Peskov: Strikes on Odesa were revenge for the Crimean Bridge attack

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has called Russia's overnight missile attack on the Ukrainian port of Odesa retaliation for the explosions that damaged the Crimean Bridge on July 17.

According to the Ukrainian Air Force, Southern Ukraine was hit with more than 20 drones overnight, followed by six Kalibr missiles launched from the Black Sea towards Odesa. Explosions were reported in Odesa around 2:30 a.m. local time.

All missiles were shot down, and the Ukrainian authorities reported no deaths. However, debris and the blast waves resulting from air defense damaged port infrastructure and several private houses and injured an elderly man in his home.

The explosions on the Crimean Bridge, which took place around 3 a.m. local time on July 17, heavily damaged a section of the bridge for road traffic. Russia blamed Ukraine, but Kyiv has not claimed responsibility.

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin had claimed during a televised meeting that there would be a response to what he called "acts of terrorism."

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin has said that one span of the part of the Crimean Bridge for road vehicles is destroyed and is unlikely to be fully open until November.

Turkey, Russia, UN Chief, hold talks on grain deal termination

Turkish foreign minister Hakan Fidan held talks by phone on July 18 with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Russia's exit from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, according to Turkish diplomatic sources cited by Anadolu Agency.

The deal, which ended Russia's blockade of Ukrainian ports, collapsed after Russia pulled out from the agreement on July 17. The Ukrainian government has referred to Russia's decision as "blackmail."

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed that the deal collapsed due to Russia's demands not being implemented. "Therefore, its deal has been terminated. As soon as the Russian part is completed, the Russian side will return to implementing this deal immediately."

Putin has said that Moscow's demands focus on logistics, insurance, and money movement when paying for Russian products.

Guterres has condemned the decision and stated that millions of people worldwide at risk of hunger "will pay the price." He proposed that a subsidiary of the sanctioned Russian Agricultural Bank will be reconnected to SWIFT to meet Moscow's demands. The UN has also offered to assist Russia with its food and fertilizer exports.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he believes Russia wants to continue the grain deal, despite having withdrawn.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey seek to negotiate return of abducted Ukrainian children

Saudi Arabia and Turkey are trying to broker a deal to repatriate Ukrainian children abducted and forcibly deported to Russia, the Financial Times (FT) reported on July 18, citing four undisclosed sources.

Although officials in Kyiv and Moscow are compiling lists of the deported children as part of the mediation process, the two sides refuse to communicate directly, requiring the intervention of third parties, the FT wrote.

According to the outlet, the talks have been ongoing for several months and involve Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch who has previously played a role in various negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.

Ankara and Riyadh have sought to play the role of peacemakers between the warring parties. Both countries have negotiated several prisoner exchanges, and Turkey helped to broker the Black Sea Grain Initiative, terminated by Russia on July 17.

As the FT commented, Turkey and Saudi Arabia hope that the talks on repatriating children could evolve into peace talks to end the war.

According to the Ukrainian national database Children of War, over 19,500 children have been abducted by Russia since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Thousands are unaccounted for.

Ukraine has so far managed to return 385 Ukrainian children deported by Russia in an ongoing operation.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants on March 17 against Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova for organizing the deportations.