British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke early on July 25 about how to ensure the flow of Ukrainian grain to international markets as the European Union announced a 1.5 billion-euro ($1.66 billion) aid disbursement to help Ukraine repair infrastructure amid fresh air strikes by Russia on the port city of Odesa and the capital, Kyiv.
Russian strikes in recent days have targeted Ukrainian food-export facilities, including on Danube ports close to the border with NATO-member Romania, after the Kremlin last week withdrew from a UN-brokered sea-corridor agreement that allowed for the safe shipment of Ukrainian grain.
Sunak said he made it clear during the call with Zelenskiy that any efforts by Russia to prevent grain from leaving Ukraine would be “completely unacceptable.”
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Kyiv has accused Moscow of targeting grain supplies and infrastructure vital to the deal. The United Nations has warned failure to resuscitate the agreement would mean “the most vulnerable will pay the highest price.”
“The prime minister said the U.K. was working closely with Turkey on restoring the grain deal, and we would continue to use our role as chair of the UN Security Council to further condemn Russia’s behavior,” Sunak’s office said in a statement. Sunak also said he was “appalled by the devastation caused by recent Russian attacks on Odesa.”
A Romanian commercial vessel was slightly damaged in the drone attack launched by Russia on July 24 on Ukraine’s Danube port of Reni, Romania’s Foreign Ministry confirmed to RFE/RL on July 25.
The damage was minor and the crew was not injured, the ministry said, without giving the name of the ship.
The ministry said no Romanian citizens were injured in the two attacks launched on Reni and Izmail.
In Brussels, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said she “firmly condemns” the Russian strikes on Ukrainian grain-storage and -export infrastructure and vowed continued support for Kyiv.
“Today we paid another 1.5 billion euros, to help keep the [Ukrainian] state running and repair infrastructure,” von der Leyen said on Twitter.
The Kremlin on July 25 rejected a call by UN chief Antonio Guterres for Moscow to rejoin the grain deal, claiming that a part of the agreement that allowed Russia to export its grain and fertilizer had not been honored.
“Unfortunately, at the moment it is impossible to return to the deal because [the Russian-related part] is not being implemented, and de facto it has never been implemented,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a news conference.
WATCH: Dramatic video posted on social media captured the moment Russian forces launched an air strike on the Ukrainian port of Reni, which is just 200 meters across the river Danube from Romania, on July 24.
The U.S. State Department warned on July 24 the day before that Russia might be preparing some “false flag” operation in relation to the grain deal.
“We’ve had information to suggest that they may be preparing a false-flag operation — we believe they may be preparing a false-flag operation,” spokesman Matthew Miller told a press briefing.
Regional officials in Ukraine reported early on July 25 that Russia launched a new wave of drone strikes on Kyiv, while Moscow said it warded off a Ukrainian attack on one if its patrol boats in the Black Sea.
All of the drones launched by Russian forces overnight in the sixth attack on Ukraine’s capital this month were shot down by the city’s air defense, Serhiy Popko, the head of the Kyiv city military administration, said early on July 25.
Popko said the attack caused no casualties or damage.
“The alarm lasted for three hours. The enemy used Iranian Shahed drones. This is the sixth drone attack on the capital this month. All air targets were timely identified and destroyed on the approach to Kyiv,” he said, adding that the attack caused no casualties or damage.
Russian drone attacks were also reported in the Cherkasy and Zhytomyr regions, with the latter suffering some infrastructure damage.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that Ukrainian seaborne drones attempted an attack on one of its patrol boats in the Black Sea, but the attack failed.
“Ukrainian armed forces carried out an unsuccessful attack overnight with two naval drones on the Sergei Kotov patrol ship,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the alleged attack occurred some 370 kilometers from the port of Sevastopol.
The claim could not be independently confirmed. The Sergei Kotov is one of Russia’s newest warships, being delivered to the Navy last year.
In Donetsk, regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on July 25 that the number of victims caused by an attack on the city of Kostyantynivka the previous day has risen to two dead, including a 10-year-old boy, and seven wounded, including four children aged between 5 and 12. Kyrylenko said Russian forces used cluster munitions in the attack on civilians.
The weapons are prohibited under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, signed by 123 countries. Russia, Ukraine, and the United States are not among them. Earlier this month, the United States announced that it had also delivered cluster munitions to Ukraine. Kyiv has pledged to use the munitions carefully and only to push occupying Russian forces out of its territory.
Signed by 123 countries, the Convention on Cluster Munitions took effect in 2010. The convention prohibits using, developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling, or transferring cluster munitions. However, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States have not signed the convention.
Kyiv has pledged to use the munitions carefully and only to push occupying Russian forces out of its territory.
On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces fought 35 battles in the 24-hour period that ended early on July 25, the General Staff reported. It said that Russian counterattack attempts around Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region were repelled by Ukrainian defenders.
Andriy Kovalev, a spokesman for the General Staff, said the Defense Forces defeated the Russians near Andriyivka, a village south of Bakhmut. Ukrainian defenders are also conducting an offensive to the north and south of the city, he said.
Pro-Kremlin Telegram channels deny that Russian forces have left Klishchiyivka, a village north of Andriyivka. One of the channels says they continue to fight in Klishchiyivka, but the fighting is very difficult.
With reporting by Reuters