Russia-Ukraine war: Donetsk leader urges cooperation with North Korea

North Korea and the Russian-backed separatist Donetsk region of Ukraine will develop “equally beneficial bilateral cooperation”.

North Korean state media reported on Wednesday that Donetsk leader Denis Pushilin made the comment in a letter to Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader.

In July, North Korea recognised the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region as independent states. Ukraine immediately severed relations with Pyongyang over the move.

Pushilin wrote a letter to congratulate Kim on the August 15 Korean liberation day, state news agency KCNA reported, two days after reporting a similar message from Russian president Vladimir Putin to Kim.

“The people of the Donbas region, too, are fighting to regain their freedom and justice of history today just as the Korean people did 77 years ago,” the report cited Pushilin’s letter as saying.

“The message expressed the conviction that an equally beneficial bilateral cooperation agreeing with the interests of the peoples of the two countries will be achieved between the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

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Stay away from Russian military bases, warns Zelensky

As Kyiv considers a potential counter-offensive in the south of Ukraine, explosions in Moscow-annexed Crimea have raised the prospect of new dynamics in the six-month-old war if Ukraine now has capability to strike deeper in Russian-occupied territory or pro-Kyiv groups are having success with guerrilla-style attacks.

President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Ukrainians to steer clear of Russian military bases and ammunition stores and said the explosions could have a number of causes, including incompetence.

“But they all mean the same thing – the destruction of the occupiers’ logistics, their ammunition, military and other equipment, and command posts, saves the lives of our people,” he said in his nightly address.

In Tuesday’s blasts, an electricity substation also caught fire, according to footage on Russian state TV. Seven trains were delayed and rail traffic on part of the line in northern Crimea was suspended, Russia’s RIA news agency said.


In pictures: after the blasts

A rescue worker examines a crater after Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Ukraine Emergency Service/AFP

A woman walks past a destroyed shopping mall in Bucha, Kyiv



Ukraine’s wheat heads to Africa

A UN-chartered vessel laden with grain set off from Ukraine for Africa on Tuesday following a deal to relieve a global food crisis, the ministry in charge of shipments said.

The MV Brave Commander left the Black Sea port of Pivdennyi and would sail to Djibouti “for delivery to Ethiopia”, the infrastructure ministry said.

The ship is carrying 23,000 tonnes of wheat.

It is the first ship chartered by the UN World Food Programme to leave Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion.

The Government hopes two or three similar shipments will follow soon.


Why is Ukraine’s grain in Syria raising eyebrows?

Syria remains sanctioned by the West over killing and abuses of civilians during the civil war, though food supplies have been exempted by the West.

Russian military support has been key to Syrian president Bashar Assad remaining in power.

Syria has recognised the Russian-backed breakaway eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as sovereign entities, leading to Kyiv severing diplomatic ties with Damascus.

Since earlier this year, ships have carried Ukrainian foodstuffs from Russian-occupied territory to Syria. 


Grain no longer Kyiv’s responsibility

When asked about grain arriving in Syria, the Ukrainian Embassy in Beirut referred to an earlier statement that the cargo of the ship Razoni was no longer Kyiv’s responsibility.

“Our task has been to reopen seaports for grain cargo and it has been done,” the statement said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price similarly said that the US did not “determine who buys the grain shipments or their final destinations”.

“What matters most to us are a couple things,” Mr Price said.

“One: That Ukraine is appropriately compensated for the grain, the foodstuff, for the crops that it is in this case providing. And that the food gets to where it is needed most.”


Ukraine grain appears to have arrived in Syria

The first shipment of grain to leave Ukraine under a war-time deal appears to have ended up in Syria – even as Damascus remains a close ally of Moscow, satellite images analysed by The Associated Press show.

The arrival of the cargo ship Razoni in Syria comes after the government in Kyiv praised the ship’s initial departure from the port of Odesa as a sign that Ukraine could safely ship out its barley, corn, sunflower oil and wheat to a hungry world where global food prices have spiked in part due to the war.

But its arrival in Syria’s port of Tartus shows how complicated and murky international trade and shipping can be. Syria has already received Ukrainian grain taken from Russian-occupied territory amid Moscow’s war on Kyiv.

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni, centre bottom with four white cranes on its red deck, at port in Tartus, Syria

Planet Labs PBC via AP

Images from Planet Labs PBC show the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni at port just before 11am on Monday. The vessel was just next to the port’s grain silos, key to supplying wheat to the nation.

Data from the Razoni’s Automatic Identification System tracker shows it had been turned off since Friday, when it was just off the coast of Cyprus, according to ship-tracking website Ships are supposed to keep their AIS trackers on, but vessels wanting to hide their movements often turn theirs off. Those heading to Syrian ports routinely do so.

The Razoni could be identified in the satellite image by its colour, length and width, as well as the four large white cranes on its deck. Samir Madani, co-founder of the oil-shipment website and an expert on following ships via satellite images, similarly identified the vessel from the image.


Ukrainian officials cheer Russia’s setbacks 

Smoke rises over the site of an explosion at an ammunition storage site of the Russian army near the village of Mayskoye, Crimea


Russia has blamed sabotage for explosions at one of its military bases in Moscow-annexed Crimea while Kyiv hinted it was responsible as Ukrainian officials said their strategy was to destroy supply lines supporting Russia’s invasion.

The blasts on Tuesday engulfed an ammunition depot at a military base in the north of the Crimean peninsula, disrupting trains and forcing the evacuation of 2,000 people from a nearby village, according to Russian officials and news agencies.

Plumes of smoke were later seen at a second Russian military base in central Crimea, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper said. 

Russia’s defence ministry said the explosions at the ammunition depot were “a result of sabotage”.

The Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, is the main supply route for Russian forces in southern Ukraine and the base for its Black Sea fleet.

Ukraine did not confirm or deny responsibility for the explosions though its officials openly cheered Russia’s setbacks there.


Today’s top stories

  • Ukrainian special forces are reported to be behind a series of mysterious explosions behind enemy lines in occupied Crimea
  • The term “shaping the battlefield” is used by military planners to describe the manoeuvres in a campaign prior to the main fight breaking out. What seems to be happening now in Crimea could well be the shaping phase of the anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive in the Kherson region
  • Production has slumped at Russia’s state gas giant Gazprom as it struggles to replace European buyers
  • Germany plans to keep its remaining nuclear power plants open for longer in a major U-turn as it scrambles to keep the lights on this winter with less Russian gas

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