1. Russian missile strikes hit civilian targets, port infrastructure in Odesa and Mykolaiv
Russia targeted Ukraine’s Black Sea regions of Odesa and Mykolaiv with airstrikes on Tuesday, hitting private property and port infrastructure along the country’s southern coast, the Ukrainian military said.
The Kremlin’s forces used air-launched missiles in the attack, Ukraine’s Operational Command South said in a Facebook post.
In the Odesa region, a number of private buildings in coastal villages were hit and caught fire, the report said. In the Mykolaiv region, port infrastructure was targeted despite the agreement Moscow and Kyiv signed last week that was intended to allow grain shipments to resume from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
Hours after the strikes, a Moscow-installed official in southern Ukraine said the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions would soon be “liberated” by Russian forces, just like the already occupied Kherson region further east.
The bombardment continued on other fronts, with Russian missiles claimed to have destroyed a school in Donetsk.
Capturing the rest of the eastern industrial region of the Donbas remains the Kremlin’s priority, although the recent escalation in missile attacks and shelling across the country signifies a possible offensive in the making, Ukrainian authorities have warned.
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2. Mayor of Kramatorsk says ‘very difficult winter’ is ahead
The mayor of Kramatorsk, the last major city in the Donbas region still under Ukrainian control, said on Tuesday that the winter will be “very difficult” because of the damaged gas pipelines and the need to heat the 60,000 people still living there.
Kramatorsk, which had 150,000 inhabitants before the war, is the last administrative centre still under Ukrainian control in the east. Targeted by Russian forces, the town is regularly bombed.
“This winter will be very difficult. The whole Donetsk region is without gas and if the front line remains where it is today, it will not be possible to repair the damaged pipelines,” its mayor Oleksandr Honcharenko told AFP.
The lack of gas would also force the authorities to cut off the water supply, which will freeze in winter due to the sub-zero temperatures in the region.
According to him, most of the 60,000 inhabitants of Kramatorsk who have decided to stay are elderly: “They would rather die than leave.
Ukrainian units need to push back Russian troops by at least 20 kilometres to make possible repairs to the gas pipelines, which will be difficult without new arms deliveries from Kyiv’s Western allies.
“We need air defence systems to stop all those missiles and more artillery to stop the Russians on the front line, otherwise they will advance,” Goncharenko said.
“They only advance one kilometre in a week or two, but they are coming. And with only Kalashnikovs, it is not possible to stop them,” he argues.
3. Russia to abandon ISS, build its own space station after 2024
As tensions continue to grow between Russia and the West over the ongoing war in Ukraine, Moscow has announced it will quit the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024.
The decision, reported by the Russian media, was announced during a meeting between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Yuri Borisov, the newly-appointed Director-General of Roscosmos – Russia’s space agency.
The announcement, while generally seen as bad news for international cooperation in space, does not mean Russia is giving up its galactic ambitions, with Moscow suggesting it will create a new orbital station of its own.
Borisov, who replaced predecessor Dmitry Rogozin after he was personally removed as head of Roscosmos by Putin earlier this month, called the decision to go solo and build Russia’s own space station “raising the bar” in the space industry and the programme’s main “priority”.
“Of course, we will fulfill all our obligations to our partners, but the decision to leave this station after 2024 has been made,” said Borisov.
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4. Russian military to hold exercises in Siberia
Russia plans to hold strategic military exercises in the east of the country starting next month, the defence ministry said, thousands of miles from the war it is waging in Ukraine.
The “Vostok” (East) exercises will take place from 30 August to 5 September. They appear intended to send a message that Russia, despite the costly five-month war in Ukraine, remains focused on the defence of its entire territory and capable in military terms of sustaining “business as usual”.
In a statement, the ministry emphasised that its capacity to stage such drills was unaffected by what its invasion of Ukraine.
It said Russia had not cancelled any training activities or international cooperation, and the exercises would be supplied with all necessary personnel, weapons and equipment.
The upcoming exercises will take part in the eastern military district, which includes part of Siberia and has its headquarters in Khabarovsk, near the Chinese border.
They will include some foreign forces, the defence ministry, without specifying from which countries. Troops from Armenia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia took part in major exercises in Russia and Belarus last year.
5. UK government targets more Russian officials with new set of sanctions
The UK said on Tuesday it had sanctioned Kremlin-imposed officials in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine as well as 29 regional governors across Russia in response to Moscow’s invasion in late February.
The 42 new designations added to Britain’s Russia sanctions also included Russia’s minister and deputy minister of justice and two nephews of Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who was himself sanctioned by Britain in March.
“We will continue to impose harsh sanctions on those who are trying to legitimise Putin’s illegal invasion until Ukraine prevails,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is the frontrunner to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister, said in a statement.
Vitaly Khotsenko and Vladislav Kuznetsov, the Russian-imposed Prime Minister and First Deputy Chairman of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, are now subject to travel bans and asset freezes, Britain’s foreign office said.
6. Ukraine PM says country to save almost billions by deferring debt payments, asks for ‘gas lend-lease’ arrangement with the US
Ukraine can save 200 billion hryvnias (about €5.4bn) for priority needs by deferring its external debt repayments, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Tuesday.
Ukraine has launched a formal consent solicitation to holders of its international bonds, proposing a two-year debt freeze on most of its bonds and giving creditors until August 9 to vote on the proposal.
Shmyhal also said the Ukrainian government had approved a request to the US government for a “gas lend-lease” arrangement to help Ukraine through what he said would be the toughest heating season in its history.
Yuriy Vitrenko, chief executive of Ukraine’s state oil and gas company Naftogaz, said last week the company was working with the government to raise some €8bn in funds to buy 4 billion extra cubic metres (bcm) of gas needed for Ukraine’s 2022/23 heating season.
Vitrenko said on 18 July that Ukraine currently had reserves of 11.5 bcm and had secured funding for imports to get reserves up to 15 bcm, but that a higher target of 19 bcm had been set by the government due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.