Your Wednesday briefing


A day after the European Union agreed to punish Russia with an oil embargo, European leaders announced a €9 billion aid package for Ukraine and began tackling a blockade of Ukrainian crops that threatens a global food crisis.

The agreement to ban most Russian oil imports by the end of the year exempts Hungary, whose leader, Viktor Orban, maintains friendly ties with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

As European leaders concluded a two-day summit in Brussels, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the developing global food crisis was “only Russia’s fault”, which has taken or blocked Ukraine’s entire Black Sea. . ports, preventing 22 million tons of grain from leaving.

The Russian foreign minister will visit Turkey next week to discuss whether the grain may be released.

To the ground: Fighting raged in Sievierodonetsk on Tuesday as Russian troops advanced into the center of the city, the latest in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine that remains outside Russian control.

The army: A new Russian commander, General Aleksandr Dvornikov, was sent to Ukraine in April to oversee a refocused invasion in the east. US officials say he is repeating the same mistakes in the new campaign that forced Russia to give up its attempt to conquer the entire country.

Finance: European officials are urging the US to seize more than $300 billion in Russian central bank assets and give that money to Ukraine. But that could be illegal, US officials warn, and could discourage other countries from relying on the US as a haven for investment.

In late March, Malian soldiers in pursuit of Islamist militants arrived in the village of Moura and executed hundreds of men. But the soldiers were not alone. They were joined by members of the shadowy Russian paramilitary group known as Wagner, according to diplomats, officials and human rights groups.

In Moura, Malian soldiers and their Russian allies looted houses, held villagers captive in a parched riverbed and executed between 300 and 400 people, mostly civilians, according to witnesses and analysts. The Malian authorities hailed the Moura attack as a major victory in their fight against extremist groups, claiming to have killed 203 fighters but without reporting any civilian casualties.

The death toll in Moura is the highest in a growing list of human rights violations by the Malian army, which diplomats and human rights monitors say have increased since the army began conducting joint operations with the Wagner Group in January.

context: Since the Wagner Group appeared in Ukraine in 2014, employees have been identified working in Libya, Syria and countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The group also mines diamonds, spreads disinformation and supports autocrats in an effort to increase Russia’s footprint.

Governments of Israel and the United Arab Emirates yesterday signed a free trade agreement that, once ratified, would be the most comprehensive agreement of its kind between Israel and an Arab country.

The speed with which the deal took shape — it was sealed less than two years after formal ties between Israel and the Emirates were established — underscores the readiness with which Israel is now accepted by some Arab leaders after years of diplomatic isolation.

The deal will lead to the elimination of tariffs on 96 percent of goods traded between the two countries within five years. Bilateral trade was worth $885 million by 2021, Israel’s Ministry of Economy said. The free trade agreement could increase the annual value of trade to USD 10 billion within five years, the Ministry of Economy of the Emirates said.

Background: Israel was banned for decades by all but two Arab countries amid an unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But in 2020, Israel has established or improved relations with Bahrain, the UAE, Morocco and Sudan, reflecting a shift in those countries’ priorities away from a Palestinian state to building a united front against Iran.

Whatever your connection (or lack thereof) with baseball, you’re bound to find something you like in the Savannah Bananas. This Georgia summer collegiate team has amassed a huge following by leaning towards entertainment, including dancing on the field. They also carry stilts, crowd surf and sing karaoke.

The Banana method works. While Major League games can sometimes draw fewer than 3,000 fans, the Bananas have sold out every home game at their 4,000-seat stadium since the team’s inception in 2016.

Cuba’s amateur boxing program is the best in the world: fighters have won 15 Olympic medals since 2012, compared to nine for the US at that time.

Now, 60 years after the island nation banned professional sports, Cuban boxers are on the hunt for prizes. In May, Cuba’s communist government blessed a move to allow boxers to fight professionally.

The move increases the opportunities for competition. But money is also important. The national team’s base salary is just 3,500 Cuban pesos a month, the equivalent of a dollar a day, while each Olympic gold medal earns a fighter the equivalent of $300 a month for life.

Under a deal with Golden Ring, a Mexican promotional company, boxers will keep 80 percent of each fight’s net pay. The rest is divided among coaches, medical staff and the national federation.

The athletes interviewed by The Times seemed happy with the new arrangement and said they hoped the deal would stem a wave of defections that has escalated in their sport in recent years.

This ham and jam sandwich is an extension of the Parisian sandwich known as jambon beurre: jam for sweetness, ham for salt, and Dijon mustard for a bit of spice.

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