Ukraine live briefing: Grain deal extended; Putin’s ICC arrest warrant is justified, Biden says

A ship waits in the grain-elevators section Odessa, Ukraine, in July. (Wojciech Grzedzinski/For The Washington Post)
7 min

The Black Sea grain deal between Russia and Ukraine was extended on Saturday, though the duration of that extension was unclear. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the United Nations, who have brokered negotiations on the deal, confirmed the extension four days after a Russian official said it would last 60 days instead of 120. Russia or Ukraine could have objected to an extension, which would have otherwise been automatic after this weekend’s deadline.

Meanwhile, President Biden said the International Criminal Court was “justified” in issuing an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has “clearly committed war crimes.”

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • About “25 million metric tonnes of grain and foodstuffs have been moved to 45 countries” since the deal was enacted in July, U.N. spokeswoman Stéphane Dujarric said Saturday morning. Turkish and U.N. officials did not specify the duration of the extension. Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said it was for 120 days, and Kremlin representatives did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment Saturday morning.
  • Moscow said this week that it did not object to another extension, but only for 60 days. Russia has accused Western countries of failing to lift restrictions that have hampered Russia’s agricultural and fertilizer exports. Western sanctions do not target the country’s agricultural sector, but Moscow says restrictions on Russian shipping, logistics companies and banks have hindered its exports.
  • Countries in the Middle East and Africa had been watching the negotiations with concern. The regions rely heavily on grain from Ukraine, and they feared a lapse of the deal could mean rising hunger among vulnerable populations or domestic unrest. “It is concerning that the deal was possibly extended for only 60 days, rather than the previously-agreed 120 day timeframe,” Harpinder Collacott, the Mercy Corps executive director for Europe, said in a statement. “But any extension of the grain deal is nothing short of necessary.”
  • The ICC on Friday issued warrants for Putin and Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, accusing them of participating in the abduction and deportation of children from Ukraine to Russian-occupied territories. Ukraine is investigating more than 16,000 cases of forced removals. Neither the United States nor Russia recognizes the jurisdiction of the ICC, and the court does not try people in absentia.
  • Putin visited Crimea on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of Russia’s illegal 2014 annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine, whose leaders want to recapture the territory. The Kremlin said on Telegram that Putin was touring an art and education site in Sevastopol.

Battleground updates

  • Senior U.S. and Ukrainian officials held a video call to discuss the battleground situation and U.S. support, Ukrainian officials said Saturday. The White House also confirmed Friday’s call, which involved national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The U.S. officials reaffirmed the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine as defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the White House statement said, adding that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky joined at the end of the call.
  • Russia is probably preparing to widen its military conscription, the British Defense Ministry said Saturday. A bill introduced earlier this month proposes changing the age for serving from 18-27 years to 21-30, a change the ministry said was probably intended to ensure that 18-to-21-year-olds, who often seek exemptions based on being in higher education, are nonetheless “eventually forced to serve.” Although conscripts are currently officially barred from serving in Ukraine, “extra conscripts will free up a greater proportion of professional soldiers to fight,” the ministry added.
  • A group of European Union countries will sign an agreement Monday to buy artillery rounds for Ukraine, Reuters reported, citing an unidentified E.U. official. The pact aims to quickly provide Ukraine more of the 155mm shells it has said are a vital need, as it burns through rounds in a war of attrition.
  • A top Ukrainian military official said Russia has used most of its forces to try to encircle Bakhmut. Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, commander of the Ukrainian ground forces, wrote in a Telegram post Friday that the eastern city remains the epicenter of fighting, but fierce battles continue in Kreminna, Torske, Bilohorivka and Spirne.

Global impact

  • Ukraine sanctioned more than 400 individuals and companies, including prominent Iranian and Syrian individuals, Zelensky said Saturday. Most of the sanctions are on Russians, he added. The sanctions include freezes of assets held in Ukraine, restrictions on trade, the suspension of economic and financial obligations, and revocation of Ukrainian state awards, Russian state news agency Tass reported. Zelensky did not say what financial dealings, if any, the Iranian and Syrian individuals had in Ukraine.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Moscow next week to meet with Putin, in a major show of support for the Kremlin. While Beijing has claimed neutrality between Moscow and Kyiv, it has offered diplomatic support for the Kremlin and accused Washington of turning the conflict into a proxy war.
  • The United States said it would oppose any cease-fire proposal that could emerge from talks between Chinese and Russian leaders. “A cease-fire now is, again, effectively the ratification of Russian conquest,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters Friday, according to the Associated Press. Asked about the visit Friday, Biden said: “Well, we’ll see when that meeting takes place.”
  • The International Monetary Fund approved changes to its own policies to allow lending to countries facing “exceptionally high uncertainty,” in a move that could pave the way for billions of dollars in loans to Kyiv. The decision Friday did not mention Ukraine, but it will apply to situations “involving exogenous shocks that are beyond the control of country authorities and the reach of their economic policies.” Earlier this week, the IMF said it had made “very good progress” in its talks with Ukraine’s authorities, who are seeking a $15 billion multiyear program in what would be the biggest loan to a country involved in an active war, according to Reuters news agency.
  • There is “no danger of war coming to Moldova” as long as Ukraine holds out, Moldovan President Maia Sandu told lawmakers on Friday. Russia has allegedly engaged in efforts to overthrow the country’s pro-West government, and a missile launched at Ukraine recently entered Moldovan airspace, prompting flight cancellations.
  • Turkey is set to begin the process of ratifying Finland’s entry into NATO, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday in Ankara. Stockholm and Helsinki moved to join the trans-Atlantic alliance after last year’s invasion of Ukraine, but Erdogan is expected to withhold approval of Sweden’s bid. Accession requires the unanimous approval of all existing NATO members.

From our correspondents

War forces thousands of disabled Ukrainians into institutions: Thousands of elderly Ukrainians with disabilities, who were displaced after the Russian invasion, have been institutionalized. Stowed away in poorly resourced Soviet-era institutions with limited mobility, they are experiencing some of the war’s most shattering consequences, Steve Hendrix, Amanda Morris and Siobhán O’Grady report.

Viktor Krivoruchko, 54, was taken to a nursing home near the central city of Uman, where he said his passport was taken away, the air reeked of human excrement and the staff routinely failed to change the diaper on one of his roommates, a double amputee.

“It’s better for me to be under shelling than to be there,” Krivoruchko said. “It was living hell.”