July 18, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Sana Noor Haq, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, July 19, 2023
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9:12 p.m. ET, July 17, 2023

Russia has assembled more than 100,000 soldiers in the Kupyansk area, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Maria Kostento and Vasco Cotovio

More than 100,000 Russian soldiers have gathered in the Kupyansk area to try and break Kyiv’s defenses, a Ukrainian military spokesperson said Monday.

“The enemy has concentrated a very powerful grouping on the Lyman-Kupyansk direction, with over 100,000 personnel, over 900 tanks, and over 370 MLRS,” said Serhii Cherevatyi, deputy commander for strategic communications of the Eastern Military Grouping. 
“The enemy deployed airborne units, the best motorized infantry units there. As additional support, there are the combat army reserve, territorial troops, Storm-Z companies.”

He added Russian forces are "putting everything into breaking through our defense. Our soldiers are standing firm in defense."

Cherevatyi said the Russian push in the area was to try and achieve some success after Ukraine seized the momentum around Bakhmut. 

“(Russians) need to show at least some success, so they have put maximum effort into this area, doing everything they can and cannot, to show offensive actions,” he said. 

In Bakhmut: Cherevatyi said Russian forces remained on the back foot in the eastern city, adding their casualties were increasing. 

“The enemy's losses are already approaching those that were at the peak of the fighting with the Wagner,” he said. “The Russians are continuously renewing their combat staff, sending paratroopers there first and foremost in the hope of stopping our offensive.
“We are being very cautious and deliberate in order to preserve our forces and people as much as possible.”
9:03 a.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Black Sea grain deal collapse poses massive global hunger threat

From CNN's Anna Cooban

Harvester works on a wheat fields in Prymorske, Ukraine on July 5.
Harvester works on a wheat fields in Prymorske, Ukraine on July 5. Amadeusz Swierk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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 said the deal had been “critical” to bringing down food prices around the globe, which spiked after Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.

“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,” Adam Hodge, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, said in a statement.

Wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade jumped 2.7% to $6.80 a bushel and corn futures rose 0.94% to $5.11 a bushel as traders feared an impending supply crunch of the staple foods.

The contracts gave up those gains later in the day. Wheat prices are still down 54% from the all-time high hit in March 2022 following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, while corn prices are 37% lower than they were in April 2022, when they reached a 10-year high.

The Black Sea deal — originally brokered by Turkey and the United Nations a year ago — has ensured the safe passage of ships carrying grain from Ukrainian ports. The agreement was set to expire at 5 p.m. ET Monday (midnight local time in Istanbul, Kyiv and Moscow).

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 deal had been renewed three times, but Russia has repeatedly threatened to pull out, arguing that it has been hampered in exporting its own products.

Over the weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated that he would not renew the pact, saying that its main purpose — to supply grain to countries in need — had “not been realized.”

Read more here.