Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Odesa, grain
During a work trip to the Odesa region, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy observed the loading of Ukrainian grain onto a carrier for further export. Photo credit: President of Ukraine

Is China really neutral in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? And who is responsible for killing Ukrainian prisoners of war?

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Ukrainian Food Exports Resume

In the first major export of Ukrainian foodstuffs since the war began in February, a Ukrainian ship carrying 26,527 tons of corn left Odesa on August 1, the United Nations announced. 

In a statement Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared that ensuring  “existing grain and foodstuffs can move to global markets is a humanitarian imperative.” 

Food prices around the world have skyrocketed since the war began on February 24. Ukraine is a major worldwide supplier of cereals, cooking oil, and other staples. 

Prices may fall after a July 24 deal was brokered by Turkey and UN representatives, allowing Ukrainian ships carrying food safe passage through the Black Sea. 

The ship Razoni is scheduled to arrive on August 7 in Lebanon, one of the countries hardest hit by inflated food prices. 

Doubts the deal would stick arose after Russia launched a cruise missile attack against the Odesa port within 24 hours of the deal’s signing, but 16 other ships are now waiting their turn to leave the port carrying food, according to Ukraine Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov. 

Another 30,000 tons of wheat purchased by the World Food Programme could leave Ukraine as early as next week, Politico reported.

Some 18 million tons of grain have sat in Ukrainian ports since the war began, according to The Washington Post. The export deal could double the amount of foodstuffs leaving Ukraine, the newspaper reported. 

Following a record high export of 86 million tons of grain in 2021, Ukraine now expects to export 65–67 million tons of grain this year, a slight increase from a previous expectation of 60 million tons. 

Russia Prepares for Ukrainian Push South

After last week’s attack on Russian-held Kherson using US-provided heavy weapons, Ukraine appears to be preparing to retake the city in its entirety, Grid reported. 

Kherson, the only provincial capital that Russia captured and continues to control, is an important objective. Unlike cities such as Mariupol and Sievierodonetsk, which fell only after many weeks of fighting, leaving both cities leveled, the Russians captured Kherson with relative (and controversial) speed, leaving much of it completely intact. 

The Russians also appear to be preparing to annex the city, which had a prewar population of 300,000, as it did with Crimea in 2014.

Retaking the city would be a significant offensive victory for Ukraine in a conflict that’s been otherwise mostly defensive. A major Black Sea port, Kherson is also the hub of a powerful economic region.

The US-provided HIMARS rockets appear to have knocked out a key supply route to the city, creating a limited-window opportunity to seize the city, analysts told Grid.

Elsewhere, as a result of the Ukrainian military’s hard push south, Russia has retaliated with brutal artillery barrages and airstrikes in Mykolaiv, leaving many dead and much of the city destroyed

Wary of a potential counteroffensive, Russia has also started to amass its troops in the region, setting the stage for a possible pitched battle. 

Zelenskyy: China Must Not Help Russia

Amid calls to pick a side in the Ukraine war, China has instead remained officially neutral and declined to condemn the invasion. 

However, despite condemning Western sanctions and accusing the West of provoking Russia into invading its neighbor, China has yet to provide substantial outright aid to Russia. 

That’s enough to win limited praise from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who told an audience of Australian university students that “this neutrality is better than China joining Russia.”

“It’s important for us that China wouldn’t help Russia,” Zelenskyy said via video chat, according to the Associated Press.

In late July, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose country is a major China trading partner, was the latest leader of a Western democracy to call on Chinese President Xi Jinping to condemn the invasion.

US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken also urged China last month to side with the rest of the world against Russia and what appear to be blatant war crimes

In response, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi doubled down on Chinese claims of neutrality and criticized the United States for what he referred to as “China Phobia.” 

Zelenskyy’s remarks follow an earlier interview with the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, in which he identified China as a key player in the conflict despite its official neutral status.

“I’m sure that without the Chinese market for the Russian Federation, Russia would be feeling complete economic isolation,” he said.

Meanwhile, there are many signs that China isn’t quite neutral, nor interested in finding a peaceful solution. 

Displacement Crisis Hits 12 Million, Anti-Refugee Sentiments Are Expected

Roughly a third of the entire population of Ukraine has been forced from their homes since Russia’s invasion Feb. 24 in the largest migration crisis since the end of World War II.  

Some 6.3 million Ukrainians have left the country, according to the United Nations. Most of the Ukrainian refugees are residing in neighboring European countries. 

Another 6.3 million are internally displaced, meaning that the conflict has driven them from their homes to safer areas in Ukraine.

The country with the most displaced refugees is Russia, with 1,968,127 recorded border crossings. That number is expected to rise as Russia continues to illegally deport Ukrainian citizens into its territory. 

Displaced Ukrainians are at risk of encountering anti-refugee tensions in the countries where they seek refuge, The Guardian reported Wednesday. 

False reports exaggerating the amount of aid refugees received as well as Ukrainian refugees linked to violent crime and religious extremism could exacerbate relations with local communities. As a record number of Ukrainians disperse all over Europe and the world, these false reports may cause a xenophobic crisis.

Back at home, the Ukrainians who remain are confronting a profound housing crisis. On Tuesday, Ukraine’s defense ministry said that 140,000 residential buildings had been damaged or destroyed, leaving 3.5 million people without homes.  

Despite these developments, the Kremlin continues to insist that it only strikes military targets. 

Ukraine: POW Camp Explosion Is Russian Cover-Up

Ukrainian intelligence accused Russia of staging a fatal prisoner-of-war camp bombing as a cover-up to hide the fact that Ukrainian POWs were tortured by both the Russian FSB intelligence agency and the mercenary Wagner Group.

At least 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed and 75 injured on July 29, when an explosion ripped through a barracks at a detention camp in Russian-occupied Olenivka. 

The camp held as many as 2,000 Ukrainian fighters, including hundreds whom Russia accused of being war criminals, according to The New York Times.

Russia claims that it was in fact Ukraine, by way of US-supplied HIMARS systems, that killed the 53 POWs in order to “send a message to its own soldiers and to prevent surrender.” 

The Ukrainian Security Service in turn published an intercept in which Russians confirm that they were responsible for shelling the camp. 

Russia has continued to suggest that Ukraine and the US were responsible, adding that both countries should be tried for war crimes

Among those 53 POWs were members of the far-right aligned Azov regiment, one of the organizations Russia — and some on the US left — claim is representative of Ukraine’s alleged Nazi problem.  


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