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Zelensky Orders Donetsk Evacuation as Forces Counter in South

Ukraine accused Russia of further war crimes over an explosion at a prisoner-of-war camp in Russian-held territory.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Smoke rises from rubble in Ukraine.
Smoke rises from rubble in Ukraine.
Smoke rises from the rubble of a building destroyed by a Russian rocket in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, amid the Russian invasion on July 29. BULENT KILIC/AFP

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at the latest from Ukraine, Iraq’s parliament protests, and the world this week.

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Zelensky Orders Donetsk Evacuation 

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at the latest from Ukraine, Iraq’s parliament protests, and the world this week.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Zelensky Orders Donetsk Evacuation 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered the evacuation of the Donetsk region as fighting continues to rage in the east of the country following Russia’s capture of Luhansk in early July.

The decision affects at least 200,000 people still remaining in Donetsk’s Ukrainian-held east, and Zelensky promised financial and logistical support for those that heeded his call. The sooner it is done, the more people leave Donetsk region now, the fewer people the Russian army will have time to kill, Zelensky said.

Zelensky’s announcement follows requests from other Ukrainian authorities. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the evacuation was necessary now before winter sets in and the region is without gas. On July 5, Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko also asked residents to leave to help streamline the war effort.

Despite Russia’s grinding assault, three of Donetsk’s largest cities—Bakhmut, Slovyansk, and Kramatorsk—are still in Ukrainian hands.

In the Donetsk town of Olenivka, Ukrainian officials have called for independent investigators to assess the aftermath of an explosion at a camp set up for Ukrainian prisoners of war that reportedly killed at least 53 inmates. Ukraine accused Russia of shelling the site to cover up evidence of war crimes, whereas Russian officials said Ukraine targeted its own men.

Further south, Ukrainian counterassaults in the Russian-held regions Kherson and Zaporizhzhia come as Russia appears to be redeploying troops from Donetsk to reinforce those areas. Speaking last week, Zelensky advisor Oleksiy Arestovych said the massive redeployment of Russian forces signaled a shift from attack to defense on Russia’s part.

Ukraine’s operations in those southern regions are part of a bid to cut off access to Crimea, which is crucial to supplying Russian troops. On Sunday, Russian officials on the peninsula said five people were injured when a drone attacked the Black Sea headquarters of the Russian Navy, forcing a cancellation of Russia’s Navy Day celebrations there.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s fight to export its food continues. On Sunday, Zelensky said the country’s typical harvest could be cut in half this year. Although shipments resumed today, with the first ship sailing from Odesa, safety there is not assured: On Saturday night, Oleksiy Vadatursky, founder of Ukrainian grain company Nibulon and one of Ukraine’s richest businessmen, was killed in a Russian strike in the port city of Mykolaiv.

As FP’s Robbie Gramer and Christina Lu report, safety is only one of the challenges still remaining to get Ukraine’s grain out to the world.


The World This Week

Monday, Aug. 1: Military forces from the United States, Japan, and South Korea begin ballistic missile detection and tracking exercises that run through Aug. 14.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida participates at the review conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in New York.

Wednesday, Aug 3: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken begins a three-day visit to Cambodia to participate in the foreign ministers meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

OPEC+ oil ministers meet in Vienna.

Thursday, Aug 4: ASEAN foreign ministers meet bilaterally with counterparts from China, Russia, India, and the United States.

Friday, Aug 5: Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia.

The ASEAN Regional Forum foreign ministers meeting opens.

Saturday, Aug 6: Blinken travels to the Philippines, where he’s expected to meet with new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Sunday, Aug 7: Colombian President-elect Gustavo Petro begins his term.

Blinken travels to South Africa, where he will launch the U.S. strategy for sub-Saharan Africa.


What We’re Following

Pelosi in Singapore. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in Singapore today on the first leg of her Asia trip. According to a statement from her office, Pelosi is set to visit Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan on her travels, but it did not mention Taiwan. FP’s Emma Ashford and Matthew Kroenig debated whether the stated U.S. policy of strategic ambiguity is outdated in last week’s It’s Debatable column, and FP’s Jack Detsch explained why Pelosi’s possible Taiwan trip has become a no-win situation.

Iraq’s parliament protests. Protesters supporting Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are camped out in Iraq’s parliament for the third straight day today after hundreds of people stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone on Saturday. Sadr has called the actions “a great opportunity to radically challenge the political system, the constitution, and the elections,” but he has yet to appear in parliament himself.


Keep an Eye On

Serbia-Kosovo tensions. Kosovo has delayed a law requiring Serbs in the country to use Kosovo license plates after late night protests in which shots were fired at police, leading authorities to close two border crossings between Kosovo and Serbia. “The overall security situation in the Northern municipalities of Kosovo is tense,” NATO-led mission to Kosovo KFOR said in a statement.

Sri Lanka’s IMF deal. Sri Lanka’s deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be pushed back until September, new President Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Saturday, citing the upheavals of the past few weeks. Sri Lanka resumed talks with the IMF on Friday in a deal that will likely include a loan of at least $3 billion from the lenders extended fund facility.

Iran-Taliban tensions. The Taliban said at least one of their soldiers was killed in a border clash with Iranian forces on Sunday. Details about the incident are scarce other than it occurred on the border between Afghanistans Nimroz province and Irans Hirmand region. Iranian media said the fighting began after Afghan forces tried to raise a flag “in an area which is not Afghan territory.”


Odds and Ends

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has called on tie-wearers in his government and throughout society to free themselves from their silk and polyester prisons and go tieless—to keep cool and save electricity.

A tie-free Sánchez suggested the sartorial innovation ahead of his government’s energy efficiency and savings program, which is expected to be approved today. Sánchez’s call tracks with other tweaks to save on cooling power in Spain’s heat, such as the air conditioners at the Ecological Transition Ministry now running at a balmy 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 Fahrenheit).

Correction, Aug. 1, 2022: A previous version misstated the size and location of cities in the Donetsk region that are still in Ukrainian hands.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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