AS IT HAPPENED

US backs calls for a demilitarised zone around Ukraine nuclear power plant

In this file photo taken on May 1, 2022, a Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar.
In this file photo taken on May 1, 2022, a Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar. © Andrey Borodulin, AFP

The United States supports calls for a demilitarised zone around Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after fighting involving Russian and Ukrainian forces in the vicinity of the plant, a State Department spokesperson said on Thursday. Read our live blog to see how all the day's events unfolded. 

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11:54pm: France urges Russia to immediately withdraw troops from nuclear plant

France is very concerned by the serious threat Russian troops pose to the safety and security of Ukrainian nuclear facilities, the French Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

Russia must immediately withdraw its troops from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and return full control of the plant to Ukraine, the ministry added.

11:12pm: Zelensky urges world to ‘react immediately’ on Russian-controlled nuclear plant

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday urged the international community to “react immediately” to force Russian forces to leave the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant targeted by shelling in recent days.

“The entire world must react immediately to chase out the occupiers from Zaporizhzhia,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

“Only the Russians’ full withdrawal... would guarantee nuclear safety for all of Europe,” he added, condemning “Russian nuclear blackmail”.

8:33pm: Russian officials trained in Iran as part of drone deal, State Department says

Russian officials conducted training in Iran during the last several weeks as part of an agreement on the transfer of drones between the two countries, US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said on Thursday.

US officials said last month that Washington believed Iran was preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred drones and that Russian officials had visited Iran to view attack-capable unmanned aerial vehicles.

6:54pm: Ukraine seeks to evacuate Donetsk before winter bites

Ukraine aims to evacuate two thirds of residents from areas it controls in the eastern battleground region of Donetsk before winter, partly out of concern people won't be able to stay warm amid war-damaged infrastructure, the deputy prime minister said on Thursday.

The government plans to evacuate some 220,000 people out of around 350,000, including 52,000 children, Iryna Vereshchuk told a news conference.

Late last month Ukraine announced the mandatory evacuation of people from Donetsk region, which has been the scene of fierce fighting with Russia, to save civilian lives.

6:14pm: US backs calls for a demilitarised zone around Ukraine nuclear power plant

The United States supports calls for a demilitarised zone around Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after fighting involving Russian and Ukrainian forces in the vicinity of the plant, a State Department spokesperson said on Thursday.

“Fighting near a nuclear plant is dangerous and irresponsible – and we continue to call on Russia to cease all military operations at or near Ukrainian nuclear facilities and return full control to Ukraine, and support Ukrainian calls for a demilitarised zone around the nuclear power plant," the spokesperson said.

UN secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier on Thursday called for an immediate end to military activity near the facility, Europe's largest nuclear power plant.

5:11pm: Radiation levels around Ukraine nuclear plant 'normal', pro-Russia official says

A pro-Russian official said Thursday radiation levels around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine remained normal after Kyiv and Moscow accused each other of striking the facility.

"No contamination has been recorded at the station, radiation levels are normal," the head of the Moscow-installed regional administration, Yevgeny Balitsky, said on messaging app Telegram.

He said among the infrastructure hit Thursday was a radioactive isotope storage facility. "Staff at the station have been instructed to move to protected premises," he added.

5:03pm: Russian state TV protester gets two months' house arrest

Former Russian TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova was placed under house arrest for two months on Thursday in a criminal case where she is charged with spreading fake news about Russia's armed forces, Interfax news agency quoted a Moscow court as saying.

Ovsyannikova has already been fined twice in separate cases for protesting against the war in Ukraine, including by interrupting a live national news bulletin in March, shouting "Stop the war!" and holding up a placard telling viewers not to believe state propaganda.

In the latest case, she faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of distributing information about the Russian army that differs from government accounts.

4:11pm: Ukraine, Russia accuse each other of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant strikes

Russia and Ukraine accused each other on Thursday of shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant ahead of an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to address global concerns over the facility.

Ukrainian forces "once again struck the Zaporozhzhia nuclear power plant," Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Moscow-installed regional administration, said on messaging app Telegram.

"The Russians shelled the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant again," Ukrainian nuclear agency Energoatom said in a statement.

A Russian military convoy is seen on the road toward the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station, in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, on May 1, 2022.
A Russian military convoy is seen on the road toward the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station, in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, on May 1, 2022. AP

3:37pm: First Ukraine grain deal ship docks in Turkey after Lebanese buyer refused delivery

The first grain ship to depart from Ukraine under a UN-brokered deal docked in Turkey on Thursday after 11 days at sea, Refinitiv data showed, and the ship's agent in Turkey said it would continue to Egypt after unloading part of its cargo.

The Razoni set sail from Ukraine's Odesa port on August 1 under a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey between Russia and Ukraine. Eleven other ships have left since then.

While the Razoni was initially headed to Lebanon's Tripoli, Ukraine's embassy in the country said the buyer had refused delivery due to a five-month delay and the ship was looking for a new customer.

3:31pm: Scholz wants gas pipeline linking south, central Europe

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Thursday he was seeking to shore up interest among European partners for a gas pipeline funnelling energy from southern to central Europe, as Germany scrambles to wind down Russian energy.

"I have been very active in talks with my two colleagues in Spain and Portugal, but also the French president and the president of the European Commission in advocating that we should take on such a project," he said.

A pipeline running through Portugal, Spain and France to central Europe is "conspicuously absent", the chancellor told journalists. If it existed, it would "now make a massive contribution to relieving and easing the supply situation".

3:20pm: Latvian parliament declares Russia 'state sponsor of terrorism'

Latvian MPs on Thursday declared Russia a "state sponsor of terrorism" whose actions in Ukraine constitute "targeted genocide against the Ukrainian people".

The statement MPs adopted said the parliament "recognises Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, and calls on other like-minded countries to express the same view".

Voting by 67 in favour and none against or abstaining in Latvia's unicameral legislature, MPs said they considered "Russia's violence against civilians committed in pursuit of political aims as terrorism".

2:11pm: Big Mac is coming back: McDonald's to reopen in Ukraine

McDonald's will start reopening restaurants in Ukraine in the coming months, a symbol of the war-torn country's return to some sense of normalcy and a show of support after the American fast-food chain pulled out of Russia.

The burger giant closed its Ukrainian restaurants after Russia's invasion nearly six months ago but has continued to pay more than 10,000 McDonald's employees in the country.

McDonald's said Thursday that it will begin gradually reopening some restaurants in the capital, Kyiv, and western Ukraine, where other companies are doing business away from the fighting. Western businesses like Spanish clothing retailers Zara and Mango are open in Kyiv.

1:32pm: UN chief urges immediate halt to military activity near Ukraine nuclear power plant

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called for an immediate end to military activity near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe's largest.

"I am calling on the military forces of the Russian Federation and Ukraine to immediately cease all military activities in the immediate vicinity of the plant and not to target its facilities or surroundings," he said in a statement.

1:30pm: Satellite pictures show devastation at Russian air base in Crimea

Satellite pictures released on Thursday showed devastation at a Russian air base in Crimea, hit in an attack that suggested Kyiv may have obtained new long-range strike capability with potential to change the course of the war.

Pictures released by independent satellite firm Planet Labs showed three near-identical craters where buildings at Russia's Saki air base had been struck with apparent precision. The base, on the southwest coast of Crimea, had suffered extensive fire damage with the burnt-out husks of at least eight destroyed warplanes clearly visible.

Russia has denied aircraft were damaged and said explosions seen at the base on Tuesday were accidental.

Ukraine has not publicly claimed responsibility for the attack or said exactly how it was carried out.

11:51am: Belarus dismisses reported explosions at airfield near Ukraine

Moscow's ally Belarus on Thursday played down reports of overnight explosions at a military airbase near the border with Ukraine that is said to be used by Russian troops.

"On August 10, at around 23:00 (2000 GMT), during a test run, a piece of equipment that had its engine replaced caught fire," the Belarusian defence ministry said in a statement. 

It added that the fire was extinguished "in a timely manner" and there were no casualties. 

Earlier, a Belarusian Telegram channel that monitors military activity said "explosions" were heard near the Zyabrovka airfield in southeastern Belarus. 

"At least eight flashes" were seen in the night of Wednesday to Thursday, it added.

Franak Viacorka, a senior advisor to Belarusian exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, said Russian military aircraft are often stationed at the airfield.

11:44am: Russia says Switzerland cannot represent its interests in Ukraine

The Russian foreign ministry said on Thursday that Switzerland could not represent Ukrainian interests in Russia and Moscow's interests in Ukraine because it is no longer a neutral country.

"Switzerland... has stopped being a neutral state and joined sanctions (against Russia)," Russian foreign ministry official Ivan Nechayev said.

11:40am: UK to send more rocket launcher systems to Ukraine

Britain will supply Ukraine with more multiple-launch rocket systems that can strike targets up to 80 km (50 miles) away.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the supply of weapons would help Ukraine defend itself against Russian heavy artillery.

"This latest tranche of military support will enable the Armed Forces of Ukraine to continue to defend against Russian aggression and the indiscriminate use of long-range artillery," Wallace said in a statement.

"Our continued support sends a very clear message, Britain and the international community remain opposed to this illegal war and will stand shoulder-to-shoulder, providing defensive military aid to Ukraine to help them defend against Putin's invasion."

11:11am: Latvian parliament declares Russia 'state sponsor of terrorism'

Latvian MPs on Thursday adopted a statement declaring Russia a "state sponsor of terrorism" and said its actions in Ukraine constituted "targeted genocide against the Ukrainian people".

The statement said the parliament "recognises Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, and calls on other like-minded countries to express the same view". 

The MPs also condemned its use of cluster munitions "to sow fear and indiscriminately kill civilians". 

Russia "uses suffering and intimidation as tools in its attempts to demoralise the Ukrainian people and armed forces and paralyse the functioning of the state in order to occupy Ukraine," the statement said.

7:30am: UN Security Council to discuss Ukraine nuclear plant crisis

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Thursday to address the crisis at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex, the power plant that Kyiv and Moscow accuse each other of having bombed, diplomatic sources said.

A source in the Security Council presidency, currently held by China, told AFP on Wednesday that the meeting would occur on August 11 at 3:00 pm (1900 GMT).

A second diplomatic source at United Nations headquarters in New York said the council's 15 member nations would gather at the request of Russia, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council — along with Britain, China, France and the United States — which hold veto power over UN resolutions.

6:10am: Fighting continues near Donetsk as Russia’s Donbas offensive grinds on

Heavy fighting raged around the eastern Ukrainian town of Pisky on Thursday as Russia pressed its campaign to seize all of the industrialised Donbas region.

An official with the Russia-backed Donetsk People’s Republic said Pisky, on the frontlines just 10 km (6 miles) northwest of provincial capital Donetsk, was under control of Russian and separatist forces.

“It’s hot in Pisky. The town is ours but there remain scattered pockets of resistance in its north and west,” the official, Danil Bezsonov, said on Telegram.

Ukrainian officials denied that the heavily fortified town, a key to the defence of Donetsk, had fallen. Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield accounts.

The Donbas region comprised of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces became Moscow’s main objective after it failed to seize the capital Kyiv at the start of the war in February. Luhansk is now almost completely under Russian control but Donetsk is still holding out.

5:27am: Russian-backed separatist leader says Azov trial to begin this summer

Denis Pushilin, head of the Russian-backed separatist administration in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region said on Wednesday that a trial of captured personnel from Ukraine’s Azov Regiment would take place by the end of the summer, likely in the city of Mariupol.

The Azov Regiment, a unit of Ukraine’s national guard with far-right and ultranationalist origins, garnered international attention for its resistance to the Russian siege of Mariupol’s vast steelworks.

After fighting for weeks from the bunkers and tunnels below the steel works, hundreds of Azov fighters surrendered in May to Russian-backed forces.

Though the Azov prisoners have not yet been formally charged, on Aug. 2 Russia’s supreme court ruled the regiment was a terrorist organisation, clearing the way for captured fighters to be charged as such.

Ukraine, which has itself tried and convicted a string of Russian soldiers for war crimes committed against civilians, says the Azov captives are prisoners of war, deserving of protection under the Geneva Conventions.

02:20am: Russian advance stalls in Donbas

“The Russians continue to press in the Donbas region, but for the last month or so, they’ve made very little progress,” reports FRANCE 24’s Chief Foreign Editor Rob Parsons. “We’re talking about kilometres in single figures. It’s very hard and they’re taking heavy losses.”

The Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kherson region has further complicated the military situation for Russia, Parsons explains:

© Reuters

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

 

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

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