Russia-Ukraine war news: Strikes hit Odessa; U.S. says Kyiv using cluster munitions ‘effectively’


Ukrainian servicemen prepare to fire a Ukrainian self-propelled howitzer 2C22 Bohdana towards Russian positions on a front line in Eastern Ukraine on July 20. (Stringer/Reuters)

Russia struck Odessa early Friday in the fourth day of pounding the Ukrainian port region, the governor said. The attack on an agricultural facility there injured two employees and destroyed tons of peas and barley, Oleh Kiper said, days after the Kremlin pulled out of a U.N.-backed grain export deal. Moscow’s withdrawal from the agreement suspends the flow of shipments from Ukraine, a major grain exporter, via Black Sea routes, raising fears for global food supplies.

On the battlefield, Ukraine is using U.S.-provided cluster munitions in an attempt to push through Russian lines in the southeast, The Washington Post reported. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the weapons were “actually having an impact on Russia’s defensive formations” and Ukrainian forces were using them “effectively,” though the decision to send the widely banned munitions has met criticism from human rights groups and European allies.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

The Russian navy held a live firing exercise in the Black Sea, during which a Russian naval ship fired cruise missiles at a target vessel and destroyed it, the defense ministry said Friday. Russian warships and planes also practiced sealing off areas temporarily closed to shipments and seizing ships, it said.

Tensions around maritime activity there have simmered and the price of wheat futures has risen, though it has not reached its May 2022 high. Russia has said it considers ships en route to Ukrainian Black Sea ports to be involved in the conflict as of Thursday, and Ukraine responded it would treat vessels headed toward Russian ports the same.

Missiles have pummeled Ukrainian regions on the Black Sea in recent days, including Odessa and nearby Mykolaiv. The wave of attacks also comes after Moscow promised to retaliate for Kyiv’s strike on the Crimean Bridge earlier this week.

About a dozen Bradley Fighting Vehicles have been destroyed in the early stages of Ukraine’s counteroffensive, Post journalists report. Despite the damage, many were swiflty repaired and Ukrainian soldiers said they were experiencing the benefits of the newly-provided Bradleys — a heavily armed American armor-killing vehicle that also carries soldiers into battle.

Zelensky called for limits on funding cultural activities during the war in his nightly address. The cultural minister, Oleksandr Tkachenko, announced his resignation soon after, citing a “misunderstanding about the importance of culture during war” with the president. “Museums, cultural centers, symbols, TV series — all of this is important,” Zelensky said, “but now there are other priorities.”

The CIA director suggested Russian President Vladimir Putin may still seek revenge on Wagner Group chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin over his short-lived mutiny. William J. Burns also commented on Russian Gen. Sergey Surovikin, who had good relations with the Wagner boss and whose whereabouts sparked rumors last month. “I don’t think he enjoys a lot of freedom right now,” Burns told NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly at the Aspen Security Forum, stopping short of saying Surovikin was in custody.

The U.N. Security Council is meeting Friday to discuss Russia’s pullout from the grain deal and the humanitarian consequences, Britain’s Mission to the United Nations said. The Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered last year by the United Nations and Turkey, has been credited with alleviating a food security crisis around the world. “Ultimately, participation in these agreements is a choice,” U.N. chief António Guterres said, “but struggling people everywhere and developing countries don’t have a choice.”

The United States has placed sanctions on Russian technology supply and development companies, as well as Kyrgyz companies accused of facilitating Russian imports of electronic equipment that bypassed Western sanctions. A Washington Post investigation this week reported that Kyrgyz firms were profiting from transporting sanctioned Chinese and European goods to Russia.

Ukraine begins firing U.S.-provided cluster munitions at Russian forces: Ukrainian officials have said these munitions would make up for their disadvantage on the battlefield, although the cluster bombs are outlawed in more than 120 countries because of the threat to civilians, John Hudson and Isabelle Khurshudyan report.

Cluster munitions explode in the air over a target, dispersing smaller bomblets across a wide area. The submunitions can fail to explode on impact, potentially killing or injuring people long after a conflict ends.

The United States’ decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine is controversial because unexploded bomblets leave citizens at risk even decades later. (Video: Jason Aldag/The Washington Post, Photo: Júlia Ledur, Brian Monroe/The Washington Post)

Most of Washington’s NATO allies are signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans their use and production, but the United States, Russia and Ukraine never signed it.

Putin has recently threatened to retaliate against Ukraine’s use of cluster munitions with its own supply “if they are used against us,” although the United Nations said last year that Russia had already used them in Ukraine at least 24 times in the first month of the war.

Shane Harris, Matt Viser, Robyn Dixon and Natalia Abbakumova contributed to this report.

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