As 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain have been blocked by Russian forces, as well as land mines that Ukraine has laid to avert a feared assault, Ukraine and Russia will sign a UN deal on Friday to unblock exports of Ukraine grain, according to Turkey’s presidency.
“The signing ceremony of the grain shipment agreement, in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres will be present, will be held [Friday] with the participation of Ukraine and Russia,” Turkish officials said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was traveling to Turkey on Thursday in a bid to get Russia and Ukraine agree on an elusive agreement to allow grain exports out of Ukraine’s Black Sea.
The blockade has triggered a global crisis, sending food prices soaring and pushing millions of people in low-income countries toward starvation.
A first round of talks last week had no breakthroughs, although Guterres said he was hoping the warring sides could reach a final agreement this week.
CIA estimates 15,000 Russian troops killed
The head of the CIA estimates that about 15,000 Russian troops have already been lost in Moscow’s war against Ukraine.
The estimate was delivered by the US intelligence agency’s director, William Burns, during a security conference in Aspen, Colorado. Burns added that around 45,000 are thought to have been wounded.
“The Ukrainians have suffered as well, probably a little less than that,” Burns said
Russia has not disclosed any current figures on casualties. The Ukrainian side has also not given official figures on how many of its troops have been killed. However, during the height of Russia’s Donbas offensive in June, Ukrainian officials said that their forces were losing up to 200 troops every day.
Burns also said the massing of Russian forces in the Donbas region suggests that, at least for the moment, the Russian military has learnt from the failures at the beginning of the war, which has now been going on for almost five months.
Hungarian FM in Moscow to discuss buying more gas
Hungary is looking to secure more gas supplies from Russia the country’s ruling Fidesz party said in a statement.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto traveled to Moscow on Thursday to discuss the purchase of more gas.
“In order to ensure the security of Hungary’s energy supply, the government has decided to purchase an additional 700 million cubic metres of natural gas in addition to the quantities stipulated in the long-term contracts,” Fidesz said in a statement posted on Facebook.
According to data from Hungary’s natural gas operator FGSZ, the amount sought represents around 6.7% of the country’s 2020 gas consumption.
Reuters news agency reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would consider the request.
Hungary has opposed EU plans to reduce dependency on Russian energy supplies.
Weapons being smuggled into the EU from Ukraine — report
Europol has warned of arms smuggling for Ukraine into the European Union, according to German media.
Regional broadcaster Südwestrundfunk (SWR), reported that the EU police authority notified the Council of the European Union that it was aware of multiple cases involving illegal firearms exports.
In a letter reportedly seen by SWR, Europol also mentioned that criminal syndicates were smuggling the weapons and that arms caches may have been placed along the Ukrainian border area with the EU.
Europol is also reported to have said that some refugees from Ukraine may have brought firearms with them into the EU.
Germany announces measures to ensure energy security
Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck announced plans to ensure the country’s energy security in the face of reduced gas deliveries from Russia.
According to the measures there will be more stringent requirements for filling gas storage facilities.
As of November facilities would need to be kept at 95% instead of 90% and in October 85% instead of 80%.
Lignite reserve plants would also be reactivated in October to help save on gas.
There would also be energy saving measures put in place in public buildings.
The use of home-office should also be extended in consensus with employers and employees.
“The situation remains tense, so we are once again stepping up our efforts. Gas consumption must continue to come down, storage facilities must become full,” Habeck said. “We need staying power.”
Kharkiv mayor reports 2 dead in Russian shelling
The mayor of Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, said Russian shelling hit a densely populated area, killing two and injuring 19. Writing on the social media service Telegram, Mayor Igor Terekhov advised citizens not to leave shelters and said “four people are in serious condition.”