Russian claims to have destroyed four Himars systems are not true, say US and Ukraine

A launch truck fires the US-made HIMARS - Tony Overman /The Olympian 
A launch truck fires the US-made HIMARS - Tony Overman /The Olympian

Russia's defence ministry said on Friday its forces had destroyed four US-supplied high mobility artillery rocket systems (Himars) in Ukraine earlier this month, a claim that was denied both by Kyiv and Washington.

Between July 5-20, "four launchers and one reloading vehicle for the US-made multiple launch rocket systems (Himars) were destroyed," it said in a daily briefing.

Kyiv rejected Moscow's claims, calling them "fakes" designed to undermine the West's support for Ukraine.

A US official, speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, said the reports of any Himars being destroyed were not true.

07:08 PM

That's all for tonight

A landmark grains export agreement was reached by Russia, Ukraine, the UN and Turkey in Istanbul this afternoon.

It will allow reopening of Black Sea grain delivery routes from Ukraine's ports amid a global food crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The agreement - which came hours after three bodies were recovered from a school bombed by the Russians in the east of Ukraine - was hailed "nothing short of life-saving" by the International Red Cross.

Questions remain around how the deal will play out with doubt raised over Russia sticking to its agreements from the West as well as the mammoth size of the operation at hand.

Read more: ‘Beacon of hope’ as Russia and Ukraine sign grain deal to alleviate global food catastrophe

06:53 PM

Joe Biden approves £146m further defense spending for Ukraine

US President Joe Biden has approved $175 (£146) million in further defense spending aid for Ukraine, a White House memo has said.

06:52 PM

Grains deal already seeing interest from insurance underwriters

Today's landmark grains export deal - unlocking the Black Sea grain delivery routes from Ukrainian ports - has already seen a number of insurance underwriters express an interest in providing cover for the shipments, a senior London marine insurance market official said on Friday.

"There are a number of underwriters who have expressed an interest in writing this risk and one or two brokers also. It may well be a consortium that is formed," Neil Roberts, head of marine and aviation with the Lloyd’s Market Association, told Reuters.

"A number of things are still to be resolved and underwriters will need to assess voyages individually," said Roberts, whose association represents the interests of all underwriting businesses in the Lloyd’s of London insurance market.

06:39 PM

Zelenskiy says cease-fire with Russia without reclaiming land would prolong war

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said a cease-fire with Russia without reclaiming the lost lands would only prolong the war.

He told the the Wall Street Journal that a cease-fire that allows Russia to keep Ukrainian territories seized since the invasion in February would only encourage an even wider conflict, giving Moscow a badly-needed opportunity to replenish and rearm for the next round.

"Freezing the conflict with the Russian Federation means a pause that gives the Russian Federation a break for rest," he said.

06:37 PM

US accuses China of stockpiling grain during global food crisis

The US has called out China for stockpiling grain that could be used for global humanitarian needs, as Russia and Ukraine signed a grains  deal  to unlock Black Sea grain delivery routes.

The World Food Programme says the Russian invasion of Ukraine - both major wheat producers - has pushed some 47 million people into "acute hunger" after sending food prices soaring.

James O'Brien, head of the US State Department's Office of Sanctions Coordination, said: "China has been a very active buyer of grain and it is stockpiling grain... at a time when hundreds of millions of people are entering the catastrophic phase of food insecurity."

He said he some 40 percent of the first grain shipments out of Ukraine in April went to China, adding: "It would have been much better to see that grain going to Egypt, in the Horn of Africa and other places."

06:31 PM

Russian oil giants allowed to ship to third countries as EU reverses payment ban

Russian state-owned companies Rosneft and Gazprom will be able to ship oil to third countries under tweaks to EU sanctions.

Major trading houses and oil companies such as Shell and Total have cited the sanctions as reasons for stopping trading Russian oil for third parties.

Purchases of Russian seaborne crude oil by EU companies and its export to third countries is allowed but payments for such shipments has been banned - until the tweaks came into force on Friday.

"With a view to avoid any potential negative consequences for food and energy security around the world, the EU decided to extend the exemption from the prohibition to engage in transactions with certain state-owned entities as regards transactions for agricultural products and the transport of oil to third countries," the EU said.

Trading house sources had said EU restrictions would have led to China and India buying oil via smaller private traders and Russian oil trade migrating into grey areas with weak insurance against accidents and being handled by older ships.

06:15 PM

Ukraine grain crisis should be 'wake up call' for Africa to be self-reliant, SA president says

The Ukraine grain crisis should act as a "wake-up call" for Africa to become self-reliant in producing cereals and fertilisers, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February has prevented millions of tonnes of Ukrainian wheat and other grain from leaving the country's ports, sparking fears of global shortages.

"Do we want to continue for years to come to rely, for our grains, for our fertilisers, on that part of the world?" the president said at a press conference in Pretoria as Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara visited.

"Or should we say this conflict is a wake-up call like Covid became a wake-up call to many of us on the African continent to start producing our own vaccines?"

05:59 PM

Canadian PM has little confidence in Russia keeping its end of the bargain

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he has little confidence in Russia fulfilling its side of a bargain reached with Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations on resuming grain shipments from Ukraine.

He added he was nonetheless he is "optimistic" the grain will find its way "to places around the world where it is needed."

"Canada's confidence in Russia's reliability is pretty much nil," said Trudeau.

"They have demonstrated nothing but poor faith," he said. "They have precipitated a global energy crisis (and) a global food crisis with their invasion of Ukraine, and the rest of us have been working very, very hard to try and mitigate those issues around the world."

05:57 PM

Boris Johnson says UK 'will not waver' in its support of Ukraine

Boris Johnson said in a call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the UK "will not waver" in its support of Ukraine when he's no longer Prime Minister.

"He stressed the UK's ongoing determination to support the Ukrainian people and said that resolve will not waver, no matter who becomes the next UK Prime Minister," a Downing Street spokeswoman said in a summary of their conversation.

"President Zelensky thanked the PM for his staunch support for Ukraine, and for his kind words in his last address to parliament."

05:55 PM

Kyiv made a deal with the UN, not Russia, says Ukraine's foreign minister

Ukraine's Foreign Minister has said Kyiv trusts the United Nations, not Russia, to uphold a deal struck in Istanbul to unblock grain exports disrupted by Moscow's invasion.

"Ukraine doesn't trust Russia. I don't think anyone has reasons to trust Russia. We invest our trust in the United Nations as the driving force of this agreement," Dmytro Kuleba told an online press briefing on Friday.

05:38 PM

Russian foreign minister to begin African tour in Egypt

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will begin an African tour in Egypt on Sunday, as the Kremlin launches a  charm offensive on countries with strained relationships with the West.

Lavrov will meet Arab League members trying to square deep links to Russia with their close relationship to the United States.

He will then travel to Ethiopia, Uganda, and the Congo Republic.

Egypt has significant strategic and economic ties with Russia, which has been a key source in recent years of wheat, weaponry and - until the war complicated travel - tourists.

05:32 PM

Zelensky says he and Johnson talked about 'intensifying' Ukrainian military training

05:28 PM

Roman Abramovich attends grains export deal signing ceremony in Istanbul

Former Chelsea FC owner and Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich attends a signing ceremony for grains export deal - OZAN KOSE/AFP
Former Chelsea FC owner and Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich attends a signing ceremony for grains export deal - OZAN KOSE/AFP

05:11 PM

Johnson and Zelensky speak about UK prisoners held by Russians

Boris Johnson and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke about the treatment of UK prisoners being held by Russian-backed forces during a call following the grains exports agreement this afternoon.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The leaders discussed their ongoing concern about the treatment of prisoners being held by Russian-backed forces in Ukraine, including those of British nationality.

"The prime minister thanked president Zelensky for his government’s efforts to date to secure detainees’ freedom.

"The prime minister paid tribute to the role president Zelensky has played and must continue to play in upholding a fair and proper judicial system in Ukraine."

05:03 PM

Russia and Ukraine signed 'separate but identical' agreements with UN and Turkey

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said he and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov each signed separate but identical agreements with UN and Turkish officials on reopening blocked Black Sea delivery routes.

The grain deal could ease a global food crisis in which millions face hunger.

04:59 PM

Boris Johnson and Zelenskiy speak after grains export deal reached

Boris Johnson and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy have spoken over the phone after the grains exports deal was reached this afternoon.

They stressed the need for the full implementation of a Russia-Ukraine deal to reopen Ukrainian ports for grain exports, a spokeswoman for the PM said.

04:44 PM

US Treasury chief to discuss ramping up sanctions against Russia in Europe next week

The US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo will travel to Paris and Brussels next week to discuss with his counterparts stepping up sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

He will also meet with financial services executives and a group of scholars and economists in Paris and discuss further financial aid to Ukraine, the US Treasury said in a statement on Friday.

04:39 PM

Russia ready to unlock Black Sea grains in 'next few days'

Russia will be ready to unlock grain exports from Ukraine in the "next few days", its Defence Minister said.

"Today we have all the prerequisites and all the solutions for this process to begin in the next few days," Sergei Shoigu said in televised remarks.

"We are talking not only about the beginning of the export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports, but also, of course, work on agricultural products, fertiliser from Russian ports," he said , adding that Russia formally pledged not to take advantage of de-mined Ukrainian ports.

04:26 PM

Liz Truss tells Putin 'we will be watching' after grains deal reached

Foreign Secretary and PM hopeful Liz Truss has congratulated the UN and Turkey for brokering the grains exports deal, adding: "Putin's barbaric invasion of Ukraine has meant some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world are at risk of having nothing to eat.

"Now this agreement must be implemented, and we will be watching to ensure Russia's actions match its words."

04:22 PM

Ukrainian grain traders were forced to sell at a loss

Ukraine grain traders have been selling their produce at a loss since Russia invaded their country and blockaded its Black Sea ports five months ago.

Welcoming this afternoon's export deal "with optimism", Serhii Ivashchenko, director of the Ukrainian grain traders' union, told CNN that "the cost of logistics is so high that it eats up not only the profits of farmers, but also the cost of production.

"The cost of transporting grain through Constanta in Romania was two-thirds of the selling price. Now Ukrainian farmers were forced to sell grain at a loss. And unblocking the ports will reduce the cost of logistics quite significantly.

"The cost of transporting grain through the Black Sea ports would be about one-tenth of the delivery of grain to European ports."

He added: "Now a new harvest has started and we expect that the wheat harvest will be about 21 million tonnes. With such a harvest, we could export 13-15 million tonnes of wheat. Plus the harvest that we still had left (from 2021-22)."

04:09 PM

Questions over crew safety remain, says International Chamber of Shipping

The landmark grains deal won't get off the ground until crew safety is ensured and questions around navigating heavily mined waters are answered, the secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping said.

Guy Platten said: "This is a long-needed breakthrough for the millions of people who rely on the safe passage of grain to survive. But although this is an important step, lots of work remains to be done.

"Ensuring crew safety will be crucial if we are to get this agreement moving quickly. Questions remain over how ships will navigate heavily mined waters, and how we can effectively crew the ships in the region to meet the suggested deadline."

04:07 PM

Moscow won't 'take advantage' of opening of Ukrainian ports - Sergei Shoigu says

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has said Moscow will not "take advantage" of the de-mining and opening of Ukrainian ports as part of a UN-brokered deal to restart vital grain exports.

"Russia has taken on the obligations that are clearly spelled out in this document. We will not take advantage of the fact that the ports will be cleared and opened. We have made this commitment," Shoigu said on the Rossiya-24 state TV channel after the signing ceremony in Istanbul this afternoon.

04:01 PM

Grains deal gets cautious welcome by EU

"Today's Istanbul agreement is a step in the right direction. We call for its swift implementation," tweeted the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

04:01 PM

Deal hailed as 'nothing short of life-saving' by Red Cross chief

The grains export deal is "nothing short of life-saving" for families facing starvation, said the director general of the International Red Cross.

Robert Mardini added: "Nowhere are the consequences felt harder than in communities already impacted by armed conflict and climate shocks.

"For example, our market monitoring, over the past six months has seen the price of food staples rise by 187% in Sudan; 86% in Syria; 60% in Yemen; 54% in Ethiopia; as compared to the same time period last year. So efforts must continue."

03:58 PM

Ukrainian grain exports will take two weeks to begin, expert says

Ukrainian grain exports will take two weeks to start, founder of the Institute for Global Food Security Professor Chris Elliot has told Sky News.

He hailed the deal reached in Istanbul this afternoon  to resume exports million of tons of grain from Ukraine's Black Sea ports as "a very, very positive move” as much of it will go into "feeding many, many millions of people, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, who are already running very, very short of food at the moment".

He added: "The scale of the operation is enormous. 20m tonnes of cereal that is produced in Ukraine – they have to export 5m tonnes of it.

"Getting all of the ships in place that can carry that material. So probably two weeks is a reasonable amount of time for the movement to start.

"But really, to get it into full operation, into full tilt, will probably take at least a month from now. And it could be a couple of months, really, before those food chains that have been deprived of the cereals are replenished."

03:44 PM

Grains deal to be fully operational in a few weeks, say UN officials

Senior UN officials have said the landmark grains export deal is expected to be fully operational in a few weeks.

Safe passage into and out of the ports would be guaranteed in what one official called a "de facto ceasefire" for the ships and facilities covered, they said, although the word "ceasefire" was not in the agreement text.

03:43 PM

US will hold Russia accountable for sticking to grains export deal

America will work to hold Russia accountable for implementing the landmark grains export deal, said US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

James O'Brien, head of the US State Department's Office of Sanctions Coordination added it also wants China to stop stockpiling grain and offer more to meet global humanitarian aid needs.

03:31 PM

G7 'will be watching very closely' to ensure grains deal does not endanger Ukraine

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has said the G7 will be watching very closely to ensure the grains export deal will not put Ukraine at further risk.

03:29 PM

Landmark grains deal will last for 120 days and aims to avert global famine - UN officials

The landmark deal is valid for 120 days and aims to avert famine by injecting more wheat, sunflower oil, fertiliser and other products into the world market, said senior UN officials.

It has been five months since the war halted their shipments from Ukrainian Black Sea port, causing prices to rocket.

The deal ensures safe passage in and out of Odesa and two other Ukrainian ports in what the official called a "de facto ceasefire" for the ships and facilities covered.

The Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul, which straddles the Bosphorus, will represent "the heartbeat of the operation", monitoring all ship movements and inspections, and decides whether for example a vessel detracts from agreed channels in the Black Sea.

All returning ships will be inspected at a Turkish port by a cross-party team to allay Russian concerns they could bring back weapons to Ukraine.

The UN will also spend more than two months negotiating with ship insurers to ensure the plan was commercially viable and will not lead to punitive premiums.

03:23 PM

Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and UN sign landmark grain exports deal

Russia, Ukraine, NATO member Turkey and the United Nations signed a landmark deal on Friday to unlock Ukrainian grain and fertiliser exports from Black Sea ports, to help relieve a growing food crisis worsened by the war, Reuters reports.

03:22 PM

Erdogan calls for an end to the war as parties begin signing grains export deal

Turkey's leader Recep Erdogan said he hoped Russia and Ukraine's grains export deal will be a turning point as he called for an end to the war.

He said the invasion's impacts were being seen across the world and said the fighting will only end at the negotiating table.

He spoke as Ukrainian, Russian, UN and Turkish parties began signing the deal in Istanbul to resume the export of some 20 million tons from Ukrainian's Black Sea ports.

03:14 PM

Grains deal will prevent billions from facing famine, says Turkish leader

Turkey's leader Recep Erdogan said the exports deal unlocking millions of tons of grain from Ukraine's ports will prevent billions of people from facing famine, and ease global food price inflation.

03:12 PM

Grains export deal statement from UN General Secretary

"Today there is a beacon on the Black Sea. The beacon of hope. The beacon of possibility. The beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever," said the UN's General Secretary Antonio Guterres.

"Thank you very much to the representatives of the Russian Federation and Ukraine. You have overcome obstacles, and put aside differences, to pave the way for an initiative that will serve the common interests of all.

"Promoting the welfare of humanity has been the driving force of these talks. The question has not been what is good for one side or the other. The focus has been on what matters most for the people of our world.

"And let there be no doubt – this is an agreement for the world. It will bring relief for developing countries on the edge of bankruptcy, and the most vulnerable people on the edge of famine, and to help stabilise global food prices."

03:10 PM

Grains export deal reached, says UN General Secretary

The UN's General Secretary Antonio Guterres has said a deal has been reached to open up grain exports from Ukraine, saying it will benefit developing countries "on the edge of bankruptcy and the most vulnerable people on the edge of famine".

02:46 PM

Pregnant anti-war Russian councillor arrested for 'spreading false information'

A pregnant councillor who has spoken up against Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been arrested for allegedly spreading false information about the army.

Russia's Investigative Committee said it launched criminal proceedings against Helga Pirogova, 33, who was detained briefly on Thursday.

The  independent member of the city council in Novosibirsk, Siberia, is one of the last allies of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny still in the country.

Her supporters say Pirogova is in her fourth month of pregnancy. She faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

02:31 PM

Russia will not supply oil to countries that put on a price cap

Russia will not supply oil to countries that decide to impose a price cap on its oil, Russian Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina told a briefing on Friday.

Nabiullina added that the proposal by G7 nations, aimed at stripping Russia of energy revenues in a bid to limit Moscow's options for financing its military campaign in Ukraine, would also spur on global oil prices.

02:31 PM

Russia moves combine harvesters from Crimea to occupied regions in Ukraine

Russia has sent combine harvesters from Crimea to two regions of Ukraine it occupies to cover a shortage of equipment needed to bring in the crop, a representative of a Russian-installed local administration said.

Ukraine has accused Russia, the world's largest wheat exporter, of stealing grain from territories that Russia's army has seized since Moscow sent troops to Ukraine.

"A shortage in agricultural machinery was revealed during the harvesting campaign in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions," a representative of the Russian-installed administration of Zaporizhzhia region told reporters in the village of Lobanove in northern Crimea.

01:51 PM

Ukraine sailors training in UK meet deputy defence minister

Ukraine's deputy defence minister has met sailors being trained off the coast of Scotland and soldiers training in England as part of UK support for his country in its war against Russia.

Volodymyr Havrylov met with UK armed forces minister James Heappey and visited parliamentarians to discuss what further support is needed to meet the needs of Ukraine's armed forces.

Both ministers travelled to Scotland on Thursday, where Ukrainian sailors are being trained by the Royal Navy to operate Sandown Class Minehunter vessels, although the location is not being revealed for security reasons.

01:45 PM

Russia and Ukraine sign grains export deal

Russia and Ukraine have signed a major exports deal to resume exports of some 20 million of tons of grain through the Black Sea, the Guardian reports.

Turkey and the UN brokered the agreement in Istanbul after Russia's blockade of Ukraine's ports sent global food prices soaring.

Fierce fighting continues in Ukraine, the world's fifth biggest exporter of wheat, with three bodies recovered from a school bombed by Russians in the east of the country today.

01:18 PM

Ukraine's minister of infrastructure and UN Secretary-General meet in Istanbul

With Ukraine and Russia poised to sign a grains exports deal at 1.30pm, Oleksandr Kubrakov, Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are today pictured attending a meeting in Istanbul.

Oleksandr Kubrakov, Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attend a meeting in Istanbul - PRESS SERVICE OF THE MINISTRY OF INFRASTRUCTURE OF UKRAINE/Reuters
Oleksandr Kubrakov, Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attend a meeting in Istanbul - PRESS SERVICE OF THE MINISTRY OF INFRASTRUCTURE OF UKRAINE/Reuters

01:04 PM

Erdogan promises the world 'good news' over grains exports deal in Istanbul

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has promised the world "good news" as Ukrainian and Russian delegations are set to sign a deal to resume Kyiv's grain exports in Istanbul later today.

Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the UN are to sign the agreement at 1.30pm GMT.

"Shortly, signatures will be put down with the participation of Russia, Ukraine and the UN Secretary General, overcoming problems on the grain issue, and we will give the world good news then," Erdogan told an event in Istanbul.

12:53 PM

Russia losing 100s of troops a day in war, senior US official says

The United States believes that Russia's military is sustaining hundreds of casualties a day in its war in Ukraine, a senior US defense official has said.

America also believed that Ukraine had destroyed more than 100 "high-value" Russian targets inside Ukraine, including command posts, ammunition depots and air-defense sites, the unnamed official told Reuters.

12:39 PM

Three Ukrainian ports named amid Kyiv and Moscow exports negotiations

Ukrainian grain will initially be exported from the ports of Odesa, Pivdenny and Chornomorsk,  Ukrainian parliamentarian Rustem Umerov has said.

Kyiv and Moscow are set to sign a major agreement to end Russia's Black Sea blockade of grain in Istanbul today.

“The exports will take place through three ports: Odesa, Pivdenny, (Yuzhiy) and Chornomorsk," Umerov, who is a member of the Ukrainian delegation in the negotiations, told Ukrainian media.

"In the future, we hope, we can also expand the list. All recommendations of the maritime forces, the armed forces must be respected. There are safe corridors, routes that we have developed together with the military, and all civilian ships will go through these routes. We will sell grain to everybody. And all vessels that follow these guidelines can come to us."

Full details of the ports and safe channels for merchant shipping will be announced later today.

12:28 PM

Ukraine threatens military response as it says grain deal is with UN not Russia

12:24 PM

Ukrainian delegation is in Istanbul as Kyiv and Moscow near major grains deal

A delegation from Ukraine is in Istanbul today as Kyiv and Moscow were expected to sign a deal that would unblock grain exports disrupted by Russia's invasion, Ukraine's infrastructure ministry said.

"The country's delegation led by Ukraine's Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov arrived in Istanbul for negotiations on the resolution of the grain issue," the ministry said on Telegram, adding that delegates had held a meeting with UN chief Antonio Guterres.

12:23 PM

Russian defence minister seen arriving in Istanbul ahead of grains deal

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has been seen on live TV arriving in Istanbul, where Russia and Ukraine will later sign a deal to facilitate grain exports.

Shoigu will also hold a bilateral meeting with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar, the RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing Russia's defence ministry.

12:21 PM

Lights go out in wealthy German city as energy prices soar

An affluent historic Bavarian city is turning off street lighting as it faces spiraling energy costs following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The streets of Augsburg have gone go eerily quiet after it rolled out a raft of energy savings measures which have seen the facades of its medieval buildings not illuminated, street lights dimmed and most of the fountains not operating.

The city has also lowered the temperature in its public pools and is checking which traffic lights it can turn off.

The economy ministry also launched a campaign last month urging citizens to take shorter showers, increase their fridge's temperature by 1 degree and better insulate their home.

Augsburg mayor Eva Weber told Reuters that the city's energy bills this year were expected to be almost double from last year's costs of around 15.9 million euros.

11:35 AM

Grains exports deal is 'very important', says Kremlin

The Kremlin has said it was "very important" to unblock grain exports as Kyiv and Moscow were set to sign a deal to help relieve a global food crisis today.

"It is very important to unblock supplies of fertilisers, foodstuffs and grain to the world markets," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

"It is a relatively small amount of Ukrainian grain, but still it is very important that this grain gets to world markets."

11:34 AM

Kremlin denies turbine for Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline is stuck in transit

The Kremlin has denied reports that a turbine for the Nord Stream 1 pipeline taking gas from Russia to Germany was stuck in transit.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov branded a Reuters report that cited two sources who said Russia had not yet given the go-ahead to transport the turbine back to Russia as "nonsense".

"The accusations are groundless. The sources are wrong," he said.

Russia cut the flow through Nord Stream 1 to 40 percent of its capacity in June, citing the delayed return of the turbine from routine maintenance in Canada.

11:30 AM

Transdniestria not put off becoming part of Russia by war, minister says

The foreign minister of Transdniestria said the Moscow-backed breakaway region of Moldova still wants to become part of Russia.

Vitaly Ignatiev told RIA news agency that Moscow's "special military operation" in Ukraine had not affected his region's aim.

Transdniestria is internationally recognised as part of Moldova that lies on a thin strip of land along Ukraine's southwest border and voted to join Russia in a 2006 referendum.

A 1992 ceasefire deal ended the fighting over the future of the region following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

11:19 AM

Five European countries added to Russia's list of 'unfriendly foreign states'

The Kremlin has added Greece, Denmark, Slovenia, Croatia and Slovakia to its list of "unfriendly foreign states", a decree signed by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and published on the official website said.

It limits the countries' abilities to hire workers in Russia for embassies, consulates and representative offices of state bodies.

Greece has a limit of hiring 34 people, Denmark of 20, and Slovakia of 16, the decree added. Slovenia and Croatia will not be able to hire employees for their diplomatic missions and consular offices.

11:12 AM

Three bodies recovered from school hit by Russian missiles in east Ukraine

Ukrainian emergency workers recovered three bodies from a school hit by a Russian strike as missile rained on a densely populated area in the eastern part of the country, officials have said.

The Ukrainian president's office said Russian shelling destroyed a school and damaged 85 residential buildings in Kramatorsk, in Donetsk province.

The reported casualties follow a barrage in Ukraine's second largest city Kharkiv that killed at least three people and wounded 23 others on Thursday.

11:05 AM

Ukraine and Russia to sign grains deal on Friday, Erdogan's spokesman claims

Kyiv and Moscow will sign a deal to unlock grain exports and relieve a global food crisis on Friday in Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has claimed.

The announcement came as Russian forces battered Ukraine's southern coast and left several dead in the industrial Donbas.

The first major accord between the warring sides would be brokered with the UN and Turkey.

11:00 AM

Ukraine's ports to reopen as grain deal 'agreed'

Moscow and Kyiv will today sign a deal to reopen Ukraine's Black Sea ports for grain exports, Turkey said, raising hopes that an international food crisis caused by Russia's invasion could be eased.

Ukraine and Russia, both among the world's biggest exporters of food, did not immediately confirm Thursday's announcement by the office of the Turkish presidency. But in a late night video address Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hinted his country's Black Sea ports could soon be unblocked.

The blockade by Russia's Black Sea fleet has reduced supplies to markets around the world and sent grain prices soaring since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into neighbouring Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The agreement is due to be signed this lunch time, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's office said.

The United Nations and Turkey have been working for two months to broker what Guterres called a "package" deal - to resume Ukraine's Black Sea grain exports and facilitate Russian grain and fertiliser shipments.

10:41 AM

Russian, Ukrainian ministers to attend grains deal event in Istanbul

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu is en route to Turkey to attend a ceremony to sign deal allowing the resumption of Ukraine's maritime grain exports

Ukraine's infrastructure minister will also attend the ceremony that would mark a first step to ease a global food crisis brought on by Moscow's invasion of its neighbour.

10:30 AM

Belarus appoints new envoy to Moscow

Belarus has appointed a new ambassador to Russia, state news agencies report, as Moscow and Minsk continue to forge closer ties amid their mounting isolation from the West.

Moscow is Belarus' key backer and the two sides - officially part of a borderless "Union State" - have accelerated integration talks in recent years after both were hit with Western sanctions.

In a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Alexander Lukashenko said the two leaders had agreed to appoint Dmitry Krutoi as Minsk's new envoy to Moscow, the Belta state news agency reported.

Mr Krutoi was deputy head of Belarus' presidential administration and was previously involved in integration projects with Russia - a broad list of policy areas the two countries have agreed to move closer together on.

10:17 AM

Russia 'destroyed 4 HIMARS' launchers since July 5

Russia's defence ministry has claimed its forces had destroyed four US-supplied HIMARS rocket systems between July 5-20.

"Four launchers and one transport-loading vehicle for the US-made multiple launch rocket systems (HIMARS) were destroyed," it said in a daily briefing.

The claims could not be independently verified.

Kyiv has hailed the arrival of eight HIMARS in Ukraine as a possible gamechanger for the course of the war. The advanced weapons are more precise and offer a longer range than other artillery systems, allowing Kyiv to strike Russian targets and weapons depots further behind the front lines.

09:55 AM

Separatist regions block Google

The pro-Russian authorities of eastern Ukraine's separatist republics say they have blocked Google, accusing the US giant of promoting "violence against Russians."

"We took the decision to block Google on the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic," rebel leader Denis Pushilin said on Telegram, accusing it of promoting "violence against Russians, in particular the people of the Donbas."

The neighbouring Luhansk People's Republic blocked Google yesterday.

Pushilin accused Google of working "openly on the orders of its curators in the American government".

He claimed the West and Ukraine were "creating unprecedented pressure on the physical and psychological safety" of the republic, aimed at "breaking" its people.

"We cannot tolerate this anymore," he said."This is how you deal with criminals in any society: they are isolated from people."

09:32 AM

Breakaway Transdniestria still wants to join Russia

The goal of Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniestria to become a part of Russia remains unaffected by the war in neighbouring Ukraine, the region's foreign minister told RIA Novosti news agency.

Transdniestria, which is internationally recognised as part of Moldova, lies on a thin strip of land along Ukraine's southwest border. Its status dates to the collapse of the Soviet Union, when a military conflict broke out between pro-Moldovan and pro-Russian factions over the future of the region.

A 1992 ceasefire deal ended the fighting but froze the region's political status, and it now exists as a breakaway state within Moldova that relies on support from Moscow.

Transdniestria's Foreign Minister Vitaly Ignatiev told RIA news agency that Moscow's "special military operation" in Ukraine had not affected his region's aim to officially join Russia, in line with its 2006 referendum.

"The vector of Transdniestria has remained unchanged throughout the republic's existence - reflected in the results of the referendum on September 17, 2006, where it is clearly stated: independence with free accession to the Russian Federation," RIA Novosti quoted Mr Ignatiev as saying.

09:00 AM

The war, in pictures

Russia-Ukraine war: Ukraine's ports to reopen as grain deal 'agreed' - VALENTYN OGIRENKO /REUTERS
Russia-Ukraine war: Ukraine's ports to reopen as grain deal 'agreed' - VALENTYN OGIRENKO /REUTERS
Russia-Ukraine war: Ukraine's ports to reopen as grain deal 'agreed' - Russian Defense Ministry Press Service 
Russia-Ukraine war: Ukraine's ports to reopen as grain deal 'agreed' - Russian Defense Ministry Press Service

08:33 AM

Russia 'stealing' UK-bound steel, Ukraine claims

Russia is looting steel bound for the UK and the European Union, the head of Ukraine's largest steel company has said.

Raw and finished steel worth $600m (£501 million) left behind in the Azovstal mill and nearby port in the brutalised city of Mariupol was bound for UK customers, but is now being transported to Russia and partly sold on to Asia and Africa, according to Metinvest chief executive Yuriy Ryzhenkov.

He told the BBC: "What they're doing with this steel is basically looting. They're stealing our products, not only our products, but also some of those products already belong to European customers."

"So we're documenting as much as possible. We're preparing the case and we will be going after them with everything we have."

Azovstal steelworks, which became the last holdout of Ukrainian fighters and civilians during the battle for Mariupol, and its sister plant accounted for 40 per cent of all Ukraine steel production.

Thousands of tonnes of steel had already been purchased by customers in Europe, including some in Britain.

08:10 AM

Russia threatens to widen its war if West continues to supply weapons to Ukraine

07:43 AM

Donetsk today, in pictures

Russia-Ukraine war: Ukraine's ports to reopen as grain deal 'agreed' - GEORGE IVANCHENKO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock 
Russia-Ukraine war: Ukraine's ports to reopen as grain deal 'agreed' - GEORGE IVANCHENKO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock
Russia-Ukraine war: Ukraine's ports to reopen as grain deal 'agreed' - GEORGE IVANCHENKO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock 
Russia-Ukraine war: Ukraine's ports to reopen as grain deal 'agreed' - GEORGE IVANCHENKO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock

07:17 AM

Ukraine continues to repel attacks in Donbas - MoD

05:35 AM

Moscow in 'serious violation of international law'

Japan annual defence white paper describes Moscow's attack on Ukraine as a "serious violation of international law" and raises concerns that Russia's use of force to resolve a dispute established a precedent that threatens the security of neighbouring Taiwan, which Beijing views as its own territory.

Chinese military planes are increasingly probing Taiwan's air defences.

The defence white paper approved by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's government identifies China, Russia and North Korea as its main security concerns.

Kishida's defence minister, Nobuo Kishi, has described Japan as being on a front line surrounded by nuclear-armed actors.

05:33 AM

Japan warns of security threats

Japan warned on Friday of escalating national security threats, including repercussions from Russia's war with Ukraine, Chinese intimidation of Taiwan, and vulnerable technology supply chains, in its annual defence white paper.

The report sets out the Government's security concerns as it prepares the defence ministry budget request due next month, aiming to build public support for an unprecedented hike in military funding that the ruling party aims to double over the next decade.

It also sets the stage for a year-end national security review expected to call for the acquisition of longer-range strike missiles, strengthened space and cyber capabilities, and tighter controls over access to technology.

"The political, economic and military rivalries between nations is clear, and the challenge posed to the international order is a global issue," the white paper said.

02:54 AM

Deadly attacks strengthen Kyiv's 'desire to defeat invaders'

Volodymyr Zelensky said three people were killed when Russians shelled the eastern city of Kharkiv on Thursday.

"Every one of these Russian attacks is an argument for Ukraine to receive more Himars and other modern and effective weapons," the Ukrainian President said.

"Every one of these attacks only strengthens our desire to defeat the invaders and that will certainly happen."

02:52 AM

Ukraine could inflict major damage on Russian forces

Ukraine's military has the potential to make gains on the battlefield and inflict major losses on Russia, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday after meeting senior commanders.

Mr Zelensky, speaking in a late-night video address, said they discussed the supply of modern weapons, adding the that intensity of attacks on the Russians had to be stepped up.

"(We) agreed that our forces have the strong potential to advance on the battlefield and inflict significant new losses on the occupiers," he said.

Kyiv hopes that Western weapons, especially longer-range missiles such as American Himars that Ukraine has deployed in recent weeks, will allow it to launch a counterattack and recapture territory.

02:49 AM

Zelensky urges speedier arms delivery

Western powers have stepped up arms supplies to Ukraine but President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked for more and speedier deliveries.

Britain became the latest country on Thursday to announce it is re-upping military supplies with artillery, "hundreds of drones and hundreds more anti-tank weapons" for Ukraine in coming weeks.

Russia has warned about arms supplies and said they mean Moscow will no longer be focused only on wresting control of the east Ukraine regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, which have been partially controlled by pro-Moscow rebels for years.

02:24 AM

Today's top stories

  • Russia’s army is nearly exhausted and Ukraine will have an opportunity to counter attack in the coming weeks, Britain’s spy chief has said

  • The scorched remains of apartment blocks destroyed by Russian shelling cast a shadow over the nearby parks where children play in the Kyiv suburb of Borodyanka. The local council wants to keep it as a memorial to honour those who lost their lives, but residents who survived are now fighting for the right to have their homes rebuilt on the land they once peacefully lived on

  • Russia, Ukraine and the West must agree to halt the Ukraine conflict to avoid the "abyss of nuclear war", Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has said

  • High-powered Western fighter jets could be sent to Ukraine to bolster its forces in the battle against the Russian invasion, the head of the United States Air Force has said

  • Vladimir Putin is “too healthy”, the CIA has said, dismissing media speculation that the Russian president is suffering from ill health

  • Russia is closing in on Ukraine’s second biggest power plant, British military intelligence has warned

  • The head of Ukraine's largest foreign volunteer unit has a blunt message for any Britons still wanting to join the fight against Russia

  • Russia expects North Korean labourers to be involved in rebuilding two self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine, with Pyongyang likely to be paid in much-needed industrial equipment and wheat from areas of Ukraine that are now under the control of the Russian military