Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

UN Secretary-General urges Russia not to cut Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant from Ukrainian grid

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attend a meeting, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Lviv, Ukraine, on August 18, 2022.

Presidential Press Service of Ukraine | Reuters

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Moscow not to cut Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant from the national power grid, following reports that Russia planned to do so.

“Obviously, electricity from Zaporizhzhia is Ukrainian electricity… This principle must be fully respected,” the UN chief said from the port city of Odesa during a visit to Ukraine. He also called for immediate demilitarization.

Russian troops have occupied the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is the largest in Europe, since March. International leaders have warned of a possible catastrophe due to the bombing and instability at the plant, where Ukrainian staff still work but under Russian surveillance.

Only two of the plant’s six reactors are working at full capacity and several of their power lines have been damaged by bombing. Before the war, it provided 20% of Ukraine’s electricity.

Russian officials have previously talked about disconnecting the Zaporizhzhia plant from the Ukrainian grid and connecting it to Russia’s electricity system. Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom said, however, that such a plan would take years.

– Natasha Turak

“The world is on the verge of a nuclear disaster,” says Zelenskyy

A serviceman wearing a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during the Ukraine-Russia conflict outside the Russian-held town of Enerhodar in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region on 4 August 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the world is on the brink of nuclear disaster as tensions rise over the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

“The world is on the brink of nuclear disaster due to the occupation of the third largest nuclear power plant in the world at Energodar in the Zaporizhzhia region,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter.

Russian forces took control of Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, shortly after a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“How long will it take the world community to respond to Russia’s irresponsible actions and nuclear blackmail,” Zelenskyy added on Twitter.

— Amanda Macias

Explosions and fires were reported at military posts in Russia and Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine

On August 16, 2022, waves of smoke and explosions erupt from a Russian ammunition depot in Dzhankoi.

Marie-laure Messana | AFP | Getty Images

Explosions and fires have been reported at military installations in Russia and the territory it occupies in Ukraine, suggesting more sabotage attacks behind enemy lines. Ukraine has not publicly claimed responsibility for any of the incidents, and Russia has so far not acknowledged that its bases were attacked.

In the Russian province of Belgorod, near the border with Ukraine, two villages had to be evacuated due to a fire in an ammunition depot. “An ammunition depot caught fire near the village of Timonovo” about 30 miles from the Ukrainian border, but there were no casualties, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a statement.

Several explosions were also reported in Crimea, the third such incident on the Russian-occupied peninsula in less than two weeks, near Russia’s Belbek air base. Russian authorities say there was no damage or casualties. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukraine is believed to be stepping up its counteroffensive in the south, which is heavily occupied by Russian forces. The strategy involves blowing up supply routes, vital bridges and military sites used by Russia to supply its forces in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned civilians to stay away from Russian military installations.

– Natasha Turak

Russia wants to disconnect Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant from grid, Ukraine says, warning of ‘provocation’

Rescuers from the Ministry of Emergencies of Ukraine attend an exercise in the city of Zaporizhzhia on August 17, 2022, in the event of a possible nuclear incident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant located near the city.

Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images

Russia wants to disconnect Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, from the power grid, Ukraine’s nuclear power agency Energoatom said, warning that Moscow was laying the groundwork for a “provocation on a grand scale.”

Russian forces have controlled the plant since March and it has been the site of months of shelling, prompting international leaders to sound the alarm about the risks of a nuclear catastrophe.

“There is information that the Russian occupation forces plan to close the power blocks and disconnect them from the power supply lines in the Ukrainian power system in the near future,” Energoatom said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

“The Russian military is currently looking for fuel suppliers for the diesel generators, which are supposed to be fired after the power units have been shut down in the absence of an external power source for the cooling systems of the nuclear fuel,” the statement said.

Moscow, meanwhile, accused Kyiv of planning a “provocation” at the site, saying Ukraine is bombing its own nuclear facility to blame Russia. Ukrainian and Western officials warn that it is a sign that the Russian military may be preparing for a “false flag attack”.

– Natasha Turak

Finland says Russian MiG fighter jets may have violated its airspace

Two Russian MiG-31 fighter jets are suspected of violating Finnish airspace, Finland’s Defense Ministry said.

“The depth of the alleged violation in Finnish airspace was one kilometer” over the city of Porvoo on Finland’s southern coast and lasted about two minutes, said the ministry’s communications chief, Kristian Vakkuri. Vakkuri added that the possible violation occurred at 6:40 am GMT on Thursday, or 9:40 am local time, and the planes were flying west.

The ministry did not say whether the planes were escorted.

Russian MiG-31 supersonic interceptor aircraft carrying Kinzhal hypersonic missiles fly over Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9, 2018.

Yuri Kadobnov | AFP | Getty Images

Finland’s air force activated an “operational flight mission”, identifying the MiG jets, and its Border Guard has opened an investigation into the incident, the ministry added.

Finland and Russia share an 800-mile border, and Helsinki has warned of Russian provocations to come as the Nordic country awaits full approval of its NATO bid, which reverses decades of its historically non-aligned position on Russia

– Natasha Turak

Kharkiv is one of the most attacked cities in Ukraine, according to the UK

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, is one of the most bombed cities in the country because it is directly in the line of fire from Russia, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence update on Twitter.

The front line in that area has not moved much since May, the ministry said, but “sitting about 15 km (9.3 miles) from the Russian front line, Kharkiv has suffered because it remains within range of most types of Russian artillery. Multiple rocket. launchers and generally inaccurate area weapons have wreaked havoc on large parts of the city.”

Rescue workers inspect the site of a hostel destroyed as a result of a missile attack in Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv on August 17, 2022.

Sergei Bobok AFP | Getty Images

On Wednesday, Russian missile attacks on residential areas of Kharkiv killed at least 12 civilians, Ukrainian authorities said. There is still less than half the pre-war population of 1.4 million people; the rest have fled to other countries or other parts of Ukraine.

Russian forces “are likely trying to force Ukraine to maintain significant forces on this front, to prevent them from being used as a counter-attack force elsewhere,” the ministry wrote.

– Natasha Turak

Xi and Putin will meet at this year’s G-20 summit

This photo captures Putin’s visit to Beijing in early February 2022. According to reports, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin will meet at this year’s G-20 summit in Bali, according to a longtime adviser to Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Alexei Druzhinin | AFP | Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin plan to attend this year’s G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, a longtime adviser to Indonesian President Joko Widodo told Reuters.

All G-20 leaders were invited including Putin, despite launching an unprovoked war in Ukraine. Western countries have since called on Indonesia to withdraw its invitation to Putin.

Indonesia has also invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the summit.

—Natalie Tham

State Department condemns ‘Russia’s reckless disregard for nuclear security’

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price faces reporters during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, March 1, 2021.

Tom Brenner | Reuters

The US reiterated its concern about Russia’s military takeover and continued control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency must be given access to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as soon as possible and in a manner that respects the full sovereignty of Ukraine to help ensure the safety and security of the plant and the surveillance of its nuclear material,” the State Department spokesman said. Ned Price said during a daily press conference.

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms Russia’s reckless disregard for nuclear safety and security,” Price said, adding that Washington and its allies “call on Russia to cease all military operations at the facilities nuclear facilities in Ukraine or in their vicinity”.

Price also urged Russia to allow IAEA inspectors access to the nuclear plant facility.

Russian forces seized control of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant shortly after a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

— Amanda Macias

“Any potential harm to Zaporizhzhia is suicide,” says the UN Secretary-General

A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Energodar on May 1, 2022. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, seized by Russian forces in March, is located in southeastern Ukraine and is the largest in Europe and among the 10 largest in the world.

Andrey Borodulin | Afp | Getty Images

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant should be demilitarized immediately.

Guterres, speaking alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said “any potential harm to Zaporizhzhia is suicide.”

“Military equipment and personnel must be removed from the plant. The deployment of forces or equipment to the site must be avoided,” he added.

Guterres urged all parties to approve the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog, to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

— Amanda Macias

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