Russia has accused the United States of direct involvement in the Ukraine war, while the first ship carrying Ukrainian grain to world markets since Moscow’s invasion of Turkey is due to be inspected on Wednesday.
The Russian Defense Ministry, headed by an ally of President Vladimir Putin, said comments made by Vadim Skipetsky, deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, to Britain’s Telegraph newspaper showed Washington was involved in the conflict despite assurances it was limiting its role to arms supplies.
Skipetsky told the newspaper that there were consultations between US and Ukrainian intelligence officials prior to the strikes, and Washington had effective veto power over the intended targets, but US officials did not provide direct targeting information.
“All this proves undeniably that Washington, contrary to the allegations of the White House and the Pentagon, is directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The Biden administration is directly responsible for all Kyiv-approved missile attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure in populated areas of Donbass and other areas, which led to large numbers of civilian casualties.”
There was no immediate reaction from the White House or the Pentagon to the department’s assertions.
However, the Pentagon denied Moscow’s allegations that Russia had destroyed six US-made HIMARS missile systems since the start of the Ukraine war. Russia regularly claims to have struck HIMARS but has yet to provide evidence.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of carrying out devastating missile attacks on civilian targets on an almost daily basis. Both sides deny deliberately targeting civilians.
Donbass: “Only hell”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday that despite arms supplies from the West, his country’s forces had not yet been able to overcome Russia’s advantages in heavy weapons and manpower.
“This is very palpable in combat, especially in the Donbass. … It’s just hell out there. Words can’t describe it.”
The Donbass region, Ukraine’s traditional industrial heartland in eastern Ukraine, has seen some of the fiercest battles of the war.
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine on February 24 in what it calls a “special military operation”. The West condemned Kyiv as an unjustified war of aggression.
At a UN conference on Tuesday, Igor Vishnevitsky, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, denied all allegations of “unjustified aggression”. He also added that Moscow is convinced that nuclear war “should never be fought.”
Russian diplomat Alexander Trofimov told the United Nations that Moscow would only use nuclear weapons in response to weapons of mass destruction or an attack with conventional weapons that threaten the existence of the Russian state.
“None of these two hypothetical scenarios has anything to do with the situation in Ukraine,” said Trofimov, a senior diplomat in the Department of Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Arms Control of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, a UN-brokered deal on July 22 to repeal the Ukrainian grain export embargo achieved initial success as the first loaded ship since the Russian invasion anchored safely off the Turkish coast.
The vessel, flying the Sierra Leone flag, was at the entrance to the Bosphorus Strait, which connects the Black Sea to world markets, around 1800 GMT on Tuesday, about 36 hours after leaving the Ukrainian port of Odessa.
The Turkish Defense Ministry said a delegation from the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, where personnel from Russia, Ukraine, Turks and the United Nations work, is expected to inspect the ship at 0700 GMT on Wednesday.
It was loaded with 26,527 tons of corn.
United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York that there are about 27 ships in the three Ukrainian ports covered by the export agreement, ready to launch.
Exports from one of the world’s largest grain producers are meant to help ease the global food crisis.
Ukraine, known as Europe’s breadbasket, hopes to export 20 million tons of grain kept in silos and 40 million tons of the harvest now underway, initially from Odessa, Pivdennyi and neighboring Chornomorsk.
Russia described Razouni’s departure as “very positive” news. It has denied responsibility for the food crisis, saying Western sanctions have slowed its exports.