Updated August 17, 2023 at 2:58 p.m. EDT|Published August 17, 2023 at 2:30 a.m. EDT
The State Department condemned what it called Moscow’s “continued attacks on Ukrainian grain infrastructure” after reports of Russian drones targeting Ukrainian grain warehouses near Danube ports this week. Deputy spokesman Vedant Patel accused Russia of “weaponizing food” by suspending its participation in an international grain deal that allowed ships to export Ukrainian food safely via the Black Sea.
“[Vladimir] Putin simply does not care about global food security,” Patel said, referring to the Russian president.
Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the globe.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone to Paul Whelan, an American jailed in Russia, CNN reported. Whelan, a Marine turned corporate security executive, was convicted of espionage and sentenced in 2020 in what he said was a case of political hostage-taking. Whelan had a “long, frank conversation” with Blinken on Wednesday, his brother David Whelan told CNN.
Russia and Iran are working to expand the Kremlin’s drone program, according to leaked documents seen by The Washington Post. The documents indicate that Moscow has made steady progress toward its goal of manufacturing a variant of the Iranian Shahed-136 attack drone. The Russian program aims to domestically build 6,000 drones by summer 2025 — enough to reverse the Russian military’s chronic shortages of uncrewed aerial vehicles, or UAVs, on the front line.
NATO official Stian Jenssen apologized and withdrew his suggestion that Ukraine cede land to Russia to make peace and join the military alliance, Dutch media outlets reported. His comments drew anger from Kyiv; Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the idea of ceding land to Russia was “ridiculous.”
The head of the Russian-owned Tactical Missiles Corp. has been put on the Czech Republic’s sanctions list along with his daughter and son-in-law after a campaign by Russian anti-corruption activists. Boris Obnosov, whose company produces missiles and aerial bombs that have been destroying Ukrainian cities for more than a year, continued to live in Prague, the Czech capital, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He and other family members reportedly own real estate in Prague worth more than $8 million. In May, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation published an investigation into Obsonov’s family and urged the E.U. to put them on sanctions lists. Last month, 15 members of the European Parliament also urged the European Commission to impose sanctions on Obnosov’s close family members.
Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu is in Belarus for a three-day visit, Belarusian news agency BelTA reported. Cooperation between the two countries is getting stronger, the agency quoted Li as saying. Belarus is a close Russian ally and has supported the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine.
North Korea and Russia are ramping up military cooperation, with signs of a possible arms delivery from Pyongyang to Moscow this month, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers Thursday. Seoul’s National Intelligence Service told a parliamentary briefing that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu agreed on a “broad framework for military cooperation” at their meeting in July. Shoigu made a rare trip last month to Pyongyang, where he met with Kim and toured a defense exhibition. Washington said Shoigu requested munitions, but Moscow and Pyongyang have denied allegations of arms deals between them.
Finland will build Europe’s largest emergency stockpile in case of a nuclear, radiological, biological or chemical threat, its Interior Ministry said. Amid concerns about the fallout from the war in Ukraine, Finland was granted $262 million from the European Commission this year to build the reserve, which will include protective equipment, medicines and vaccines.
Two Russian Ka-52 helicopters shot down Thursday in Ukraine had “high-tech components from Western countries and Asian countries,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Andriy Yermak. The components, which included chips and microprocessors, were beyond Russia’s capabilities, he said in a post on Telegram. “Sanctions against the Russian Federation should be strengthened. The Russian military-industrial complex should not have access to technology.”
Russia launched eight missiles and 82 airstrikes against Ukraine in the past day, the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said on Facebook. The casualties include children, the statement said, without providing details. Port infrastructure in Odessa was hit, according to the update, as well as residential and public buildings in the Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The Post could not verify the claims.
NATO has not detected changes to Russia’s nuclear capabilities, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Norway on Thursday. “We haven’t seen any changes in their nuclear forces that trigger us to change our forces and the way those are arranged,” he said. “So far, we haven’t seen anything that demands that from our side.”
Ship carrying grain sails from Odessa, testing Russian threat: A ship carrying Ukrainian agricultural products left the southern port of Odessa — the first such vessel to set sail since Russia withdrew from the Black Sea grain deal last month, reports David L. Stern. The container ship, flying a Hong Kong flag, left the port through a “temporary corridor” established for civilian vessels toward the Bosporus, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook.
Russian forces have continued their ferocious barrage against Ukraine’s agricultural infrastructure, intent on destroying the country’s ability to ship to global markets and crippling a key sector of Ukraine’s economy.
Min Joo Kim contributed to this report.