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Putin Woos African Nations With Humanitarian Aid, Grain

  • About 100 soldiers from the Russian Wagner group have moved closer to the Polish border, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Saturday. Poland, a NATO member, is worried that any skirmishes on its border could lead to a spillover of war on its territory.
  • Ukrainian soldiers have used North Korean rockets they claim were seized by a “friendly” country before being delivered to Ukraine, the Financial Times reported Saturday. Ukraine’s defense ministry suggested the arms were captured from the Russians.
  • A 9-year-old girl and her 10-year-old brother have been summoned to testify in a criminal case against their mother, Lidia Prudovskaya, who is accused of repeatedly “discrediting” the Russian army by posting anti-war messages on social media, a criminal offense in Russia.

Four African heads of state will attend Russia’s annual Navy Day Parade in St. Petersburg on Sunday, while five other African countries are sending other representation, the Kremlin said Saturday.

African leaders Friday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war on Ukraine and to renew the United Nations-brokered Black Sea grain deal that allowed the safe export of Ukrainian grain vital to Africa.

Putin told African leaders at a summit in St. Petersburg on Thursday that Moscow can replace Ukrainian grain exports to Africa, and he would give tens of thousands of tons of grain to six countries within months.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday that a “handful of donations” won’t correct the adverse consequences of the canceled Black Sea grain deal.

Under the Black Sea agreement, the World Food Program purchased and shipped 725,000 metric tons of grain to Afghanistan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen over the past year. The pact has allowed the WFP so far to procure 80% of its wheat purchases this year from Ukraine — up from 50% in 2021 and 2022.

Overall, nearly 33 million metric tons of grain were exported by Ukraine under the deal, which aimed to combat a global hunger exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Global wheat prices have risen about 9% since Russia exited the agreement on July 17 and began pounding Ukrainian ports and grain infrastructure on the Black Sea and Danube River.

Screen grab reportedly showing operations near Bakhmut, Ukraine during the counteroffensive from the 3RD Assault Brigade/Ukrainian Armed Forces Press service, July 29,2023.

Screen grab reportedly showing operations near Bakhmut, Ukraine during the counteroffensive from the 3RD Assault Brigade/Ukrainian Armed Forces Press service, July 29,2023.

Ukrainian counteroffensive

The Ukrainian counteroffensive, which began June 5, appears to be gaining momentum.

Reports of a new push first came on Wednesday when Ukraine started throwing its reserves onto a large-scale attack south of Orikhiv in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, where Russian defensive lines are at their strongest.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted a video Thursday night in which Ukrainian soldiers said they had taken Staromaiorske in the Donetsk region. That’s the fifth in a string of villages along the Mokri Yaly River in western Donetsk Oblast, about 75 kilometers east of the battles near Orikhiv.

Russian military bloggers said artillery fire at the Ukrainian troops had effectively razed Staromaiorske, and they reported more barrages Friday.

Meanwhile, the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi, said his troops were advancing in parts of eastern Ukraine occupied by Russia and meeting stiff resistance as the war enters its 18th month.

“The enemy fiercely clings to every centimeter, conducting intense artillery and mortar fire,” Syrskyi said in a statement.

Recent fighting has taken place at multiple places along the more than 1,000-kilometer front, where Ukraine deployed its recently acquired Western weapons to push out the Kremlin’s forces. It is attacking without vital air support, however, and Russia is deeply dug in.

Russia is trying to hold on to the territory it controls in the four provinces it illegally annexed in September — Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Kherson and Luhansk.

It was not possible to independently verify either side’s claims about what is happening in the war zone.

Dnipro attack

This photograph shows a residential building damaged by a Russian missile strike in Dnipro, July 28, 2023.

This photograph shows a residential building damaged by a Russian missile strike in Dnipro, July 28, 2023.

Russian forces on Friday struck the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro and pounded a key village in the southeast that Ukraine said it recaptured, while Moscow accused Kyiv of firing two missiles at southern Russia and wounding 20 people.

“Russian missile terror again,” Zelenskyy wrote on social media.

Video shows a 12-story apartment building with its upper floors ruined, smoke billowing from them, and flames raging on the ground level. Shattered concrete and glass littered a courtyard.

Russia has often struck apartment buildings during the conflict, while denying it intentionally targets civilians.

Some information in this report came from Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.

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