Ukraine Live Briefing: Russia again targets Black Sea region amid grain deal fears; E.U. plans to ration gas

Ukrainian firefighters battle a fire on a boat in the port of Odessa after missiles hit the port on July 23, 2022. (Odessa City Council Telegram Channel/AFP)
Ukrainian firefighters battle a fire on a boat in the port of Odessa after missiles hit the port on July 23, 2022. (Odessa City Council Telegram Channel/AFP)

Russia launched another rocket attack on Ukraine’s southern Black Sea region on Tuesday, local leaders said, hitting residential areas in Odessa and targeting port infrastructure in Mykolaiv, in “massive” strikes that came just days after Moscow agreed to a deal that would allow blockaded grain stockpiles to leave the area’s ports.

In the European Union, member states committed to reducing their natural gas consumption in an attempt to decrease their dependence on Russia, which has been restricting the flow of fuel to the bloc.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • European energy ministers reached a deal Tuesday to preemptively reduce the bloc’s natural gas consumption, as Russia cultivates uncertainty around its gas deliveries to Europe ahead of winter. E.U. countries agreed to reduce their gas demand by 15 percent from August through March to allow for stockpiles to be buttressed — but the deal contains exemptions.
  • The latest strikes on the Odessa province left buildings and village blocks destroyed and smoldering, video of the aftermath shared by local Ukrainian military officials showed. More than a dozen missiles hit the resort town of Zatoka, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force said Tuesday. “Today, the occupiers hit the Odessa region again, firing missiles at ordinary houses again,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening address.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently approved the use of a U.S. military hospital in Germany for the treatment of injured Ukrainian soldiers, a defense official familiar with the arrangement told The Post. The Army facility in Landstuhl is the largest American military hospital outside of the continental United States and is roughly 800 miles west of Ukraine. It has not yet served Ukrainian troops, the official said.
  • Russia on Tuesday announced it would withdraw from the International Space Station (ISS) project after 2024. While Russian officials have discussed leaving the project since at least 2021, the announcement signaled the looming end of an era in one of the last remaining areas of cooperation between Russia and the United States. The U.S. State Department was “taken by surprise” by the decision, according to a statement.

Spotlight: Americans detained in Russia

  • Brittney Griner appeared in court Tuesday and is set to testify this week in her Moscow trial on drug charges. Her defense team argued Tuesday that she used marijuana for medical reasons. The WNBA star is expected to testify and be cross-examined by the prosecution on Wednesday. Griner has pleaded guilty and is likely to be convicted, though it remains to be seen how severe her punishment will be.
  • Paul Whelan, a former marine whose 2020 conviction for espionage was called “a mockery of justice,” also remains detained. He did not appeal the decision, hoping instead to be included in a prisoner swap between the United States and Russia. One Russian who experts say could be involved in a swap for Griner and Whelan is notorious gunrunner Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence in Illinois.
  • Trevor Reed, the American released from Russian prison in April, said on Tuesday that the White House is “not doing enough” to free Griner and Whelan. Reed, who was released in a prisoner swap, told NBC News that the Biden administration “has the ability to get them out extremely fast” — by negotiating another swap — “and they’ve clearly chosen not to do that.”

Battlefield updates

  • Russia struck civilian targets and critical infrastructure in Kharkiv and its surrounding region Tuesday, officials there said. Regional governor Oleh Synyehubov said the shelling caused the roof of a car showroom to catch fire, and he cited preliminary reports from emergency services that said there were no casualties.
  • A barrage of missile strikes hit port infrastructure in Mykolaiv, west of Odessa, Ukrainian authorities said Tuesday. The missiles were launched from the direction of the Black Sea, Mykolaiv Mayor Alexander Senkevich told the Ukrainian state broadcaster Suspilne.
  • Sophisticated air defense systems donated by Britain have arrived at the front in Ukraine, military authorities said Monday. Six Stormer HVM air defense systems made it to the front in Ukraine, the country’s southern military command said. The high-velocity missiles can spot enemy aircraft at a distance of up to 11 miles, it added. Ukraine also received antiaircraft weapons systems from Germany and ammunition from the United States, authorities said Monday.
  • Russian authorities defended Saturday’s strike on the southern port, saying it destroyed a Ukrainian warship and a storage facility for Harpoon anti-ship missiles. But the British Defense Ministry said Tuesday that “there is no indication that such targets were at the location the missiles hit.” The attack came less than a day after a U.N.-brokered grain deal in which Russia promised not to attack Odessa and two other ports involved in grain shipments.

Global impact

  • Russia’s economy appears to be faring better than expected amid punishing sanctions from the West, the International Monetary Fund’s chief economist told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday. The financial institution still projects “a fairly sizable recession,” Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas said, but the soaring cost of energy is “providing an enormous amount of revenues to the Russian economy.”
  • Ukraine said it would keep up its end of the grain deal despite Saturday’s strikes on Odessa. The country will restart grain exports from its Black Sea ports, but the United Nations and Turkey must ensure Russia does not jeopardize the safety of the ships, Zelensky said Monday. Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports has driven up global food prices, exacerbating concerns about rising hunger around the world.
  • Russia’s state energy company said it would reduce by half the natural gas sent to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba argued Tuesday that “Putin’s gas war against Europe is a direct continuation of his war on Ukraine,” and said Europe should “get rid of any dependence” on Moscow.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday presented Zelensky, virtually, with the “Sir Winston Churchill Award” for leadership.

From our correspondents

Tensions high between Israel, Russia over looming ban of Jewish Agency: The Israeli government is pushing back against moves by Moscow to outlaw the private agency that helps Russian Jews immigrate to Israel, Washington Post Jerusalem Bureau Chief Steve Hendrix and Middle East reporter Shira Rubin report from Jerusalem.

The move threatens to further destabilize the relationship between Israel and Russia, which has been rocky since Russian forces invaded Ukraine.

Rick Noack and Quentin Ariès contributed to this report.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of troops in an address to the nation on Sept. 21, framing the move as an attempt to defend Russian sovereignty against a West that seeks to use Ukraine as a tool to “divide and destroy Russia.” Follow our live updates here.

The fight: A successful Ukrainian counteroffensive has forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in recent days, as troops fled cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large amounts of military equipment.

Annexation referendums: Staged referendums, which would be illegal under international law, are set to take place from Sept. 23 to 27 in the breakaway Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine, according to Russian news agencies. Another staged referendum will be held by the Moscow-appointed administration in Kherson starting Friday.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can help support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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