Ukraine Live Briefing: Kyiv looks to retake occupied southern region; Russia cuts gas flows to Europe

A fragment of a rocket from a multiple-rocket launcher is seen embedded in the ground in a wheat field in the Ukrainian region of Kharkiv on July 19. (Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images)
A fragment of a rocket from a multiple-rocket launcher is seen embedded in the ground in a wheat field in the Ukrainian region of Kharkiv on July 19. (Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian military leaders are increasingly focused on retaking Kherson, the southern region that has been under Russian control since the war’s early weeks, and Kyiv’s forces have begun laying the foundation for a major counteroffensive there, officials have said in recent days.

Here’s the latest on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its ripple effects around the world.

Key developments

  • The Nord Stream 1 pipeline will pump about 33 million cubic meters — half its regular supply — beginning Wednesday, Russian energy giant Gazprom announced, citing issues with a turbine’s “technical condition.” Germany’s Ministry for the Economy and Climate said it saw no technical reason for the reduction in gas flow, adding that it was “monitoring the situation very closely.” German officials are worried about natural gas supplies for winter and have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of using gas as leverage against Western countries backing Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Gazprom’s move is the latest evidence that Russia is weaponizing energy, and he called on European Union leaders to impose stricter sanctions against the Kremlin. “This is an overt gas war that Russia is waging against a united Europe,” Zelensky said in his evening address on Monday.
  • The board of the European Investment Bank approved $1.625 billion of European Union financial assistance for Ukraine, of which about two-thirds will be immediately available. That urgent funding — consisting of “upfront disbursements under eight existing finance contracts” — is for short-term needs, including repairs and municipal services.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in the Republic of Congo as part of a four-day tour to try to shore up African support for the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on Twitter called Lavrov’s trip to Africa “the quintessence of sadism,” adding, “You arrange an artificial hunger and then come to cheer people up.”

Battlefield updates

  • Ukraine says its military is preparing for a major counteroffensive in the southern Kherson region, the location of the first city captured by Russia. Officials say they have inflicted major damage on infrastructure there, including destroying three bridges, making it more difficult for Moscow’s troops to operate. “Currently, we are switching from defensive to counteroffensive actions,” Sergiy Khlan, a regional government aide, told Ukrainian TV. Kherson “will be liberated” by September, Khlan said.
  • For Ukrainians living in occupied Kherson, the humanitarian situation is “critical,” Dmytro Butriy, head of the region’s military administration, said Monday. Residents suffer from shortages of medicine and food, he said, and hundreds of activists and government officials have been abducted, reports that are in line with Russian war crimes documented across the country.
  • Russia is struggling to extract and repair vehicles damaged by fighting, according to British military intelligence. A repair facility in Barvinok in Russia’s Belgorod oblast, near the border with Ukraine, had some 300 damaged vehicles, including tanks and trucks inside, Britain reports.
  • Rescue teams in the city of Chuhuiv have been digging through the rubble of buildings destroyed in overnight attacks in a search for survivors, Oleh Synyehubov, the governor of the Kharkiv region, said in a Telegram post.
  • U.S. intelligence has found that Russia’s use of “filtration camps” to detain and forcibly deport Ukrainians to Russia has expanded. A National Intelligence Council memorandum — dated June 15 and declassified Friday — describes a filtration process that screens Ukrainians to identify “anyone perceived to pose a threat” or “who may be willing to collaborate.” Those considered most threatening are probably being detained in eastern Ukrainian and Russian prisons, “though little is known about their fates,” the assessment adds.

At least 900,000 Ukrainians ‘forcibly deported’ to Russia, U.S. says

Spotlight: What to know about the grain deal

  • Russia said Monday that missile strikes on the Black Sea port of Odessa — one day after the grain deal — should not undermine the agreement signed by Moscow and Kyiv. Meanwhile, Ukraine says it is pressing ahead with preparations to resume grain exports from Odessa, with one senior government official estimating that the first shipments could leave port this week.
  • The deal heightened hopes of easing the global food crisis. Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports and the side effects of Western sanctions on Moscow raised food prices that already were high due to the pandemic and effects of climate change.
  • U.S. officials expect the agreement to be implemented, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday, but he added that the strike on Odessa “undermines the credibility of Russia’s commitments to the other parties to this deal.”
  • Global wheat prices have risen — after falling Friday — over fears the deal might not stick.

Global impact

  • Next year’s Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Britain instead of Ukraine because of the conflict, the organizers have announced. As this year’s winner, Ukraine would normally have hosted the event in 2023. The U.K. was runner-up this year.
  • Moldova, on Ukraine’s western border, is “very worried” about a potential Russian invasion, Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita said. “If a country can start an annexation war without any regard for international law, then in this sense, nobody is safe,” she said.
  • Israel said it was preparing to retaliate as Moscow moves to outlaw the private charity that helps Russian Jews immigrate to Israel, which has seen a surge in immigration since Russia invaded Ukraine. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid aims to send an emergency delegation to discuss with Russian officials their potential shutdown of the Jewish Agency for Israel — but the delegation is still waiting for Moscow’s permission to travel.

From our correspondents

A Virginia family’s push to give a Ukrainian orphan respite from war. Shortly after they met the energetic brown-haired, blue-eyed, 9-year-old girl from Ukraine, Jenny Bradshaw, her husband and their 17-year-old twin daughters were smitten, Dana Hedgpeth reports. The family had researched the possibility of adopting from overseas and realized after a month-long exchange program in December with Katya at their home in Centreville, Va., that it was the right time. She fit in well with their family.

However, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine this year, the family’s efforts to adopt her have stalled. More than 200 adoptions are completed every year from Ukraine to the United States, according to State Department statistics, but those have stopped amid the conflict.

Bradshaw and her husband, Holt, are part of a group of would-be adoptive parents in the United States lobbying Ukrainian adoption authorities and U.S. officials to raise awareness about their plight. As the families wait for normal adoptions to resume, they want the dozens of Ukrainian orphans who have gone through exchange programs in the United States to be able to come and stay a few months with them. “We’re not asking for a special exception or to skirt around the full adoption process,” Bradshaw said. “We just want to give [Katya] a break and respite from the war.”

Irynka Hromotska contributed to this report.