First cargo ships sail to Ukraine after grain deal collapse, Kyiv says

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6:05pm: Rising ammunition prices set back NATO efforts to boost security

NATO’s top military official warned on Saturday that a drastic rise in prices for weapons and ammunition means that allies’ higher defence spending does not automatically translate into greater security.

“Prices for equipment and ammunition are shooting up. Right now, we are paying more and more for exactly the same,” Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, the chair of NATO’s military committee, said on Saturday.

“That means that we cannot make sure that the increased defence spending actually leads to more security.”

4:33pm: North Macedonia expels three Russian diplomats

North Macedonia has ordered the expulsion of three more Russian diplomats in the third such move since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, the foreign ministry confirmed on Saturday.

The ambassador of the Russian Federation in Skopje, Sergey Bazdnikin, was summoned on September 12 and was informed that three of his colleagues had been proclaimed persona non grata and would have to leave the country, the ministry said in a statement.

“Such a decision was adopted after information was received from competent institutions about activities being taken against the Vienna convention for diplomatic relations”, it added.

The tiny Balkan country has expelled 11 Russian diplomats on two previous occasions since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

3:42pm: First cargo ships sail to Ukraine after grain deal collapse, deputy PM says

The first cargo ships have sailed to Ukraine to load grain following the collapse of a deal with Russia, a Kyiv official said on Saturday.

In August, Ukraine announced the establishment of a “humanitarian corridor” in the Black Sea to circumvent Russia’s blockade. Since then, five vessels have used the corridor to exit Ukraine’s ports.

“The first civilian ships used the temporary corridor to enter Ukrainian ports,” Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said in a statement on Facebook.

3:19pm: Poland’s extends Ukraine grain ban under ‘electoral pressure’

Poland on Friday announced the extension of an embargo on Ukrainian grain, going against a European Commission decision earlier that day to end the import ban.

The announcement, aimed at appeasing voters, came ahead of parliamentary elections due next month, FRANCE 24’s Warsaw correspondent Magdalena Chodownik said.

“The ruling party cannot afford to lose voters in the countryside, where many of their conservative voters are,” Chodownik said. She highlighted the sensitive issue of Ukraine grain imports, which are often cheaper than Polish grain.

Despite the heavy competition, she said, “Polish farmers cannot afford to reduce their prices that much because they are subject to European regulations and very demanding grain controls, which are expensive”.

Poland’s nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party won a narrow parliamentary majority in 2019.

Please click on the video player below to watch the report.

1:54pm: Russia denies Ukraine has retaken village of Andriivka near Bakhmut

Russia on Saturday denied a Ukrainian claim to have recaptured the devastated eastern village of Andriivka, a stepping stone on the way to the city of Bakhmut.

“The enemy did not abandon plans to capture the city of Artyomovsk of the Donetsk People’s Republic and continued to conduct assault operations … unsuccessfully trying to oust Russian troops from the population centres of Klishchiivka and Andriivka,” the Russian defence ministry said in its daily briefing.

Andriivka lies south of largely ruined Bakhmut, which Russian forces seized in May after the fiercest and longest battle since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The Ukrainian General Staff on Friday also reported “partial success” near Klishchiivka, also south of Bakhmut.

FRANCE 24 was unable to verify the battlefield reports.

1:47pm: Poland to ban entry of Russia-registered passenger cars from Sunday

Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said on Saturday that Poland would ban the entry of passenger cars registered in Russia starting Sunday, state-run Polish news agency PAP reported.

The ban is a further part of sanctions imposed on Russia and its citizens in connection with the war in Ukraine, PAP said, citing Kaminski.

1:12pm: Russia says it downed Ukrainian drones over three regions

The Russian defence ministry said on Saturday its air defence systems had destroyed a drone launched from Ukraine over the border into the adjacent Belgorod region.

Earlier, it said Russian air defences had shot down two Ukrainian drones over the Kaluga and Tver regions.

11:30am: Ukrainian minister vows more drone strikes on Russian ships

Ukraine will be able to conduct more attacks on Russian ships, a Ukrainian minister who has played a key role in building the country’s drone industry told Reuters after a recent series of sea raids.

“There will be more drones, more attacks, and fewer Russian ships. That’s for sure,” Digital Transformation minister Mykhailo Fedorov said in an interview on Friday, answering a question about recent attacks near Crimea.

This week, Ukraine has made several attacks using sea drones and missiles on Russia’s Black Sea fleet in and around the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

In a sign of growing confidence, Ukraine has recently claimed responsibility for attacks on Crimea, having previously not directly confirmed involvement in blasts at military targets there.

Russia has acknowledged a Ukrainian missile attack that damaged a warship and a submarine this week, but says it has repelled all sea drone attacks.

10:30am: Russian-installed Crimea authorities to sell Ukrainian properties

Russian-installed authorities in Crimea said on Saturday they planned to sell about 100 Ukrainian properties, including one belonging to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Crimean parliament, said the nationalised properties would be sold “soon” and the authorities had held the first eight auctions for the properties of Ukrainian business figures.

The sale contracts amounted to more than 815 million roubles ($8.51 million), Konstantinov said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

6:14am: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un inspects Russian nuclear-capable bombers on a visit to Russia’s Far East

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected Russian nuclear-capable bombers and other warplanes in Russia’s Far East on Saturday as he continued a trip that has sparked Western concerns about an arms alliance that could fuel Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

After arriving in the city of Artyom by train, Kim travelled to an airport just outside the seaside city of Vladivostok where Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and other senior military officials gave him an up-close look at Russia’s strategic bombers and other warplanes. 

Seemingly all of the Russian warplanes shown to Kim on Saturday were among those that have seen active use in the war in Ukraine, including the Tu-160, Tu-95 and Tu-22 bombers that have regularly launched cruise missiles. 

Shoigu, who had met Kim during a rare visit to North Korea in July, also showed Kim one of Russia’s latest missiles, the hypersonic Kinzhal carried by the MiG-31 fighter jet, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry.

Kim’s to visit to Russia, highlighted by a summit with Putin on Wednesday, comes amid momentum in military cooperation between the countries in which North Korea could potentially seek Russian technologies to advance Kim’s military nuclear programme in exchange for providing Russia with badly needed munitions.

1:45am: Two Russians, American reach International Space Station

Two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday after blasting off amid raging tensions between Moscow and Washington over Ukraine.

Earlier Friday Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub and NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara lifted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard the Soyuz MS-24 spacecraft.

The crew docked at the ISS three hours later, the Russian space agency said.

At the orbiting station, the trio will join three Russians, two Americans, a Japanese astronaut and a representative of the European Space Agency.

The liftoff took place after Russia’s first lunar mission in nearly 50 years failed last month.

Key developments from Friday, September 15:

UNESCO on Friday placed World Heritage Sites in the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Lviv on its “in danger” list, saying they are at risk from the war sparked by Russia’s invasion of the country. Although neither site has been directly targeted and Lviv has largely been spared from the fighting, Russia has unleashed waves of strikes on Kyiv and other cities, hitting residential areas and critical infrastructure with Iranian-made attack drones.

As part of a multi-pronged counteroffensive, Ukrainian forces recaptured a village in the country’s east after intense battles with Russian troops, the country’s military said Friday. The village of Andriivka – about 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of the Russian-occupied town of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region – is the latest gain for Kyiv in a counteroffensive that has seen slow but steady gains by Ukrainian forces.

Read yesterday’s blog to see how the day’s events unfolded.

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP & Reuters)

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