Russian officials seeks ‘inhumane’ retaliation

Authorities in Moscow blamed Ukraine for an apparent attack Monday on a key bridge that connects the occupied Crimean Peninsula with southern Russia and has become a symbol of President Vladimir Putin’s rule.

It is the second time in less than a year that the 12-mile bridge across the Kerch Strait has been attacked. Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced what he called “another terrorist act of the Kyiv regime,” lamented the death of a couple and injuries to their teenage daughter and vowed to retaliate.

Russia’s Investigative Committee described Monday’s strike as a “terrorist attack” and claimed it was carried out by Ukrainian special forces using naval drones.

Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence, declined comment but said “the peninsula is used by the Russians as a large logistical hub for moving forces and assets deep into the territory of Ukraine. Of course, any logistical problems are additional complications for the occupiers.” And Ukrainian Security Service spokesman Artem Degtyarenko hinted at involvement when he said the agency would share details of how the “bang” was organized after Ukraine wins the war.

Satellite images taken Monday morning by Maxar Technologies showed serious damage to both eastbound and westbound lanes of the bridge on the part nearest to the Russian mainland; at least one section has collapsed. 

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, urged the Kremlin to retaliate with “targeted and quite inhumane steps” against those involved in the bridge attack. “Their own homes and the houses of their relatives should be blown up,” Medvedev said, adding that Russian authorities must “search for and wipe out their accomplices.” 


∎ Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said two-way traffic on one side of the bridge won’t be restored until September, and that full restoration of traffic heading toward Crimea will have to wait until November. He also said a destroyed portion of the bridge can’t be restored. Khusnullin later said vehicle traffic had resumed in one lane.

∎ Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said her country reclaimed nearly 7 square miles in the last week and has liberated 81 square miles since the counteroffensive began in early June.

∎ President Joe Biden will meet Tuesday with Pope Francis’ peace envoy, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, as part of the Holy See’s peace and humanitarian initiatives for Ukraine, the White House and Vatican said Monday.

Russia pulling out of Black Sea grain deal

An agreement that allowed Ukraine to export grains and other foodstuffs via its Black Sea ports expired Monday after Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was canceling the deal because his country was not being allowed to export its food and fertilizer. The West denies claims the Russian shipments were being held up, saying the commodities have been exempted from sanctions.

“As soon as the Russian part is fulfilled, the Russian side will immediately return to the implementation of this deal,” Peskov said. He said the attack on the Crimean bridge would have no effect on the deal, which was brokered in July 2022 by the U.N. and Turkey. The agreement has allowed for safe passage of more than 32 million metric tons of food products from Ukrainian ports and helped to reduce food prices more than 20% since March 2022, the U.N. says.

“Today’s decision by the Russian Federation will strike a blow to people in need everywhere,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Russia’s withdrawal from the deal “blackmail” and said his country will try to continue shipping grain despite the threat posed by the Russian navy in the Black Sea. “We are not afraid,” Zelenskyy said. 

Crimean bridge attack not same as striking inside Russia, White House says

The White House is not in position to attribute the source of the Crimean bridge attack but considers it different than a strike inside Russian territory, which the U.S. does not support, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said at a news briefing Monday.

While not pinning the early-morning explosion that damaged the bridge on the Ukrainians, Kirby said they have a right to defend their land. Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 and continues to occupy it.

“They’re fighting for their own country. Crimea is Ukraine,” Kirby said. “We don’t tell them what is or what isn’t legally a legitimate target. They determine their targets for themselves.” Kirby also said he has seen no evidence the attack prompted Russia to let the Black Sea grain deal expire, a decision he said caused the price of corn, soybeans and wheat to “shot up today.”

“We’re seeing the impact right now,” he said.

Contributing: Francesca Chambers

Russians amass 100,000 troops, make headway in Kharkiv province

The northeastern Kharkiv province, much of which was reclaimed by Ukraine last year, appears to be emerging as another front in a war where most of the fighting has been focused in the east and south.

Ukrainian military spokesman Serhiy Cherevatyi said Monday that Russia has compiled more than 100,000 troops, 900-plus tanks and nearly 400 multiple-rocket launchers in the area. Officials say fighting has intensified near the cities of Kupiansk and nearby Lyman. Maliar said Russian forces began to make headway late last week.

“The enemy has been actively advancing in the Kupiansk direction in the Kharkiv region for two days in a row,” she said on Telegram. “We are on the defensive. There are fierce battles. The positions of the parties change dynamically several times a day.”

Trump doubles down on claim he could end war in 24 hours

Former President Donald Trump is defending a controversial claim that he could forge a Ukraine peace within 24 hours of returning to the White House, saying he would tell Zelenskyy to make a deal.

Trump, speaking on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” said he has a good relationship with Zelenskyy and Putin.

“I would tell Zelenskyy: ‘No more. You got to make a deal.’ I would tell Putin: ‘If you don’t make a deal, we’re going to give him a lot. We’re going to (give Ukraine) more than they ever got if we have to.’ I will have the deal done in one day. One day,” said Trump, who has a sizable lead in early polling for the Republican presidential nomination.

Zelenskyy has dismissed Trump’s assertion that the deal could be made so quickly, saying Trump probably would pressure Ukraine into ceding territory to Russia, a concession Zelenskyy has rejected.

Russia firing commanders amid insubordination claims

The Russian Defense Ministry has begun removing commanders from some of the military’s most effective units, probably because of insubordination, a Washington-based think tank reports. The Institute for the Study of War says some of those being fired had attempted to bypass Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov and bring complaints directly to Putin.

Insubordination among commanders appears to be spreading to some of their soldiers, the institute adds in its latest update. It says Russian military bloggers shared an audio excerpt in which some soldiers threatened to withdraw from their positions in the occupied Kherson region if popular Col. Gen. Mikhail Teplinsky was arrested. The soldiers are “blackmailing” the ministry on behalf of Teplinsky despite his previous affiliation with Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led a brief, ill-fated armed rebellion on June 24 apparently aimed at overthrowing Gerasimov among others.

Ukraine counteroffensive expected to make more gains

A senior Estonian defense intelligence official said a combination of factors indicated Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia “could soon expect greater success.” Col. Margo Grosberg, commander of the Estonian Defense Forces Intelligence Center, told his country’s media that Russia was running out of reserve soldiers, its generals were reporting resupply problems, and Ukrainian forces were destroying Russian command posts and logistics centers in areas bordering the eastern city of Bakhmut as they pushed east.

Bomb threat forces evacuation of Kyiv hospital

Hundreds of patients and staff were evacuated from a Kyiv hospital Monday after reports that bombs had been planted at the facility. Police were combing the building in search of explosives. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said almost 250 patients and more than 200 medical staff were evacuated.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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