Ukraine Latest: Grain Shipments Kicking Into Higher Gear

·9-min read

(Bloomberg) -- A second caravan of vessels sailed early Sunday from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports carrying grains and foodstuffs, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said. The first incoming cargo ship since the signing of a safe-transit agreement last month reached port and is ready to load. A corn cargo expected to arrive in Lebanon has been delayed.

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Ukraine said Russia shelled areas around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant again on Saturday. The head of the UN’s atomic agency has warned of “potentially catastrophic consequences” of military action around the plant. Russia has denied involvement.

Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Friday, as Ankara pushes for a mediating role to try to help end the war in Ukraine following its breakthrough deal on grain exports. Erdogan said five Turkish banks have adopted Russia’s Mir payments system.

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Key Developments

  • Nuclear-Plant Disaster in Ukraine Is ‘Very Real Risk,’ IAEA Says

  • Ukraine Blasts Watchdog Claim That Its Army Endangers Civilians

  • Grain Corridors Still Need Ships to Ease Food Crisis

  • Turkish Banks Are Adopting Russian Payments System, Erdogan Says

On the Ground

Ukraine’s general staff reported Russian artillery shelling in the direction of Kharkiv “along the entire line of contact.” Kyiv’s forces repelled Russian assaults in several eastern areas and fighting continues in some of them. Russia also fired from tanks and artillery along the contact line in the South Buh direction, and conducted air strikes near Andriyivka, Bilohirka, and Velyke Artakovo. Ukrainian aviation and missile and artillery units continue attacking concentrations of Russian manpower, equipment and ammunitions warehouses, it said. Russian air defenses shot down Ukrainian drones in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions in the past day, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said, adding that its forces also struck Ukrainian ammunition storage in the Donetsk and Mykolaiv regions.

(All times CET)

US Senators Seek Russian Terror State Designation (4 p.m.)

Two US senators renewed a bipartisan call for President Joe Biden’s administration to declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism.

“The administration should, in effect, say to Russia, we’re making you a pariah, like Iran and Cuba,” Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” The designation would mean in part that “you can go to American courts and sue Russia for the damage done in Ukraine,” South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham said.

Blumenthal and Graham championed a Senate resolution passed in July that calls on the administration to designate Russia. It cites a series of military actions under President Vladimir Putin, including the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine Reports Second Day of Russian Shelling at Nuclear Plant (12:45 p.m.)

Russian shells landed on Saturday near spent nuclear fuel stored at the Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant in southeastern Ukraine, wounding one worker, Energoatom, the plant’s operator, said on Telegram.

The evening attack was “apparently” aimed at open-air casks storing spent fuel, Energoatom said. The shelling also damaged radiation monitoring detectors, it said, adding that as many as 500 Russian servicemen at the occupied plant retreated to bunkers during the shelling.

“This time a nuclear catastrophe was miraculously avoided, but miracles cannot last forever,” Energoatom said. The UN’s nuclear agency has warned of “potentially catastrophic consequences” of military action around Zaporizhzhia, where Russian troops have set up a base since capturing the plant in March.

Nuclear-Plant Disaster in Ukraine Is ‘Very Real Risk,’ IAEA Says

Holdup for Ukrainian Corn Bound for Lebanon (11:45 a.m.)

A vessel with Ukrainian corn expected to arrive in Tripoli, Lebanon, on Sunday -- the first under the safe-transit deal signed on July 22 -- has been delayed, a Lebanese minister said. The cause wasn’t immediately clear.

The Razoni left Odesa on Aug. 1 and transited through Turkey for inspection. The tracking website shows the ship anchored in the Mediterranean Sea near Turkey. Its status changed on Saturday to “order,” meaning the ship is waiting for someone to buy the corn.

“Before reaching its declared destination, it changed its course,” Ali Hamie, Lebanon’s public works minister, said on Twitter.

Amnesty International’s Ukraine Head Quits After Report Backlash (11:30 a.m.)

The head of Amnesty International in Ukraine quite amid fallout from a report the human rights group published that criticized Kyiv’s military tactics as endangering its own civilians. Oksana Pokalchuk disavowed the report on Thursday, and in a lengthy Facebook post said that “seeking to protect civilians, this study instead has become a tool of Russian propaganda.”

“If you don’t live in a country that’s been invaded by invaders and tearing it apart, you probably don’t understand what it is like to condemn the army of defenders,” Pokalchuk wrote late Friday.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy again criticised Amnesty International in remarks to the nation Saturday night, noting that the group hadn’t commented on Russian shelling near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Friday. “A very eloquent silence, which once again indicates the manipulative selectivity of this organization,” he said. Moscow has said Ukraine was responsible for the incident.

Ukraine Adviser Urges Germany to Keep Nuclear Power (10:40 a.m.)

Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Ukraine’s president, urged Germany to keep its nuclear power plants running as Russia continues to choke gas flows to Europe, according to Tagesspiegel.

“We must urgently use everything we have to create a new energy map for Europe as quickly as possible to stop financing Russia’s war,” Podolyak said in an interview published Sunday in Tagesspiegel.

The Ukrainian directed his remarks at the Germany’s Green Party, which has led the movement to exit nuclear power and largely opposed proposals to delay the plan to ease the energy supply crunch.

Read more: Germany Has Three Months to Save Itself From a Winter Gas Crisis

Four More Bulk Carriers Have Sailed From Ukraine, Minister Says (8:02 a.m.)

A flotilla of four vessels sailed early Sunday from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Twitter, the second since Ukraine and Russia reached a safe-transit agreement on July 22.

Turkey’s Defense Ministry said the Liberia-flagged Mustafa Necati is transporting 6,000 tons of sunflower oil for Italy. Three Marshall Islands-flagged ships also sailed: the Star Helena has 45,000 tons of sunflower meal for China; Glory and Riva Wind have 66,000 tons and 44,000 tons of corn, respectively, with an initial destination of Turkey.

The bulk carrier Fulmar S has arrived at the Black Sea port of Chornomorsk and is ready to load, the first incoming vessel since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “Our next step is to ensure the ability of Ukrainian ports to handle more than 100 vessels per month,” Kubrakov said.

Several Russian Commanders Dismissed Since February, UK Says (7:30 a.m.)

At least six Russian commanders have probably been relieved of their posts since the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine due to the “poor performance” of the nation’s armed forced, the UK defense department said.

The dismissals are compounded by at least 10 Russian generals killed on the battlefield, the UK said in a Twitter thread.

“The cumulative effect on consistency of command is likely contributing to Russian tactical and operational difficulties,” it added.

UN Atomic Chief Warns of ‘Real Risk’ of Nuclear Disaster (6 p.m.)

The director general of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency made his first public comments after Friday’s shelling near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, calling it “the latest in a long line of increasingly alarming reports.”

The incident “underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond,” Rafael Grossi said in a statement.

Military action around the plant -- which Russia occupied in March but is still being operated by Ukrainian personnel -- “must be avoided at all costs,” he said.

Kherson Region to Issue Russian Drivers Licenses: Tass (3 p.m.)

Authorities in the occupied Kherson region of southern Ukraine have started issuing Russian drivers licenses and car license plates, the state-run Tass news service reported, citing a spokesperson for Russia’s traffic authority.

The move would be the latest in a bid to consolidate administrative control of occupied areas. Ukrainian civilians are being required to acquire Russian passports to participate in many basic life activities, including registering their cars.

Ukraine’s military intelligence agency reported that Russian authorities have written to business owners requesting that they register and start paying Russian taxes.

Germany Warns of Energy Crisis as Soon as December (2:20 p.m.)

Germany needs to lower gas use by at least 20% or face an acute shortage as soon as December, the president of the Federal Network Agency said.

Klaus Mueller, in an interview published Saturday by Welt am Sonntag, said Germany needs to plan for two winters in which the country still needs Russian gas. His latest warning reflects the pressure caused by Russia cutting gas flows through the key Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 20% of its normal capacity.

Germany is debating whether to postpone its planned exit from nuclear energy to ease the energy crunch. Wolfram Koenig, head of Germany’s Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management, called for new assessments nuclear security in the context of the war in Ukraine, according to an interview published Saturday in Tagesspiegel.

Ukraine’s Grain Corridors Still Need Ships (11:53 a.m.)

Ukraine’s first grain exports since being invaded by Russia are bringing relief to squeezed global markets, but challenges remain before the millions of tons stuck in the country can move.

Among them is caution among shipowners about sending their vessels into harm’s way, as the Black Sea waters are littered with mines and Russia didn’t hesitate to strike the port of Odesa a day after the safe-passage agreement was signed.

Officials with knowledge of the insurance market quoted a wide range of figures for covering the nation’s cargoes, with most of the numbers looking prohibitive for the trade.

Ukraine’s Grain Corridors Still Need Ships to Ease Food Crisis

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