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Ukraine live briefing: 3 nations block Ukrainian grain; Kim Jong Un views missiles in Vladivostok

Agricultural workers harvest barley in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine on Aug. 30. (Pierre Crom/Getty Images)

The European Commission’s block on grain shipments from Ukraine into five bordering European Union nations expired Friday, prompting Poland, Hungary and Slovakia to impose import restrictions of their own. Limited access to Black Sea ports during the war has caused a surge in Ukrainian grain passing through neighboring countries, driving down prices and angering local producers. The European Commission said in a statement that, after the ban, market distortions have “disappeared,” but some leaders were not convinced and said that they were protecting the interests of their farmers.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Vladivostok, a city in Russia’s Far East that is close to the Chinese and North Korean borders. He was met by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and saw aviation equipment and missile systems, state media outlet Tass reported. It is the latest stop on Kim’s trip to the country, which has sparked concern in Washington that Moscow and Pyongyang are seeking an arms deal.

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

The grain import bans do not apply to the transport of Ukrainian goods through the respective countries. Slovakia’s agriculture ministry emphasized this on social media, saying they are “expressing solidarity with Ukraine” and placing its products in “target markets.” Hungary’s agriculture minister also stressed that the ban would not prevent through-traffic. However, Hungary expanded the restrictions to include other products and accused E.U. leaders of supporting international companies over farmers. “We can’t let this go,” he said.

Ukraine will take measures to avoid grain surges and prevent price distortions after the ban’s expiration, the European Commission said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned the lift on restrictions in his nightly address, saying “if the neighbors’ decisions are not neighborly, Ukraine will respond civilly.”

Russia had not signed any agreements “with North Korea in the area of military-technical cooperation” yet, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday. Kim on Friday toured a factory that builds fighter jets with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov, who said Moscow sees potential for partnership with North Korea in aircraft manufacturing, according to Russian news reports.

UNESCO added Kyiv’s St. Sophia Cathedral and Lviv to its World Heritage in Danger list Friday. The sites face the “risk of direct attack” and are “vulnerable to the shock waves caused by the bombing of the two cities,” the organization said. UNESCO’s list designates 56 sites “in danger,” including the Black Sea port city of Odessa, which was added in January.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne M. Tracy visited detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich at the Lefortovo pretrial detention center in Moscow, where the American reporter has been held for months on espionage charges that the United States says are politically motivated. “He remains strong and is keeping up with the news,” the U.S. Embassy in Moscow wrote on social media.

Russia is likely to use stockpiled air launched cruise missiles to strike Ukrainian infrastructure this winter, according to the British Defense Ministry’s latest intelligence update. On Saturday, the ministry wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that such missiles were “at the heart of most” of Russia’s long-range strikes against Ukrainian energy facilities last winter.

Zelensky celebrated Ukrainian forces recapturing Andriivka, a Russian-held village near Bakhmut, in his nightly address, calling the development a “significant and much-needed result” and thanking the troops involved. Ukrainian forces “inflicted significant losses in manpower and equipment on the enemy, and consolidated their new positions,” Ukraine’s general staff said Friday.

Russian-installed authorities in Crimea plan to sell around 100 properties there, including an apartment belonging to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to an announcement Saturday. Volodymyr Konstantinov, the speaker of Crimea’s parliament, wrote on Telegram that eight auctions had already been concluded, generating around $8.4 million. The other sales will take place soon, he added. Russia illegally annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014.

Zelensky is expected to make a trip Washington next week, which would be his second since the war began last year, The Washington Post reported. The visit was coordinated with the Biden administration amid efforts to push Congress to provide $24 billion in additional aid to Ukraine and comes as tensions grow over support for Ukraine within the Republican Party and among a small number of Democrats. Zelensky is “very much abreast” of the debate in Washington, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.

Finland banned Russian-registered cars from entering its territory, joining its Baltic neighbors Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which have imposed similar restrictions, Finnish media reported. The move follows an update to European Commission guidelines, which ask member states to stop Russian citizens from bringing cars and other goods into the E.U. in an effort to prevent sanction dodging.

Britain officially banned Russia’s Wagner Group and designated it a terrorist organization, making support for the group punishable by up to 14 years in jail, according to a statement from the government. The ban, which was approved Friday, comes weeks after group leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin died in a plane crash and months after his short-lived mutiny.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko suggested a “three-way cooperation” with Russia and North Korea, at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, the Associated Press reported. Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin’s, did not give specifics, but said Minsk would “look for opportunities.”

Shuffle of Russian military chiefs preceded death of Wagner boss Prigozhin: Dismissals and disappearances of regular Russian military commanders and the death of Wagner head Prigozhin highlight how Putin lacks trust in his military leadership, analysts say. Fearing betrayal, the Russian leader has prioritized loyalty over competence, and he has tolerated infighting that has degraded his war machine, Francesca Ebel writes.

“The army has degenerated organizationally, intellectually and technically,” Pavel Luzin, an expert on the Russian military and a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation who is based in the United States, told The Post.

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