Zelensky discusses grain deal by phone with Stoltenberg

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on July 22 that he spoke with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg by phone about sustaining the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Russia dealt a significant blow to global food security on July 17 by announcing its withdrawal from the grain deal.

Brokered by Turkey and the U.N. last July, the grain deal has allowed Ukraine to export its agricultural products through the Black Sea during wartime. Ukraine is one of the world's top grain suppliers.

The deal has been integral in alleviating global food price surges caused by Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine.

Russia went on to launch a series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine's port infrastructure in Odesa Oblast and destroyed 60,000 tons of grain after withdrawing from the deal.

According to Zelensky, he and Stoltenberg "determined the priority and future steps necessary for the unblocking and sustainable functioning of the Black Sea grain corridor."

Zelensky also reached out to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the grain deal on July 21.

"We coordinated efforts to restore the operation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Due to Russia's actions, the world is once again on the brink of a food crisis. A total of 400 million people in many countries in Africa and Asia are at risk of starvation," Zelensky said.

Russian forces shelled Kharkiv Oblast

Russian forces shelled Kharkiv Oblast on July 22, killing one person and injuring another, the Kharkiv Oblast Prosecutor's Office reported.

According to local prosecutors, Russian forces shelled the city of Kupiansk at around 11 a.m. local time.

They shelled Kupiansk again around 1:30 p.m. local time, killing a 57-year-old man.

Preliminary information suggests that the shelling was carried out with multiple rocket launchers, local prosecutors said.

At around 3 p.m. local time, Russian forces also shelled the village of Dvorichna, injuring a 60-year-old man. The man has been hospitalized for his injuries.

During the counteroffensive last fall, Kupiansk and Dvorichna were liberated by Ukrainian forces. Since then, they have been subject to near-daily shelling, given that they are situated near Ukraine's border with Russia.

Russia plans to check all ships in Black Sea for potential military cargo

Russia will inspect all ships sailing in the Black Sea to ensure they don't carry military cargo, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin said on July 21, as Russian news agency Interfax reported.

Vershinin also said there is no longer a humanitarian corridor for commercial vessels in the Black Sea.

Vershinin’s claim comes two days after the Russian Defense Ministry declared that starting from July 20, all vessels sailing to Ukrainian ports would be considered as potential carriers of military cargo and therefore regarded by Russia as on the side of Ukraine in the war.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry also announced on July 20 that all vessels on the Black Sea heading toward Russian or Russia-occupied ports would be treated as ones carrying military cargo "with all associated risks" starting from July 21.

"The Russian Federation has once again brutally violated the universal right to free navigation for the whole world and is deliberately undermining food security, condemning millions of people to starvation," reads the ministry’s statement.

Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative on July 17, dealing a significant blow to global food security.  The deal, brokered by Turkey and the UN in July 2022, allowed Ukraine to export grain amidst Russia's full-scale invasion.

On July 19, the Ukrainian authorities reported that Russian attacks on port infrastructure in Odesa Oblast had destroyed 60,000 tons of grain.

"This is a terrorist act not against Ukraine but against the whole world," Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskyi said.

"If we cannot export food, then the population of the poorest countries will be on the verge of survival," he said.