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Russia-Ukraine war live: Moscow restricts British diplomats’ movements over support for Ukraine

Russia restricts movement of British diplomatic staff over support for Ukraine

Russia said on Thursday it was imposing restrictions on British diplomats, requiring them to give five days’ notice of any plans to travel beyond a 120km (75-mile) radius, due to what it called London’s “hostile actions”.

Britain’s chargé d’affaires in Russia was summoned to the foreign ministry in Moscow to be scolded for what Moscow said was support for the “terrorist actions” of Ukraine and for obstruction of Russian diplomacy in Britain.

“The British side was also informed of the decision to introduce a notification procedure for the movement of employees of British diplomatic missions on the territory of our country as a response to London’s hostile actions,” Reuters reports the ministry said.

British diplomats, with the exception of the ambassador and three other senior diplomats, will be required to send notification of any plans to travel beyond the 120km (75-mile) “free movement zone” at least five working days ahead.

“Such a document should contain information about the timing, purpose, type of trip, planned business contacts, accompanying persons, type of transport, places of visit and accommodation, as well as the route of the trip,” the ministry said.

Key events

Ukraine will receive a $1.5bn (£1.17bn) loan from the World Bank guaranteed by the government of Japan, Reuters reports the Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, said on Thursday.

Both Russia and Ukraine have now declared that they will treat vessels in the Black Sea as carrying military cargo, which would make them potential strike targets.

Ukraine’s ministry of defence issued this statement on Thursday afternoon, saying:

The Russian Federation has once again brutally violated the universal right to free navigation for the whole world and is deliberately undermining food security, condemning millions of people to starvation.

By openly threatening civilian ships transporting food from Ukrainian ports, launching missile attacks and drone attacks on civilian infrastructure in peaceful cities, deliberately creating a military threat on trade routes, the Kremlin has turned the Black Sea into a danger zone, primarily for Russian ships and ships heading in the waters of the Black Sea in the direction of seaports of the Russian Federation and Ukrainian seaports located on the territory of Ukraine temporarily occupied by Russia. The responsibility for all risks lies entirely with the Russian leadership.

The fate of the cruiser “Moskva” proves that the defence forces of Ukraine have the necessary means to repel Russian aggression at sea.

The ministry of defence of Ukraine warns that from 00:00 on 21 July, 2023, all vessels heading in the waters of the Black Sea in the direction of seaports of the Russian Federation and Ukrainian seaports located on the territory of Ukraine temporarily occupied by Russia may be considered by Ukraine as such carrying military cargo with all the associated risks.

The wording of the final paragraph precisely echoes that of the earlier statement from Russia’s ministry of defence, which came after Russian withdrew from the Black Sea grain initiative and then launched three consecutive nights of attacks on the port cities of Odesa and Mykolaiv which had been part of the deal.

In its statement, the Russian defence ministry said:

In connection with the termination of the Black Sea initiative and the curtailment of the maritime humanitarian corridor, from 00.00 Moscow time on 20 July 2023, all ships proceeding to Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea waters will be considered as potential carriers of military cargo.

Accordingly, the flag countries of such ships will be considered involved in the Ukrainian conflict on the side of the Kyiv regime.

A number of sea areas in the north-western and south-eastern parts of the international waters of the Black Sea have been declared temporarily dangerous for navigation. Relevant information warnings about the withdrawal of safety guarantees for seafarers have been issued in the prescribed manner.

Russia restricts movement of British diplomatic staff over support for Ukraine

Russia said on Thursday it was imposing restrictions on British diplomats, requiring them to give five days’ notice of any plans to travel beyond a 120km (75-mile) radius, due to what it called London’s “hostile actions”.

Britain’s chargé d’affaires in Russia was summoned to the foreign ministry in Moscow to be scolded for what Moscow said was support for the “terrorist actions” of Ukraine and for obstruction of Russian diplomacy in Britain.

“The British side was also informed of the decision to introduce a notification procedure for the movement of employees of British diplomatic missions on the territory of our country as a response to London’s hostile actions,” Reuters reports the ministry said.

British diplomats, with the exception of the ambassador and three other senior diplomats, will be required to send notification of any plans to travel beyond the 120km (75-mile) “free movement zone” at least five working days ahead.

“Such a document should contain information about the timing, purpose, type of trip, planned business contacts, accompanying persons, type of transport, places of visit and accommodation, as well as the route of the trip,” the ministry said.

Russia has lifted restrictions on cargo vessels moving through the Kerch strait between the Azov and Black seas, three industry sources told Reuters on Thursday.

One of the sources said navigation was open during daylight hours only.

The movement of cargo vessels through the Kerch strait was suspended by Russian authorities on 16 July following drone attacks on the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Russia unilaterally occupied and annexed Crimea in 2014.

A peer in the UK House of Lords has suggested that Russia could be offered the prospect of Nato membership in exchange for its withdrawal from Ukraine.

The journalist, broadcaster and prominent Sikh Indarjit Singh told the House of Lords that offering Nato membership would damage Russian president Vladimir Putin’s strongman persona and help bring world peace, PA reports.

The independent crossbench peer said:

Mr Putin likes to depict himself as a strongman defending Mother Russia against the perceived threat from the Nato alliance. It would totally destroy Putin’s credibility and help end the suffering of the Ukrainian people and further the cause of world peace if the west were to openly offer Russia the bait of membership of Nato in return for its total withdrawal from Ukraine.

Foreign Office minister Tariq Ahmad responded: “I’m sure Lord Singh is well intentioned but I’m afraid I can’t agree with this proposition … There can be someone who can stop this war – that is Mr Putin and he can stop it right now.”

Singh said in October:

If we were to say that we will disband Nato it might just give Putin the escape route he so desperately requires? If that does not work, it will at least show the Russian people what sort of person Putin is.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has condemned a warning by Russia that any ships travelling to Ukrainian Black Sea ports will be seen as possibly carrying military cargoes.

“The ministry of foreign affairs of Ukraine strongly condemns any threats to use force against civilian ships, regardless of their flag,” it said.

It came as Ukraine’s defence ministry said it would consider all ships travelling to Russian ports and Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea occupied by Moscow as potential carriers of military cargo from 21 July, Reuters reports. The ministry said the Ukrainian armed forces had the means to repel what it called Russian aggression at sea.

Ukraine’s deputy economy minister held talks with China’s vice-commerce minister in Beijing today in the first high-level visit by a Ukraine government official to the country since 2019.

A source told Reuters that a meeting between Ukraine’s Taras Kachka and China’s Ling Ji took place in Beijing. It came around the time that China’s consulate general building in Odesa was damaged in a Russian attack on the city late last night Kyiv time.

China has a “no limits” partnership with Moscow. But Ling said China was willing to work with Ukraine to develop mutually beneficial bilateral economic and trade cooperation between the two countries, according to a Chinese commerce ministry account of the meeting.

Kachka, according to the Chinese commerce ministry, said:

The Ukrainian side will step up efforts to protect the safety of Chinese-funded enterprises in Ukraine. We are willing to work together with China to promote the healthy and sustainable development of economic and trade relations between the two countries.”

The meeting came on a day of high diplomacy in Beijing. Veteran US diplomat Henry Kissinger also met with Xi Jinping in Beijing’s park-like Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, with Chinese senior diplomat Wang Yi also in attendance, the Associated Press reports.

Russia says attacks on Odesa and Mykolaiv ports were ‘retaliatory’

Russia’s defence ministry has characterised its overnight attacks in the Black Sea ports of Odesa and Mykolaiv as “retaliatory strikes”.

Moscow had promised retaliation for an attack on Monday with seaborne drones that damaged the bridge linking Crimea, seized from Ukraine in 2014, with southern Russia.

The attack coincided with Moscow’s decision not to extend the grain deal after accusing the west of failing to honour a parallel memorandum intended to facilitate Russia’s agricultural and fertiliser exports.

Since then, Russia has directed nightly bombardments at Ukraine’s port facilities and fuel and grain stores, Reuters reports.

The defence ministry said:

[It had] continued to deliver retaliatory strikes with high-precision sea and air-based weapons at workshops and storage sites for unmanned boats in the regions of Odesa and Chornomorsk. In the area of the city of Mykolaiv, fuel infrastructure facilities and ammunition depots of the armed forces of Ukraine were destroyed.

Ukraine: footage shows burning buildings after Russian strike on Mykolaiv – video

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has sent his condolences to the families of the two people who were killed in Russian attacks on Odesa and Mykolaiv overnight.

Russian terrorists continue their attempts to destroy the life of our country. Unfortunately, there are wounded and dead… My condolences to the families and friends! But the evil state has no missiles that are more powerful than our will to save lives, support each other and win.

I thank everyone who defends our cities, our people, our sky! I am grateful to all our warriors, rescuers, doctors, local authorities, volunteers… to everyone involved in eliminating the consequences of Russian terror!

There are conflicting reports over how many people were killed, though reports so far have not exceeded two. At least 27 were also injured in Russia’s overnight attacks, which targeted Odesa and Mykolaiv for a third successive night.

Horrifying consequences of russian air attack on Mykolaiv last night. At least 1 civilian has been killed, and 18 civilians have been injured. pic.twitter.com/GZ21NrykrW

— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) July 20, 2023

Odesa. Mykolaiv. Russian terrorists continue their attempts to destroy the life of our country.
Unfortunately, there are wounded and dead… My condolences to the families and friends!
But the evil state has no missiles that are more powerful than our will to save lives, support… pic.twitter.com/CPcq8AmFoh

— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) July 20, 2023

The UK Foreign Office has announced sanctions against 13 individuals and businesses linked to the actions of the Wagner group in Mali, Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led a mutiny against Moscow last month, has already had sanctions place on him by Britain, along with several of his key commanders, for their part in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Andrew Mitchell, minister for development and Africa, said:

The Wagner group is committing atrocities in Ukraine, as well as acting with impunity in countries like Mali, Central African Republic and Sudan. Wherever Wagner operates, it has a catastrophic effect on communities, worsens existing conflicts and damages the reputations of countries that host them.

Instructors from the mercenary group Wagner have begun training the ex-Soviet country’s special forces, nearly a month after an aborted rebellion in Russia, officials in Belarus have said.

Wagner fighters and their leader were due to move to Belarus as part of a deal to defuse their revolt, AFP reports. “Over the course of a week, special forces units and representatives of the company will practise combat tasks at the Brestsky training ground,” the Belarusian defence ministry said.

A handout picture posted on 20 July on the Telegram channel of the Belarusian defence ministry showing what is said a joint training of PMC Wagner fighters with Belarusian special forces at the Brestsky military ground.
A handout picture posted on 20 July on the Telegram channel of the Belarusian defence ministry showing what is said a joint training of PMC Wagner fighters with Belarusian special forces at the Brestsky military ground. Photograph: TELEGRAM/@modmilby/AFP/Getty Images

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko offered Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin refuge in Belarus and said his army would benefit from the combat experience of Wagner commanders.

Last night, a video emerged purporting to show Prigozhin addressing his fighters in Belarus, in what was the first footage of the mercenary chief since the aborted rebellion. He was seen telling his troops they will spend some time in Belarus training its military to help “make the Belarusian army the second strongest army in the world” before deploying to Africa.

The Polish defence ministry said it would strengthen security at the border following the arrival of Wagner mercenaries in Belarus. The Kremlin today said it was “concerned” by the move, pointing to Warsaw’s “hostile attitude” towards both Belarus and Russia.

EU extends sanctions against Russia for another six months

The EU has said it has decided to prolong its sanctions against Russia by six months, until the end of January, over the country’s military aggression against Ukraine.

The Council of the EU said:

These sanctions, first introduced in 2014 in response to Russia’s actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine, were significantly expanded since February 2022, in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine.

Ukraine begins firing US-provided cluster bombs against Russia – report

The Washington Post reports that Ukraine has begun firing cluster munitions that were controversially provided by the US.

Russian forces on the frontlines of the invasion in south-eastern Ukraine have come under attack from the indiscriminate weapons that can remain unexploded. The UN has said Russia has used the widely prohibited weapons in populated areas of Ukraine at least 24 times since the beginning of hostilities.

Col Oleksandr Bakulin told the BBC earlier this week that the weapons were necessary to “inflict maximum damage on enemy infantry”. A Ukrainian official told the Washington Post that they have been fired at entrenched Russian positions.

Scoop: Ukraine has started firing US-provided cluster munitions at Russian troops in southeast Ukraine in a push to break up their fortified positions. The controversial munitions, banned in 120+ countries, arrived in Ukraine last week. W/ @ikhurshudyan https://t.co/eLSea5lz5q

— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) July 20, 2023

Gen Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of the Ukrainian army’s ground forces, appears confident that Bakhmut, which sits about 55 miles north of Donetsk, can be retaken.

In an interview with the BBC, he explained the strategic importance of the city:

Bakhmut is the centre of concentration of the main directions and roads. Well, for example, a road from Debaltsevo, a road from Seversk, a road from Gorlovka, a road from Konstantinovka and a road from Slavyansk go through Bakhmut. That is, this is the centre where all these paths converge.

Literally three kilometres beyond Bakhmut, the next city of Chasov Yar begins. And here it is very important for us to stop the enemy in Bakhmut, which is located in the lowland there.

He said yesterday that Ukraine was preparing to fire cluster bombs, a controversial and widely banned indiscriminate form of munitions, at Russia’s “fragile” defences within days.

Gen Oleksandr Syrskyi briefs Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, last month
Gen Oleksandr Syrskyi briefs Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, last month. Photograph: Ukrainian presidential press service/Reuters

Kyrgyzstan has denied helping its ally Moscow circumvent sanctions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine but did not rule out the involvement of private companies.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that US officials were particularly concerned about the role played by Kyrgyzstan in Russian schemes to evade sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, and to acquire hi-tech items such as Chinese drones, according to Reuters.

The newspaper stated that the Biden administration is preparing new economic measures to pressure the country to halt sanctions busting.

“We would regret it if among the many dozens of countries seeing a much greater trade volume of the banned supplies, some people in Washington decided to pick on Kyrgyzstan,” said the Kyrgyz official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Kyrgyzstan is a free market economy with very limited government resources. We cannot be reasonably expected to police every entrepreneur and approve every transaction.”

The official added that “neither the Kyrgyz state itself nor any state structures and companies are involved in the violation of the regime of compliance with sanctions imposed by the United States and Western countries on Russia”.

The Kremlin said yesterday that Kyrgyzstan was a close partner that benefited from integration with Russia. “We intend to further develop bilateral relations with Kyrgyzstan, which we value very highly, as well as all formats of our joint integration,” spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

China’s ambassador to the US, Xie Feng, has told a security forum in Colorado, on the issue of the Ukraine war, that Beijing respects countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity but also acknowledges “legitimate and reasonable security concerns”.

As noted below, China says it is neutral in the conflict, but in practice has shown Russia support by organising frequent state visits and joint military drills with Moscow.

Xie Feng speaks to the media upon his arrival at the John F Kennedy international airport in New York in May
Xie Feng speaks to the media upon his arrival at the John F Kennedy international airport in New York in May. Photograph: Li Rui/AP




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