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Turkey's Erdogan meets Putin in Sochi; three ships carrying grain leave Ukrainian ports

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Fri, Aug 5 20224:24 PM EDT

Ukrainian farmers have harvested 18 million tons of agricultural products this year

Wheat harvested in a field in Germany on 21 July 2022. UN Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Istanbul, Turkey on Thursday to sign a grain export agreement with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan alongside Ukrainian and Russian delegations, according to the UN. This grain export agreement aims to ensure full global access to Ukraine's food products and Russian food and fertilizer, said Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq in a press update.

Bernd Wüstneck | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Ukrainian farmers have harvested nearly 18 million tons of grain and other agricultural products so far this year, the Ukrainian Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food wrote in a statement.

The ministry added that about 4.8 million hectares, or approximately 41% of Ukrainian farmland, has been harvested.

— Amanda Macias

Fri, Aug 5 20223:57 PM EDT

U.S. prepares $1 billion weapons package for Ukraine, its largest yet

US military personnel stand by a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) during Saudi Arabias first World Defense Show, north of the capital Riyadh, on March 6, 2022.

Fayez Nureldine | Afp | Getty Images

The Biden administration's next security assistance package for Ukraine is expected to be $1 billion, one of the largest so far, and include munitions for long-range weapons and armored medical transport vehicles, three sources briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The package is expected to be announced as early as Monday and would add to about $8.8 billion in aid the United States has given Ukraine since Russia's invasion on Feb. 24.

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that President Joe Biden had not yet signed the next weapons package. They cautioned that weapons packages can change in value and content before they are signed.

However, if signed in its current form, it would be valued at $1 billion and include munitions for HIMARS, NASAMS surface-to-air missile system ammunition and as many as 50 M113 armored medical transports.

— Reuters

Fri, Aug 5 20223:28 PM EDT

'I'm hopeful,' Biden says of WNBA star Brittney Griner's release

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, looks on inside a defendants' cage before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia August 2, 2022.

Evgenia Novozhenina | Reuters

President Joe Biden said he was "hopeful" about his administration's efforts to win the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner.

"I'm working hard and I'm hopeful," Biden told reporters at the White House.

On Thursday, a Russian court found Griner guilty of drug charges and sentenced her to nine years in prison.

The court also fined Griner 1 million rubles (about $16,000).

Griner, 31, who plays professional basketball in Russia during the WNBA offseason, was arrested in February at a Russian airport on accusations that she was smuggling vape cartridges with cannabis oil.

— Amanda Macias

Fri, Aug 5 20222:50 PM EDT

UN nuclear agency seeks info on Russian shelling at Ukrainian power plant

A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine August 4, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog said it was aware of reports from Ukraine's nuclear state enterprise that Russian shelling struck the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

"We are seeking to obtain further information about the current situation there," wrote the International Atomic Energy Agency in a statement.

Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine is Europe's largest nuclear power plant.

— Amanda Macias

Fri, Aug 5 20222:55 PM EDT

Russian shelling hits massive nuclear power plant near reactor, Ukraine says

A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, on Aug. 4, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Russian shelling has hit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant three separate times, a Ukrainian energy corporation said.

"Three hits were recorded right on the site of the station, near one of the power units where the nuclear reactor is located. The Russian forces seriously damaged the nitrogen-oxygen station and the combined auxiliary building," Energoatom wrote on the Telegram messaging app, according to an NBC News translation.

"There are risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive substances. There is a high fire hazard. Currently, there are no victims," Energoatom, a Ukrainian state enterprise that operates all four nuclear power stations in the country, added in a statement.

— Amanda Macias

Fri, Aug 5 20222:16 PM EDT

Ukrainian agriculture exports could reach 5 million tons a month under joint initiative, UN says

Three more ships carrying grain and foodstuffs set out from Ukrainian ports under a recent landmark deal. on August 05, 2022 in Odesa, Ukraine.

Metin Atkas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The U.N. group overseeing the July agreement to reopen Ukraine's ports for agricultural shipments said it expects export capacity to reach up to 5 million tons a month.

"Crops from Ukraine are sold around the world. Some of the food exported under the Initiative will go to countries experiencing food insecurity," the U.N. wrote in a fact sheet about the Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered by the U.N., Ukraine, Russia and Turkey.

A caravan of three ships departed Ukraine's ports of Odesa and Chornomorsk, Ukraine's infrastructure minister said earlier. He added that the vessels are carrying 57,000 tons of Ukrainian corn.

— Amanda Macias

Fri, Aug 5 202212:15 PM EDT

Celebrity chef and humanitarian Jose Andres says 9,000 food kits are packed daily in Odesa

Spanish celebrity chef and restaurateur Jose Andres said his organization packs more than 9,000 meal kits daily in the Ukrainian city of Odesa.

"9,000 @WCKitchen food kits packed every day from these food fighters in Odesa," wrote Andres in a tweet, referencing the World Central Kitchen, his humanitarian organization dedicated to feeding vulnerable communities.

He added that the World Central Kitchen delivers 40,000 kits a day in Ukraine.

The two-star Michelin chef brought the World Central Kitchen to Ukraine to address the food crisis triggered by Russia's war.

— Amanda Macias

Fri, Aug 5 202211:19 AM EDT

Blinken and Lavrov have not yet spoken, U.S. State Department says

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about US policy towards China during an event hosted by the Asia Society Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington, DC, on May 26, 2022.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have not yet spoken as they attend the same conference in Cambodia, the State Department said.

The top U.S. diplomat does not have any plans to speak with his Russian counterpart, a State Department official told reporters traveling with Blinken.

"The last time they spoke directly was during that planned phone call last week," the official added. 

There is still no "serious response" by the Russians to the U.S. proposal to release WNBA star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, the official added.

— Amanda Macias

Fri, Aug 5 202210:23 AM EDT

Turkey's Erdogan meets Putin for talks in Sochi

President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan begun talks in Russia's Black Sea city of Sochi.

The pair are set to discuss Syria, Ukraine and the Russian construction of a nuclear power plant in southern Turkey.

The Russian president thanked Erdogan for Turkey's role in helping arrange the resumption of Ukrainian grain shipments.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia August 5, 2022.

Turkish Presidential Press Office | Reuters

"Deliveries have already begun, I want to thank you both for this and for the fact that at the same time an accompanying decision was made on uninterrupted supplies of Russian food and fertilizers to world markets," Putin said.

Putin also told Erdogan that he wants to sign a deal to boost trade and economic ties between Moscow and Ankara.

"I hope that today we will be able to sign a relevant memorandum on the development of our trade and economic ties," Putin said.

— Karen Gilchrist

Fri, Aug 5 20227:59 AM EDT

U.S. says it will 'pursue' Russia's offer to discuss prisoner swap

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the tenth annual review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at U.N. headquarters on August 01, 2022 in New York City.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington will "pursue" Russia's offer to discuss a prisoner swap involving imprisoned basketball star Brittney Griner.

"They are prepared to engage" on a swap for Griner, Blinken said at Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. "And we'll be pursuing that," he added.

Earlier Friday, Moscow said It was ready to discuss prisoner swaps with Washington through an existing diplomatic channel, a day after Griner was sentenced to nine years in jail on drugs charges.

— Karen Gilchrist

Fri, Aug 5 20227:36 AM EDT

Russia expels 14 Bulgarian diplomats

Russian government IL-96 plane departs Sofia Airport, Bulgaria, on July 03, 2022.

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Russia declared 14 Bulgarian diplomats as persona non grata, the country's foreign ministry said.

Earlier this summer, Bulgaria expelled 70 Russian diplomats over espionage concerns and capped the size of Moscow's representation as relations fractured between the previously close allies.

In a statement, Russia's foreign ministry said the move by Bulgaria was evidence of the "further degradation of the collective West, which is ready to sacrifice the interests of partners in order to harm Russia".

— Karen Gilchrist

Fri, Aug 5 20227:01 AM EDT

War can't be ended by ignoring Russia, says Erdogan aide

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia August 5, 2022. 

Turkish Presidential Press Office | Reuters

A senior aide to Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan said the war in Ukraine will not end if Moscow is ignored, in an apparently pointed attack on other NATO members.

Communications director Fahrettin Altun praised Turkey's role in brokering a deal to export grain from Ukraine and said that other countries should step up their diplomatic response.

"The truth is that some of our friends do not want the war to end. They are shedding crocodile tears," Altun told Reuters, adding that some were actively trying to undermine Turkey's efforts without specifying who.

"The international community cannot end the war in Ukraine by ignoring Russia. Diplomacy and peace must prevail," he added.

The comments come as Erdogan headed to Sochi, Russia to meet his counterpart President Vladimir Putin.

— Karen Gilchrist

Fri, Aug 5 20226:08 AM EDT

Zelenskyy fires back after Amnesty accuses Ukraine of endangering civilians

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a statement during a joint press conference with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, following their meeting in Kyiv on July 28, 2022.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced allegations by Amnesty International that Ukraine is endangering civilians by basing troops in residential areas.

The human rights group said in a report Thursday that it had "documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas."

Zelenskyy refuted the claims, saying that Amnesty was "trying to shift the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim".

— Karen Gilchrist

Fri, Aug 5 20225:48 AM EDT

Russian-backed separatists claim to have taken east Ukraine's Pisky village

Pisky, a village on the outskirts of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, has been seized by pro-Russian forces, according to Russian state news agency Tass.

Gaelle Girbes | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russian and pro-Russian forces said they have seized full control of Pisky, a village on the outskirts of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, according to Russian state news agency Tass.

They added that fighting was taking place in the city of Bakhmut, north of Donetsk.

The Ukrainian military said Thursday that Russian forces had mounted at least two assaults on Pisky but until then had been repelled.

— Karen Gilchrist

Fri, Aug 5 20225:04 AM EDT

Russia says it is ready to discuss prisoner swap with the U.S.

US' Women's National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, waits for the verdict inside a defendants' cage before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022.

Evgenia Novozhenina | AFP | Getty Images

Moscow said it was ready to begin talks with the U.S. about a prisoner swap following the sentencing of basketball star Brittney Griner.

A Russian court found WNBA Griner guilty of drug charges and sentenced her to nine years in prison Thursday.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden had previously agreed on a diplomatic channel that should be used to discuss such matters.

"We are ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel that was agreed upon by presidents Putin and Biden," Lavrov said during a visit to Cambodia.

The Kremlin had previously warned the U.S. against turning to "megaphone diplomacy" in the case of Griner.

 — Karen Gilchrist

Fri, Aug 5 20224:44 AM EDT

Blinken and Lavrov won't be speaking at ASEAN meetings in Cambodia

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken looks on at the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers meeting during the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh on August 5, 2022.

Tang Chhin Sothy | Afp | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has no plans to speak with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Phnom Penh, Cambodia where the two men are attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for foreign ministers, a State Department official told reporters.

The two men did not make any eye contact despite sitting near each other at the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' meeting, pool notes showed.

According to the U.S. official, Russia has not provided a "serious response" on the Biden administration's proposal to the Russian government for the release of Griner and ex-Marine Paul Whelan.

Fri, Aug 5 20224:53 AM EDT

Three ships carrying grain leave Ukrainian ports

Three more ships carrying grain and foodstuffs set out from Ukrainian ports under a recent landmark deal. on August 05, 2022 in Odesa, Ukraine.

Metin Atkas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Three more ships carrying Ukrainian grain exports left the country's Black Sea ports, the United Nations' coordination committee confirmed.

The vessels, carrying a combined 58,041 tons of corn, departed for the U.K., Ireland and Turkey.

The shipments form part of an internationally brokered deal to unblock Ukraine's agricultural exports and ease a growing global food crisis. It follows the first grain shipment on Monday.

Meantime, a Turkish bulk carrier was expected to arrive in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Chornomorsk, the first to reach the country's harbor since Russia's invasion.

Kyiv has called for the pact to be extended to other goods such as metals.

— Karen Gilchrist

Fri, Aug 5 20224:29 AM EDT

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