Relations between Ukraine and strong ally Poland are growing strained, officials acknowledged Wednesday, with Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Yablonsky telling radio RMF they “have not been the best” recently and “there is no agreement” on many issues.
Poland has accepted millions of Ukrainians fleeing the war and provided military and humanitarian aid. But Poland also is one of multiple European countries concerned that Ukraine, struggling to ship its grain to Africa and Asia under a Russian blockade, is sending it to European ports, flooding markets and hurting local farmers.
Polish foreign policy adviser Marcin Przydach touched off a firestorm this week when he said Ukraine “should start to appreciate the role that Poland has played for Ukraine over the past months and years.”
Polish Ambassador to Ukraine Bartosz Cichocki was then summoned to the foreign ministry in Kyiv Tuesday, where he was told claims that Ukraine is ungrateful were “untrue and unacceptable,” the Ukraine foreign ministry said.
That drew angry commentary from a high-ranking Polish lawmaker who suggested Ukraine focus on the true enemy, Russia. Krzysztof Sobolewski, a leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party, wrote on social media that the Polish ambassador was “the only one who stayed in Kyiv” in the early days of the war and accused Ukraine of “playing with fire.”
◾ Ukraine’s counteroffensive, featuring 150,000 troops over three axes of attack, will probably last through the fall and perhaps into the winter, Politico reported, citing Pentagon sources.
◾ Ukrainian forces have reported increased Russian shelling across the eastern front, along with heavy artillery, widespread mines and tough resistance around the city of Bakhmut, Deputy Defense Secretary Hanna Maliar said.
◾ The Wagner Group fighters pose no direct threat to NATO, and those contractors who remain in Ukraine have no significant influence on the war, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said. Wagner fighters, who were able to seize some territory for Ukraine on behalf of Russia, last month staged a brief, ill-fated revolt against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
◾ Ukraine shot down 32 drones overnight, the Ukraine Defense Ministry said Wednesday.
More than 40% of Ukrainians from the liberated part of Kherson province reported being tortured while at detention centers under Russian occupation, including genital electrocution and other forms of sexual violation, according to a new report from an international team of legal experts released Wednesday.
The account by the Mobile Justice Team, established by the human rights firm Global Rights Compliance, said that in the 320 detention cases it identified in more than 35 facilities, 43% of the victims “explicitly mentioned practices of torture.”
Those included electrocutions during interrogations, warterboarding, suffocation and severe beatings, and were imposed on both men and women. Military and law enforcement personnel were the most likely to get tortured.
The Mobile Justice Team, which received funding from the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union, supports Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office in investigating war crimes.
Wayne Jordash, co-founder and managing partner of GRC, said the Russian methods point not only to war crimes but also attempts at genocide. Putin maintains that Ukraine is not a real country but part of Russia.
“The torture and sexual violence tactics the Office of the Prosecution is uncovering from the Kherson detention centers suggests that Putin’s plan to extinguish Ukrainian identity includes a range of crimes evocative of genocide,” Jordash said in a statement.
Global wheat prices rise as Russia pounds Ukraine port
Russian rockets and drones on Wednesday pounded Ukraine port facilities that help feed much of the world as the intensified assault on shipping drove global grain prices higher ahead of peace talks Moscow was not invited to join.
Photos and video from the town of Izmail showed officials in “war crimes prosecutor” garb picking through the rubble of bombed-out buildings, some with wheat tumbling from gashed walls. Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said 40,000 tons of grain bound for multiple African countries, China and Israel were damaged.
The port on the Danube River has provided alternative shipping points for Ukraine since Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative last month and reinstated its blockade on Odesa ports. Izmail is about 150 miles southwest of Odesa and its port is located across the river from Romania, a NATO country.
Chicago wheat prices rose by nearly 5% following Wednesday’s attack amid concern one of the world’s top food exporters could be driven off the market, Reuters reported. Ukraine grain exports in July fell 40% from the previous month.
“Another elevator in the port of Izmail, Odesa region, was damaged by Russians,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said on social media. “Ukrainian grain has the potential to feed millions of people worldwide. However, Russia chose the path of killing, starvation, and terrorism.”
Attacks on Ukrainian ports are a threat to the world − and the world must come to Ukraine’s aid, Kubrakov said.
“We can defend ourselves, and our air defense forces can use weapons effectively,” he tweeted “We need more of it. Each air defense system saved a life.”
Peace summit opens Friday − minus Russia
Russia will be monitoring the Ukrainian peace summit that opens Friday in Saudi Arabia, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday. Russia was not invited to join Ukraine, the U.S., Britain, South Africa, Poland and about two dozen other countries sending representatives to Jeddah to discuss Ukraine’s 10-point peace plan.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was expected to represent the U.S., although the Biden administration has confirmed no details about U.S. plans for the summit. Peskov said any efforts to promote a peaceful settlement are “worthy of a positive assessment.”
Ukraine’s plan includes long-term commitments that will ensure Ukraine’s ability to win the war and “deter future Russian aggression.” Ukraine wants the restoration of its territorial integrity, the withdrawal of Russian troops, the release of all prisoners and a tribunal established to judge those responsible for the war.
But Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the summit will be useful only if it helps the West understand that Ukraine’s plan is a “dead end.”