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Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

Aug 3 (Reuters) - A deal between Russia and Ukraine to unblock Ukrainian grain exports may offer a way forward to a ceasefire in the five-month conflict, said former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

GRAIN/ECONOMY/DIPLOMACY

* The first grain-carrying ship to leave Ukrainian ports in wartime anchored off Turkey's coast on Tuesday, while a senior official said Ankara expected roughly one grain ship to leave Ukraine daily as long as the export deal holds.

* "A first success is the grain deal, perhaps that can be slowly expanded to a ceasefire," Schroeder said.

* Russia said the United States was directly involved in the conflict because U.S. spies were approving and coordinating Ukrainian missile strikes on Russian forces.

* The United States imposed sanctions on Alina Kabaeva, a former Olympic gymnast the Treasury Department described as having a close relationship with Putin.

* The G7 is looking at blocking the transportation of Russian oil among other options to deprive Moscow of bumper revenues.

FIGHTING

* Ukraine's military reported heavy Russian shelling of Kharkiv and other towns and villages in its vicinity, as well as air and missile strikes on civilian installations. Russia denies targeting civilians.

* Ukraine's president said that despite arms supplies from the West, his country's forces could not yet overcome Russian advantages in heavy guns and manpower.

* The rail link connecting Russian-occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine with Crimea is highly unlikely to be operational due to a Ukrainian strike against a Russian ammunition train, Britain said.

* Russia's top court designated Ukraine's Azov Regiment as a terrorist group, a Reuters correspondent in the courtroom said, paving the way for captured soldiers to be tried under stringent anti-terror laws and be jailed for up to 20 years.

* Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russian forces had destroyed six U.S.-made HIMARS missile systems since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, Interfax reported.

* The Pentagon denied that. Russia regularly says it has hit HIMARS but has not shown proof.

* Reuters was not able to immediately verify battlefield reports. (Compiled by Himani Sarkar)

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