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EU adopts new sanctions against Russia including coal import ban

The European Union on Friday formally adopted its fifth package of sanctions against Russia since the country’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, including bans on the import of coal, wood, chemicals and other products.

The measures also prevent many Russian vessels and trucks from accessing the EU, further crippling trade, and will ban all transactions with four Russian banks, including VTB.

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The ban on coal imports will be fully effective from the second week of August. No new contracts can be signed from Friday, when sanctions are to be published in the EU’s official journal.

Existing contracts will have to be terminated by the second week of August, meaning that Russia can continue to receive payments from the EU on coal exports until then.

“These latest sanctions were adopted following the atrocities committed by Russian armed forces in Bucha and other places under Russian occupation,” EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said in a statement.

The Kremlin has said that Western allegations Russian forces committed war crimes by executing civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha were a “monstrous forgery” aimed at denigrating the Russian army.

The coal ban alone is estimated by the Commission to be worth eight billion euros a year in lost revenues for Russia. That is twice as big as the EU Commission’s head Ursula von der Leyen had said on Tuesday.

In addition to coal, the new EU sanctions ban imports from Russia of many other commodities and products, including wood, rubber, cement, fertilizers, high-end seafood, such as caviar, and spirits, such as vodka, for a total additional value estimated in 5.5 billion euros ($5.9 billion) a year.

The EU also restricted export to Russia of a number of products, including jet fuel, quantum computers, advanced semiconductors, high-end electronics, software, sensitive machinery and transportation equipment, for a total value of 10 billion euros a year.

The sanctions also forbid Russian companies from participating in public procurement in the EU and extend prohibitions in the use of crypto-currencies that are considered a potential means to circumvent sanctions.

The Commission said that another 217 people were added to the EU blacklist as part of the new sanctions package, meaning their assets in the EU will be frozen and they will be subject to travel bans in the EU.

Most of them are political leaders of the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, but the sanctions also hit top businessmen, politicians and military staff close to the Kremlin.

This brings close to 900 the number of people sanctioned by the EU since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” the country.

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IAEA loses transmission from Ukraine’s Russian-held nuclear plant surveillance system

The UN atomic watchdog said on Wednesday it had again lost its connection to its surveillance systems keeping track of nuclear material at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe’s largest, which the watchdog wants to inspect.
“The fact that our remote safeguards data transmission is down again –- for the second time in the past month –- only adds to the urgency to dispatch this mission (to Zaporizhzhia),” the
International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

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The connection was lost on Saturday “due to a disruption of the facility’s communication systems,” it added.

Read more: UN watchdog ‘concerned’ about Ukraine nuclear plant access

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Anti-coup protesters in Sudan shot dead: Report

Four protesters were killed in Sudan on Thursday, medics said, as large crowds took to the streets despite heavy security and a communications blackout to rally against the military leadership that seized power eight months ago.

In central Khartoum, security forces fired tear gas and water cannon as they tried to prevent swelling crowds from marching towards the presidential palace, witnesses said.

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They estimated the crowds in Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Bahri to be in the tens of thousands. In Omdurman witnesses reported tear gas and gunfire as security forces prevented protesters from crossing into Khartoum.

The protests mark the third anniversary of huge demonstrations during the uprising that overthrew long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir and led to a power-sharing arrangement between civilian groups and the military.

Last October, the military led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan toppled the transitional government, triggering rallies that have called on the army to quit politics.

Some protesters carried banners calling for justice for those killed in previous demonstrations. Others chanted, “Burhan, Burhan, back to the barracks and hand over your companies,” a reference to the Sudanese military’s economic holdings.

Earlier, protesters barricaded some of the capital’s main thoroughfares with stones and burning tires.

It was the first time in months of protests against the October coup that internet and phone services had been cut. After the military takeover, extended internet blackouts were imposed in an apparent effort to hamper the protest movement.

Staff at Sudan’s two private sector telecoms companies, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities had ordered them to shut down the internet once again on Thursday.

Bridges shut

Phone calls within Sudan were also cut and security forces closed bridges over the Nile linking Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri – another step typically taken on big protest days to limit the movement of marchers.

In recent days there have been daily neighborhood protests in the build-up to Thursday’s rallies.

On Wednesday, medics aligned with the protest movement said security forces shot dead a child during protests in Bahri. Thursday’s four deaths, all in Omdurman, brought the number of protesters killed since the coup to 107.

There was no immediate comment from Sudanese authorities.

The United Nations envoy in Sudan, Volker Perthes, called this week on authorities to abide by a pledge to protect the right of peaceful assembly. “Violence against protesters will not be tolerated,” he said.

Military leaders said they dissolved the government in October because of political paralysis. As a result, however, international financial support agreed with the transitional government was frozen and an economic crisis has deepened.

Burhan said on Wednesday the armed forces were looking forward to the day when an elected government could take over, but this could only be done through consensus or elections, not protests.

Mediation efforts led by the United Nations and the African

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UN: Almost 16 million people in Ukraine need humanitarian aid

As Russia presses on with its invasion of Ukraine, some 16 million people inside the country need humanitarian aid, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine said Thursday.

“Almost 16 million people in Ukraine today need humanitarian assistance: water food, health services,” Osnat Lubrani told a press briefing.

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Six million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes for other parts of the country since the war started, though around 5 million have since returned, she said.

But “many know that they might be forced to flee again,” she added.

Over 5.3 million more Ukrainians have fled abroad, Lubrani said.

She said the UN tally of casualties since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 was likely much higher.

“The number we have of almost 5,000 civilians killed and more than 5,000 injured is just a fraction of the frightening reality,” she said.

She also said it was “extremely difficult if not… impossible” for humanitarian groups to access areas that are no longer under Kyiv’s control.

Lubrani called on Russia and Ukraine “to do more to protect the people of this country and to make our work possible.”

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