU) said the attack on the Kerch Bridge, which killed a couple and injured their daughter, was a joint operation of the SBU and Ukraine's naval forces.
  • An official investigation: The Kremlin claimed two Ukrainian seaborne drones struck the bridge, though it did not provide evidence for the allegation. Russia's foreign ministry said it had opened an official investigation into what it called a "terrorist act."
  • Why is the bridge important?: The $3.7 billion Kerch Bridge is strategically important because it links Russia’s Krasnodar region with the Crimean Peninsula, which was illegally annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014. It was the physical expression of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s objective to take over Ukraine and bind it to Russia forever. 
  • How extensive is the damage?: Rail traffic continued to operate on Monday. A widely circulating video, which appears to have been captured from a train passing on the parallel rail bridge, shows significant damage to one of the bridge’s road spans. Russian state media RIA Novosti and TASS reported that rail traffic continued to operate with delays. Prominent Russian military blogger Boris Rozhin said ferries will transport cars that are now unable to cross the bridge, adding that he expects repairs to take a considerable amount of time.
  • 2022 attack: The bridge was severely damaged on October 8 last year when a fuel tanker exploded and destroyed a large section of the road. Earlier this month, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar made what appeared to be the clearest admission yet that Ukrainian forces were responsible for the October attack.

The grain deal:

  • Black Sea grain deal suspended: The Russian government is allowing the Black Sea grain deal to expire, saying on Monday “it has been terminated.” The agreement, brokered last year, allowed Kyiv to export grain from its ports and navigate safe passage through the Black Sea after Moscow blockaded docks in the region and impeded export — exacerbating a global food crisis.
  • "Utterly immoral": Western officials criticized Moscow's decision to withdraw from the deal. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted the bloc "is working to ensure food security for the world's vulnerable," while Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra called the decision "utterly immoral." When asked, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied that the termination was related to Ukraine’s claimed strike on the Crimean Bridge.

Elsewhere:

  • Putin's slams counteroffensive: Putin painted the Ukrainian counteroffensive as "unsuccessful" in an interview with a pro-Kremlin journalist published Sunday. Ukraine acknowledges the campaign has been characterized by tough fighting and limited progress but insists it does not feel under pressure by Western allies to deliver quick results as it does the hard work of driving Russian forces out of its territory.
  • On the front lines: Ukraine reported fierce battles in the east, with the two sides swapping fighting positions and Russia going on the offensive in some areas.
  • Zelensky marks 9 years since MH17: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday marked nine years since a Russian surface-to-air missile was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew. “This tragedy caused by the aggressor will never be forgotten. The invading state, the terrorist state, will be held fully accountable for all crimes committed in Ukraine," he added.

8:27 a.m. ET, July 17, 2023

Russia removes Black Sea safe navigation guarantees

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

The UN-chartered vessel MV Valsamitis is loaded to deliver 25,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat to Kenya and 5,000 tonnes to Ethiopia, at the port of Chornomorsk, east of Odesa on the Black Sea coast, on February 18, 2023.
The UN-chartered vessel MV Valsamitis is loaded to deliver 25,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat to Kenya and 5,000 tonnes to Ethiopia, at the port of Chornomorsk, east of Odesa on the Black Sea coast, on February 18, 2023. Oleksander Gimanov/AFP/Getty Images

In withdrawing from the Black Sean Grain Initiative, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday that its government was removing guarantees for safe navigation in the Black Sea. 

“This means the withdrawal of guarantees for the safety of navigation, the curtailment of the maritime humanitarian corridor, the restoration of the regime of a temporarily dangerous area in the northwestern Black Sea and the disbandment of the JCC [Joint Coordination Center] in Istanbul. Without Russia's participation, the Black Sea initiative ceases to function from July 18," a Foreign Ministry statement read.

The Foreign Ministry said that the Russian government objects to the further extension of the deal and officially informed the Turkish and Ukrainian sides on Monday, adding that the UN secretariat was also notified.

"Contrary to the declared humanitarian goals, the export of Ukrainian food was almost immediately transferred to a purely commercial basis and until the last moment was aimed at serving the narrowly selfish interests" of Kyiv and the West, the statement read, using the Russian name for the Ukrainian capital.

The ministry also stressed that the Russia-UN Memorandum did not function as planned. "We are forced to state that none of the five systemic tasks envisaged by the Russia-UN Memorandum have been fulfilled," the statement read.

According to the ministry, Russia would be ready to consider restoring the "deal" only if the West fulfills its obligations and actually withdraws Russian fertilizers and food from the sanctions. 

What the UN says: A United Nations official has confirmed to CNN that the UN office in Istanbul, Turkey, has received written notice from Russia that they are ending participation in the Ukraine grain deal.

“The Secretary-General will not stop his efforts to facilitate the unimpeded access to global markets for food products and fertilizers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation to preserve global food security,” the UN official said.

CNN's Alex Marquardt in Odesa, Ukraine contributed to this report.

8:13 a.m. ET, July 17, 2023

UK slaps new sanctions on Russia for forced deportation of Ukrainian children

From CNN’s Catherine Nicholls in London

The UK has imposed 14 new sanctions on Russian individuals in response to the forced deportation of Ukrainian children, according to a statement from the UK’s Foreign office.

The sanctions were enacted against officials including Ksenia Mishonova, commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Moscow Region, and Sergey Kravtsov, minister of education of Russia.

These officials have played an “insidious role” in Russia’s forced deportation of more than 19,000 Ukrainian children from Ukraine to Russia or Russian controlled territory, the statement said.  Further sanctions were also brought against former Russia Today presenter Anton Krasovsky who “claimed live on air that Ukrainian children should be drowned and burned,” according to the UK government’s statement.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, said Monday: “In his chilling program of forced child deportation, and the hate-filled propaganda spewed by his lackeys, we see Putin’s true intention — to wipe Ukraine from the map."

“Today’s sanctions hold those who prop up Putin’s regime to account, including those who would see Ukraine destroyed, its national identity dissolved, and its future erased,” Cleverly added.