Ukrainian push stalls, Russia’s command baulks, food crisis looms

An impasse has appeared to descend on the Russia-Ukraine war which is now in its 73rd week.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive has made small gains and Russia launched a new offensive.Kyiv may have attempted to break that deadlock by disrupting Moscow’s arms supplies across the Kerch bridge, which is the only connection between Russia and the Crimean peninsula.

Russian authorities accused Ukraine of using two naval surface drones to blow up the bridge on July 17. A massive explosion left a section of road deck hanging askew over the Black Sea, in what Russia decided to treat as a “terrorist” incident. Gunfire preceded the explosion.Russian Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Khusnullin reported to President Vladimir Putin that there was no damage to the supports holding up the road deck, and that the damage was fully reparable by November.

Independent media reported that the only remaining route from Crimea to Russia, via southern Ukraine’s occupied region of Zaporizhia, was clogged with military and civilian traffic.

In May last year, Ukraine’s military intelligence confirmed Kyiv was behind another explosion in November that sank a section of the bridge’s road deck and damaged a parallel railway line.

In retaliation, Russia said it was withdrawing from an agreement allowing the shipment of Ukrainian grain out of the Black Sea, brokered last July by the United Nations and Turkey.To enforce this, Russia launched an overnight missile attack on Odesa and Chernomorsk, two of the three ports authorised to export grain under the deal, destroying silos and loading equipment.

Ukraine’s agriculture ministry said the raids destroyed 60,000 tonnes of grain in Chernomorsk. Russia’s defence ministry claimed that thousands of tonnes of fuel oil had been destroyed as well.“According to experts, it will take at least a year to fully restore the objects that were damaged,” said Ukraine’s agriculture ministry, predicting a global food crisis similar to that in the first five months of the war.

“If we cannot export food, the population of the poorest countries will be on the verge of survival,” said Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskyi.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned Russia’s actions, saying that the “EU is working to ensure food security for the world’s vulnerable” by using rail and barge transport.

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