Ukraine war live updates: Russia extends grain export deal for 60 days; Bakhmut fighting ‘hard’ and ‘very painful,’ Kyiv says

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By Amit


Kremlin: Grain deal can’t stand on one leg

1 million metric tons less of cereals in the market could create an increase in prices of around 0.5%

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The Kremlin on Tuesday said the Black Sea grain deal could not “stand on one leg” as Moscow criticised the West for not doing enough to remove obstacles to Russia’s own agricultural and fertiliser exports.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said contacts continued over the deal, and that “everybody agrees” an agreement to ease restrictions on Russia should be fulfilled.

— Reuters

6 apartment blocks damaged and 1 person dead in Kramatorsk after missile strike

Members of the Ukrainian military inspect a site after a Russian missile attack on the center of Kramatorsk, Ukraine, on March 14, 2023.

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A missile strike on Kramatorsk, a city near Bakhmut in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, has damaged six apartment blocks and killed a civilian, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a Telegram post that a Russian missile had hit the city center.

“Kramatorsk. A Russian missile hit the city center. Six high-rise buildings were damaged. At least three people were injured. One person died. My condolences to the family! Rescue operations are still ongoing,” the president said.

The site of a Russian missile attack on the center of Kramatorsk, Ukraine, on March 14, 2023.

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“Every strike that takes an innocent life must result in a lawful and just sentence that punishes murder. It will definitely be that way,” Zelenskyy added.

Holly Ellyatt

Kremlin says Russia does not recognise ICC jurisdiction, media report suggests

A pigeon flies in front of the Kremlin’s Spasskaya tower (L) and Saint Basil’s cathedral (C) in Moscow on March 1, 2023.

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Russia does not recognise the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the TASS news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Tuesday.

Peskov was asked about reports the ICC was expected to seek its first arrest warrants against Russian individuals in relation to the conflict in Ukraine shortly.

“We do not recognise this court, we do not recognise its jurisdiction,” TASS quoted Peskov as saying.

The prosecutor of the ICC is expected to ask a pre-trial judge to approve issuing warrants against several Russians for the abduction of children from Ukraine to Russia and the targeting of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Monday.

— Reuters

Russia extends vital grain deal with Ukraine for 60 days, official says

The Malta-flagged bulk carrier Zante en route to Belgium transits the Bosporus carrying rapeseed from Ukraine after being held at the entrance of the Bosporus because Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain agreement, on Nov. 2, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey.

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A vital grain export deal between Ukraine and Russia has been extended for 60 days, according to Russia’s deputy foreign minister, who was quoted by a Russian news agency.

The deal, known officially as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, has facilitated the export of agricultural products, such as wheat, corn and sunflower oil, from Ukraine via the Black Sea. Early on in the war a blockade on such exports contributed to global food shortages and rising prices.

The grain initiative, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations last July, has enabled millions of tons of agricultural products to be exported from Ukraine, alleviating shortages elsewhere.

On Tuesday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko was quoted as saying that the deal has been extended on the previous conditions, state news agency Tass reported, but that Russia wanted to ensure all the conditions of the agreement were met.

Moscow has complained that international sanctions on its logistics, insurance and payments industries have continued to impede its own agricultural exports of grain and fertilizers.

Grushko said “Russia will persistently seek to ensure that all obligations under the deal are fulfilled,” adding that Russia will “strive to ensure that all those promises, obligations that were given to Russia regarding the implementation of the second track [grain deal], and this is the lifting of all sanctions — direct and indirect — for the supply of agricultural products of the Russian Federation to international global markets, were completed,” Tass reported.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian artillery shortages likely worsening, UK says

Russian artillery ammunition shortages have likely worsened in recent weeks to the extent that “extremely punitive shell-rationing is in force on many parts of the front,” Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update Tuesday.

“This has almost certainly been a key reason why no Russian formation has recently been able to generate operationally significant offensive action,” it added.

The ministry noted that it was likely that Russia was already resorting to issuing old munitions stock which had previously been categorized as unfit for use.

The ministry noted that a presidential decree on March 3 laid down measures for Russia’s Ministry of Trade and Industry to bypass the authority of the managers of defense industries who fail to meet their production goals.

“Russia is increasingly applying the principles of a command economy to its military industrial complex because it recognises that its defence manufacturing capacity is a key vulnerability in the increasingly attritional ‘special military operation’,” the U.K. noted.

— Holly Ellyatt

Fighting is tough and ‘very painful’ in the east, Zelenskyy says

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy insisted his forces could win the battle for Bakhmut in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, as doubts continue over whether Ukraine should spend more manpower and resources on defending the besieged city.

“As always, today I was in touch with our commanders, with intelligence [officers]. It is very hard in the east – very painful,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.

“We must destroy the enemy’s military power – and we will destroy it,” he said, adding that the defense of settlements big and small, such as Bilohorivka and Avdiivka or Bakhmut and Vuhledar, could determine what Ukraine’s future looks like.

Ukrainian servicemen from 24th brigade along the front line south of Bakhmut near New York, Ukraine, on March 10, 2023.

Wolfgang Schwan | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

On Tuesday morning, Ukraine’s military said in a Facebook post that Russian offensives continued around Bakhmut and surrounding towns “despite significant losses.” It added that its forces had repelled more than 100 attacks in the Donetsk region but noted that Russian forces were relentless in their pursuit to capture Bakhmut.

There are doubts over the merits of defending Bakhmut, a city said to be almost completely surrounded by Russian forces and mercenary units.

Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said Ukraine was suffering losses among reserves it intended to use in planned counteroffensives against Russian forces, expected in late spring, and noted in an interview reported by Reuters that, “we could lose here everything we wanted to use for those counter-offensives.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Moscow may extend Black Sea Grain deal but ‘only for 60 days,’ Russian official says

Farmers are seen harvesting wheat in Druzhkivka, Ukraine on 7 August, 2022.

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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin said at a briefing in Geneva that Moscow may extend its participation in the Black Sea Grain deal but only for 60 days, according to Russian-state media RIA Novosti.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered in July among Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, eased Russia’s naval blockade and saw three key Ukrainian ports reopen. The deal is set to expire on March 18.

“Our further position will be determined depending on the real – not in words, but in deeds – progress towards the normalization of our agricultural exports, including bank payments, transport logistics, insurance, unfreezing of financial activities and the supply of ammonia through the Togliatti-Odessa pipeline,” Vershinin said, according to an NBC News translation.

So far, more than 700 ships have sailed from Ukrainian ports.

— Amanda Macias

U.S. defense budget soars to $886 billion, the Pentagon’s largest request

A soldier of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army prepares ammunition to fire at Russian front line positions near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on March 11, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Sergey Shestak | AFP | Getty Images

The Biden administration’s proposed budget request for the fiscal year 2024 sets defense spending at $886 billion.

The defense budget includes about $1.7 billion to help Ukraine rebuild its critical infrastructure amid Russia’s war. The budget will also finance multi-year contracts for missiles and other munitions to replenish U.S. stockpiles.

The federal budget also includes $63.1 billion for the State Department and USAID.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a separate statement that the proposed funding “will make it possible for us to continue to promote U.S. national interests, lead the world in tackling global challenges, and continue support for the people of Ukraine.”

— Amanda Macias

Spain trains Ukrainian military on Leopard 2A4 Tanks

The Spanish military shows Ukrainian soldiers how to use Leopard 2A4 tanks during a training exercise conducted at the San Gregorio military base outside Zaragoza, Spain.

The military aid for Ukraine has stoked tensions within Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s governing coalition with its junior partner, the far-left Unidas Podemos party, urging the administration to focus on pushing for peace instead of sending weaponry. 

Ukrainian military personnel listen to a briefing ahead of a Leopard 2A4 tank training exercise conducted by the Spanish military, at the San Gregorio military base outside Zaragoza, Spain, on Monday, March 13, 2023. 

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Spanish Armed Forces soldiers during a simulation at the presentation of the Spanish Armed Forces training to Ukrainian soldiers, at the San Gregorio Training Center, on 13 March, 2023 in Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. 

Fabian Simon | Europa Press | Getty Images

Spanish military personnel load dummy ammunition in a Leopard tank simulator during a training exercise, at the San Gregorio military base outside Zaragoza, Spain, on Monday, March 13, 2023.

Paul Hanna | Bloomberg | Getty Images

An Armed Forces soldier watches a simulation on a screen during the presentation of the Spanish Armed Forces training to Ukrainian soldiers at the San Gregorio Training Center, on 13 March, 2023 in Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. 

Fabian Simon | Europa Press | Getty Images

Ukrainian military personnel prepare a Leopard 2A4 tank ahead of a training exercise conducted by the Spanish military, at the San Gregorio military base outside Zaragoza, Spain, on Monday, March 13, 2023. 

Paul Hanna | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ukrainian military personnel receive armoured manoeuvre training on German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks at the Spanish army’s training centre of San Gregorio in Zaragoza on March 13, 2023. 

Oscar Del Pozo | AFP | Getty Images

Ukrainian military personnel board a Leopard 2A4 tank ahead of a training exercise conducted by the Spanish military, at the San Gregorio military base outside Zaragoza, Spain, on Monday, March 13, 2023. 

Paul Hanna | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ukrainian military personnel operate Leopard 2A4 tanks during a training exercise conducted by the Spanish military, at the San Gregorio military base outside Zaragoza, Spain, on Monday, March 13, 2023. 

Paul Hanna | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Growing shortage of skilled workers at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ukraine says

This photo taken on Sept. 11, 2022, shows a security person standing in front of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia, amid the Ukraine war.

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Ukraine’s military said that there is a shortage of skilled workers at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant due to Russia’s ongoing war.

“The shortage of skilled workers who can ensure the vital activity of the nuclear power plant is growing catastrophically,” Ukraine’s military said in an update posted on Facebook and translated by NBC News.

The nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, was captured by Russian forces in the early days of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s military also said that “the Russian occupiers employed people without the appropriate education and experience at the nuclear power plant.”

“All this can lead to unpredictable consequences,” the group added.

— Amanda Macias

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