International fencing to change rules after disqualifying Ukrainian fencer for refusing to shake hands with Russian opponent

The International Fencing Federation (FIE) has decided to change the rules following its controversial decision to disqualify Ukrainian fencer Olga Kharlan after she refused to shake hands with her defeated Russian opponent on July 27 at the 2023 Fencing World Championships currently underway in Milan, Italy.

The FIE announced the traditional handshake at the end of the duel would be replaced by a salute, allowing Ukrainians not to approach Russians, even if they are competing under the neutral flag, Italian La Republica reported on July 28.

Kharlan won the match against Russian fencer Anna Smirnova on July 27, who was competing under a neutral flag. Kharlan refused to shake hands, offering her saber to tap blades instead. Smirnova refused, staging a protest by remaining on the piste for over half an hour.

The Ukrainian athlete was disqualified as the rules in fencing dictated that shaking an opponent's hand is mandatory, with failure to do so resulting in a “black card.”

Following a large public outcry, the FIE on July 28 reversed its decision after consulting with the International Olympic Committee, reinstating Kharlan in the Milan competitions and guaranteeing her a spot in the Paris Olympics next year.

“The most important thing for an athlete is to be able to compete for my family, my team, my country, and all the people who support me. During these difficult few days, I appreciate all the support I’ve had worldwide,” said Kharlan following the reversal.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has urged international sporting governing bodies to treat contests between Ukrainians and neutral athletes (implying Russian and Belarus athletes) "with the necessary degree of sensitivity" after Kharlan's disqualification.

Russia shelled Dnipropetrovsk Oblast overnight on July 29 following missile strike on Dnipro

Russian forces shelled the city of Nikopol and the Marhanets community overnight on July 29, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Governor Serhii Lysak reported on Telegram.

There were no casualties, according to the governor. In the meantime, rescue operation in Dnipro following Russia's missile strike on the city, concluded after 3 a.m. local time. Nine people were wounded in the attack, including two children, and this number remains the same. Nobody was killed in the missile strike, according to Lysak.

Dnipro, a city of one million people in central Ukraine, was hit at around 8:30 p.m. on July 28 following an air raid siren. According to the footage provided by witnesses to the Kyiv Independent and footage shared on social media, an apartment building in the city sustained heavy damage.

Four other apartment buildings were damaged in the attack, as well as seven cars, Lysak reported. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) headquarters in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast was also damaged.

The region has experienced numerous Russian attacks, including missile strikes, since February 2022.

Update: 9 injured in Russian missile strike on Dnipro

At least nine people are injured, including two children, in the Russian missile strike against Dnipro on July  28, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Governor Serhii Lysak reported.

Russian forces launched Iskander missiles against an empty building of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and a residential building with no tenants, the city mayor said earlier.

Interior Minister Klymenko said earlier that at least five people were wounded "during the attack on a high-rise building" but did not specify whether they were inside the structure at the moment of the attack.

The State Emergency Service of Ukraine clarified that the upper floors of the 12-story building were damaged, and a fire was put out in the second building.

Wagner mercenaries in Belarus 'may try infiltrating Poland'

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on July 29 that the Wagner Group mercenaries could infiltrate Poland from Belarus, where they are currently stationed.

Morawiecki said that more than 100 mercenaries were deployed to the Grodno area in Belarus near the Suwalki Gap, southwest of the Lithuania-Poland border between Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

“This is a step towards a further hybrid attack on Polish territory,” Morawiecki said, as quoted by the Polish RMF24.

Morawiecki also said that Wagner mercenaries could disguise themselves as Belarusian border guards ushering refugees to the border to infiltrate Poland.

In 2021, Belarus began allowing thousands of asylum seekers to come to the country with a promise of safe entry into Europe. The situation escalated in November of that year when Belarusian troops escorted thousands of asylum seekers to the Polish border, cutting through the wire fence to allow refugees to cross. Most of them were violently pushed back by Polish border guards.

Wagner columns have been arriving in Belarus since Wagner boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin's abortive mutiny ended with an undisclosed agreement with the Kremlin brokered by Belarussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

Prigozhin reportedly told his mercenaries that the Wagner mercenaries would train Belarusian soldiers.

Meanwhile, the State Border Guard Service spokesperson Andrii Demcnenko reported on national television on July 29 that 0ver 5,000 Wagner mercenaries have already arrived in Belarus but do not yet pose any threat to Ukraine.

In response to the presence of Wagner troops in Poland, Polish deputy prime minister Jarosław Kaczynski said on July 27 that the size of the Polish military would be nearly doubled.