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332293

Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

Aug 16 (Reuters) - Moscow denounced sabotage and Ukraine hinted at responsibility for new explosions on Tuesday at a military base in the Russian-annexed Crimea region that is an important war supply line.

FIGHTING

* Russia blamed saboteurs for orchestrating a series of explosions at an ammunition depot in Russian-annexed Crimea, a rare admission that armed groups loyal to Ukraine are damaging military logistics and supply lines on territory it controls.

* Plumes of black smoke were seen on Tuesday at a Russian military airbase near the settlement of Hvardiyske in the centre of Russian-controlled Crimea, Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported.

* Russia has "no need" to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, its defence minister said on Tuesday, describing media speculation that Moscow might deploy nuclear or chemical weapons in the conflict as "absolute lies".

* Britain said on Tuesday that Russia's Black Sea Fleet is currently struggling to exercise effective sea control, with patrols generally limited to the waters within sight of the Crimean coast.

* Reuters could not confirm battlefield reports independently.

DIPLOMACY

* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Tuesday he had discussed "Russia's nuclear terrorism" at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during a call with French President Emmanuel Macron.

* Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States on Tuesday of whipping up tensions in Asia, describing a visit to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a "thoroughly planned provocation".

* Finland will slash the number of visas issued to Russians to 10% of the current amount from Sept. 1, foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said on Tuesday, amid a rush of Russian tourists bound for Europe.

* Estonia will remove all public Soviet memorials in its majority Russian-speaking city of Narva, the government said on Tuesday, citing rising tensions in the city and accusing Russia of trying to exploit the past to divide Estonian society.

FOOD

* The ship Brave Commander has left the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi, carrying the first cargo of humanitarian food aid bound for Africa from Ukraine since Russia's invasion, Refinitiv Eikon data showed on Tuesday.

* Ukraine can export 3 million tonnes of grain from its ports in September and may in the future be able to export 4 million tonnes from them monthly, Deputy Infrastructure Minister Yuriy Vaskov said on Tuesday.

* The winter grain area sown by Ukraine could fall by 30% to 60% in 2023 without state assistance and an increase in grain exports, UABC agriculture union director Roman Slastyon said on Tuesday.

* A third of Ukraine's refineries will not operate in the coming sugar production year due to war and high gas prices, producers' union Ukrtsukor said on Tuesday.

QUOTE

"A reminder: Crimea (as a) normal country is about the Black Sea, mountains, recreation and tourism, but Crimea occupied by Russians is about warehouse explosions and high risk of death for invaders and thieves," tweeted Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak. "Demilitarisation in action." (Compiled by Nick Macfie)

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