Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 30 July – Sunday 6 August:

Early on Sunday morning, the Russian capital Moscow was the target of Ukrainian drone attacks. One was shot down in the city’s outskirts, while the other two smashed into an office complex after being “suppressed by electronic warfare”. Two office towers sustained damage, a security guard was injured and an airport was closed. The Ukrainian drone campaign continued on Tuesday with several drones shot down over the city. Also on Tuesday, Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement that, during the night, Ukraine had made an “unsuccessful attempt to attack the Sergei Kotov and Vasiliy Bykov patrol ships of the Black Sea fleet with three unmanned sea boats”. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky previously said that attacks on Russian territory were an “inevitable, natural and absolutely fair process”. Ukraine launched twice as many drones into Russia between May and July as it did in all of 2022. Ukraine reportedly plans to invest $1bn in drone warfare this year, 10 times what it spent last year.

On Sunday, Typhoon Doksuri (Korean for ‘eagle’) – and the most powerful typhoon of the year – was downgraded to a storm. Doksuri made landfall in China on Friday, after smashing through the Philippines and Taiwan. Despite the downgrade, Doksuri remained powerful and tens of thousands were forced to evacuate from Beijing and other cities. Some 170.9 millimeters (6.73 inches) of rain inundated Beijing between Saturday night and noon Monday, the Beijing Meteorological Bureau said. This is the amount of rainfall for the entire month of July, according to official records.

On Tuesday, Poland accused Belarus of violating its air space with two military helicopters during a Belarusian military exercise. The Belarusian defence ministry dismissed these claims as “far-fetched” and said “there were no violations of the airspace by the Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters”. Poland was aware of the military exercises, but says the border crossing took place at a “very low altitude, making detection by radar systems difficult”. Poland has deployed troops and combat helicopters to the region, further raising tensions. Some in Poland, including Polish opposition leader – and former President of the European Council – Donald Tusk, accused the ruling party of using Wagner’s presence to stoke fear before upcoming elections. Since the transferral of thousands (~4,000) Wagner troops to Belarus, there has been increased activity near a thin strip of land known as the Sulwalki Gap, a strategic chokepoint between Poland and Lithuania that separates Belarus from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad (formerly, and perhaps rightfully, the German/Prussian Königsberg). Kaliningrad is the westernmost Russian territory, and likely holds nuclear weapons that would be used on Western capitals in the event of nuclear war (Iskander nuclear-capable missiles were confirmed to be present by Russian officials in 2018). On Thursday, during a meeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda in the Sulwalki Gap, the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said “We need to be aware that the number of provocations will rise…The Wagner group is extremely dangerous and they are being moved to the eastern flank to destabilise it.”

On Wednesday, Typhoon Kanun arrived in the south-western Japanese island chain of Okinawa in the . The slow-moving storm knocked out power, injured dozens and killed one. Flights were grounded and evacuation orders were issued. 

On Wednesday, Russia continued its campaign to destroy Ukrainian grain infrastructure, targeting the port of Ismail on the Danube River. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command said they intercepted 11 drones, but the attacks managed to hit a grain elevator and grain silos. 40,000 tons of grain was destroyed at the port, which are across the river from NATO member Romania. 

On Friday, Ukrainian naval drones struck the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, and damaged the landing ship Olenegorsky Gornyak. 

On Saturday, former Pakistani Prime Minister and cricketer Imran Khan was arrested after a court found him guilty of selling state gifts received during visits abroad. He has been sentenced to three years in prison for selling more than 140 million Pakistani rupees ($497,500) worth of state gifts received during his premiership from 2018 to 2022. The objects allegedly included watches, perfumes, diamond jewellery and dinner sets. Khan has said he had legally purchased the items. Khan was arrested from his residence in Lahore, Pakistan, with police surrounding his home. He was transferred to the capital Islamabad, before being held at Central Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi – Pakistan’s military capital. In a video recorded before his arrest and posted on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) Khan called on his supporters to take to the streets in protest: “I only have one request, one appeal for you. You must not sit quietly inside your homes. The struggle I am doing is not for my own self, it’s for my nation, for you. For the future of your children…If you don’t stand up for your rights, you will live lives of slaves and slaves don’t have a life”. Khan accused current army chief General Asim Muni and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif of conspiring to oust him from politics – the so-called “London Plan” (Sharif lives in exile in London). 

On Saturday, a Russian tanker carrying chemicals was struck by a Ukrainian drone in the Black Sea, as Kiev has increasingly used drones to target Russian assets. The tanker’s engine room was breached near the waterline and tugboats were deployed to assist the vessel (which is sanctioned by the U.S. for supplying Russian forces in Syria). 

On Saturday, a summit began in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with senior officials from 42 countries present with the aim of drafting key principles on how to end the war in Ukraine. Russian officials were not present. The meeting in Saudi Arabia follows on from a gathering of senior officials in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, in late June. Countries that attended the initial meeting included Brazil, India, Turkey and South Africa. Though Saudi Arabia has maintained close relations with Russia as part of the OPEC+ group, the hosting of this summit helps raise the profile of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is attempting to end regional conflicts with Iran and Yemen. Representative from BRICS nations (seen as more supportive of Russia) were present, with Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui representing China. Ukraine has hoped to convince China, which has declared its neutrality, to endorse Zelensky’s peace plan. The summit was also a chance for Ukraine to appeal to other neutral nations like India and Brazil and other Global South countries, by emphasising how food prices have risen after Russia exited the Black Sea grain deal. After the summit concluded on Sunday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s head of staff, Andriy Yermak, called the Jeddah talks “very productive,” while Moscow called the meeting a doomed attempt to sway the Global South behind Kiev. On Sunday, Yermak announced that Ukraine will begin talks with the U.S. next week on a bilateral agreement on security guarantees. 

On Sunday, the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) deadline for the release and return to power of deposed President Mohamed Bazoum expired. ECOWAS, made up of fifteen West African nations, has threatened a military intervention if the group’s demands were not metd by 23:00 GMT on Sunday. In an address to the nation on Wednesday, the new military ruler, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, lashed out at neighbouring countries and the international community and called on the population to be ready to defend the nation. On Thursday, Niger ‘s ruling junta and civil society groups called on the nation to mobilize in the capital on Thursday to fight for the country’s freedom and push back against foreign interference. Crowds of hundreds marched through the streets of Niger’s capital, Niamey, singing songs and waving placards hailing the country’s self-declared new leader Abdourahmane Tchiani. They booed “imperialist France” as well as the ECOWAS.

In the week ahead:

Eyes will be on Niger and whether there will be an ECOWAS military intervention.