How the international media covered the Russo-Ukrainian war, July 7

Sasha Sverdlova

The Wall Street Journal published an in-depth feature investigating Russiaʼs stealing of Ukrainian grain. The outlet analyzed satellite images, telegram channels’ posts, documents, and interviews to find out that Russia has quietly institutionalized the theft of hundreds of thousands of metric tons of grain from Ukraine and into Russian allies in the Middle East. According to the analysis, Russia has developed a smuggler route from Ukraine’s newly occupied territories through the annexed Crimea, and the Black Sea, and ending up in Syria. The route uncovered by WSJ starts in Kam’yanka Dniprovska city has one of the largest grain storage in the area. From there, Russian trucks without plates brought grain to Crimea. The drivers engaged in this scheme were recruited among Russian soldiers and through job announcements. From Ukraine’s mainland, the grain goes to Sevastopol, where the cargo ships await it. The ships turn their tracking data on and off to hide the route. However, satellite images from different ports confirm these ships are transporting grain from Sevastopol to Latakia, Syria, and another vessel ended up in Turkey. While Syrian authorities deny they are receiving stolen Ukrainian grains, WSJ claims Russia has institutionalized, and more trucks are bringing grains to Crimea.

About 10 million Ukrainians have fled their homes following the slow Russian advance in the east, writes The New York Times. Roughly half of the people who fled are currently in Europe and other countries, and the second 5 million people are internally displaced in Ukraine, creating a humanitarian challenge, which the outlet names “herculean”. As people leave their homes under Russian shellings, many would have nowhere to return even if Ukraine liberates their hometowns. In order to accommodate people, public buildings like gyms and university dorms are converted into shelters. UN reports that most IDPs face shortages of food, water, and basic necessities. At the same time, some people are adjusting to their new reality. Oksana Zelinska from Kherson fled to the west of Ukraine, where she began volunteering at the community kitchen to keep herself not thinking about her home. Hannah Obuzhevanna from eastern Ukraine found a square of land near her current home in the church of Pavlograd, where she planted tomatoes and cucumbers reminding her of her old routine back home.

Bryan Clark, the director of the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at the Hudson Institute, and Peter Rough, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, wrote an op-ed on Foreign Policy featuring their vision for unblocking the Black Sea. The authors blame the western allies for being too careful with the measures they took to support Ukraine. This containment approach led to the grinding conflict in the east and south of Ukraine. The shortcomings of this strategy are: first, leaving Ukraine in perpetual warfare that encourages Russia to use World War II-style artillery barrages; second, it allows Russia to block Ukrainian Black Sea ports trapping over 25 million tons of grain. According to the World Bank, almost 40 million more people are projected to be acutely food insecure this year, and Russia’s war is a significant factor in that. While Kyiv has won back the Snake island, it still lacks long-range weapons to protect a potential cargo route from Russia’s fleet. Escorting Ukrainian merchant ships with US or NATO vessels could solve this problem. However, the Biden administration has rejected that option just like it has declined to close the sky over Kyiv, writes the op-ed. A way to let the grain out would then be possible if the US provided Ukraine with sufficient military equipment to protect its shipping lanes. The unmanned fixed-wing aircraft might have a big role in this scenario. For example, the MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs are about twice the size of a Bayraktar and are armed with powerful Hellfire missiles or GPS-guided bombs — they can fly for about 25 hours at 160 knots, giving them the range and lethality to clear the transit lanes. Currently, the sale of these drones to Ukraine is blocked due to concerns about Russians accessing advanced technologies. The authors urge Washington to rethink its approach to the war and start treating it as a global issue requiring bold measures, like providing Ukraine with modern weapons to stop Russia.