Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 231

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Damaged Nord Stream pipeline will take a year to fix: Head of Gazprom

Alexei Miller, head of Russian natural gas company Gazprom, stated that the damaged Nord Stream pipelines would take at least a year and that Russia had still not been granted access to the area of damage.

Speaking at the Russian Energy Week conference in Moscow, Miller also echoed a call made by President Vladimir Putin that Russia could redirect supplies intended for the damaged Nord Stream pipelines to a new European gas hub in Turkey.

Power to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant restored: IAEA chief

External power to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been restored after it was lost on Wednesday morning following the shelling of a substation, Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a tweet.

“I’ve been informed by our team on site that external power to Zaporizhzhya NPP is restored,” he wrote.

“ZNPP’s operator says this morning’s outage was caused by shelling damage to a far off sub-station, highlighting how precarious the situation is. We need a protection zone ASAP,” he added.

In a tweet earlier Wednesday, Grossi stated plant has lost off-site power for the second time in five days and had to switch to generators.

‘Allies have provided air defence, but we need even more’: NATO chief

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg commented on Russian escalation and Ukrainian air defence to reporters, as he arrived for the Brussels meeting.

On escalation

“Over the last weeks, we have seen the most serious escalation of the war since the invasion in February. Russia is mobilising tens of thousands of new troops. They are trying to illegally annex new Ukrainian lands. And we have seen the indiscriminate strikes against Ukrainian cities,” he said.

“And then, of course, we also have heard the veiled nuclear threats coming from Moscow,” Stoltenberg added.

On air defence

“Allies have provided air defence, but we need even more,” he continued.

“We need different types of air defence, short range, long range air defence systems to take ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, drones, different systems for different tasks. And then, of course, Ukraine is a big country, many cities. So we need to scale up to be able to help Ukraine defend even more cities and more territory against horrific Russian attacks against their civilian populations,” the chief stressed.

In three words, Ukraine’s defence chief says what he wants from NATO

As he arrived for the NATO meeting, Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov had a brief exchange with a reporter.

The journalist asked: “What do you expect from NATO today?”

He replied: “Air defence systems.”

Ukraine urges west to recognise Russia’s aggression as genocide

Mykhailo Podolyak, a presidential adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky, has called on the west to officially recognise Russia’s aggression and acts in Ukraine as genocide.

Russian forces have committed attacks on civilian infrastructure, mass executions and rape, forced deportations, separated families and destroyed Ukrainian literature in schools, Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

Putin says Russia is ready to start gas supplies via link of Nord Stream 2 pipeline

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated on Wednesday that Russia is ready to start gas supplies via a link on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that remains operational but it is the EU’s decision if they want it.

“Russia is ready to start such supplies. The ball is in the court of the EU. If they want, they can just open the tap,” Putin said in his annual address to the Russian Energy Week forum.

The pipeline had yet to enter commercial operations. The plan to use it to supply gas was scrapped by Germany days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a multimillion dollar project that was designed to transport Russian gas to the EU. It was intended to deliver 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year – more than 50% of Germany’s annual consumption – and could have been worth as much as $15 billion to Gazprom, the Russian state-owned company that controls the pipeline, based on its average export price in 2021.

Nord Stream 1, on the other hand, was operational but Russia has been shutting off supply or decreasing it throughout the summer. However, it had been shut for weeks when western nations reported leaks in the two pipelines, saying it was likely the result of sabotage.

“The pipeline that runs through the Baltic Sea can be repaired obviously but it will make sense only in case there is further use if they are economically justified and definitely when the security is guaranteed,” Putin noted.

“If together with our European colleagues we take together the decision to supply gas through the remaining one link of Nord Stream 2. Apparently it still remains operational, unfortunately we are not allowed to test it,” he added.

Putin: Ukrainian special services were behind Crimea Bridge blast

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed on Wednesday that Ukraine’s special services were behind an attack that damaged the Crimean Bridge last Saturday.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) announced earlier it had detained five Russians and three citizens of Ukraine over the blast on the bridge, which Putin has called an act of terror.

Putin also noted that the major leaks which erupted in the Nord Stream gas pipelines in late September were an “act of international terrorism.”

“[This] was aimed to undermine the energy security of a whole continent,” Putin said.

The attacks set a “dangerous precedent” and show that “any piece of critical transport or infrastructure is at risk now,” he added.

European authorities are investigating the cause of the leaks but have said they suspect an act of sabotage.

Ukraine reclaims five settlements in key region of Kherson

Ukraine announced it had reclaimed five more settlements in the key southern region of Kherson as Kyiv continues its counteroffensive drive in the face of mass Russian missile strikes.

In its daily report, the presidency said Ukrainian armed forces had liberated Novovasylivka, Novogrygorivka, Nova Kamyanka, Tryfonivka and Chervone.

It comes as Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks along the front line as offensives were extinguished in Mykolaivka, Soledar, Bakhmutske, Bakhmut, Mayorsk, Pervomaiske and Krasnohorivka.

The victories for Ukraine have also come at a cost for the Russians – in the form of medics and the Ukrainian defence ministry noted, “As a result of the successful actions of the Defence Forces of Ukraine and due to the large number of wounded, there is a shortage of medical workers in the temporarily occupied territories of the Luhansk region.

“In order to replenish the staff of hospitals, the self-proclaimed leadership of the region sent a request for the secondment of medical personnel from the central and eastern regions of the Russian Federation,” it added.

Kremlin calls on G7 to hold Kyiv to account

Russia hopes G7 nations hold “the Kyiv regime” accountable for the crimes it has committed, the Kremlin has announced.

Moscow’s comments came after the G7 pledged to continue providing support to Ukraine, adding in a statement after a leaders’ call that any use by Russia of nuclear weapons would be met with severe consequences.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin also said that there was no “new wave” of men being drafted after some regional officials reported they were stepping up mobilisation efforts.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters to check with individual regional governors regarding their plans.

EU price cap will harm market: Russia

Russia’s Deputy Energy Minister Pavel Sorokin said that a price cap on Russian oil suggested by Western countries would harm the whole oil market.

At the Moscow Energy Week conference, Sorokin stated that Russia would not cooperate with countries that impose such a measure.

While Russian oil imports into the European Union and United Kingdom fell 35 percent to 1.7 million barrels per day (BPD) in August from 2.6 million BPD in January, the bloc is still the biggest market for Russian crude, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Russian investigation into bridge blast is ‘nonsense’: Ukraine

A senior Ukrainian official has called Russia’s investigation into an explosion on the Kerch Bridge in Crimea “nonsense”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed Ukraine’s security forces for the explosion, and Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said it had arrested five Russians and three citizens of Ukraine and Armenia over the blast.

“The whole activity of the FSB and Investigative Committee is nonsense,” Ukraine’s interior ministry spokesman Andriy Yusov stated when asked about Moscow’s allegations on the Crimea bridge blast.

Yusov described the FSB and Investigative Committee as “fake structures that serve the Putin regime, so we will definitely not comment on their next statements”.

At least seven dead after shelling of Avdiivka market in eastern Ukraine

At least seven people have died and eight more wounded after Russian forces shelled a market in the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka, said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional military administration.

“The Russians hit the central market, where there were many people at that moment,” he wrote on Telegram.

“There is no military logic in such shelling — only an unbridled desire to kill as many of our people as possible and intimidate others,” he added.

Kremlin spokesperson claims NATO chief admitted fighting on Ukraine’s side

Recent comments from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg constitute an admission that NATO is fighting on Ukraine’s side against Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday.

“NATO is not party to the conflict. But our support is playing a key role,” Stoltenberg stated during a news conference Tuesday.

Peskov has previously warned that the involvement of NATO, and therefore the US, would be “extremely dangerous.”

On September 28 he noted that the US is getting closer to becoming a party to the conflict.

“More and more, the American side is getting into this conflict, getting closer to becoming a party to the conflict, which is extremely dangerous,” Peskov told reporters.

Stoltenberg also said Tuesday that NATO has enhanced the protection of critical infrastructure following the suspected sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines in late September.

“Any deliberate attack against allies’ critical infrastructure would be met with a united and determined response,” he stated.

Stoltenberg went on to add that “hybrid and cyber attacks can trigger Article 5,” though he stressed that he could not comment on specific incidents while investigations were ongoing

Article 5 is the principle that an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all members, triggering collective defensive action.

Kremlin calls West’s nuclear rhetoric ‘provocative’

Western leaders’ rhetoric over the potential use of nuclear weapons is “provocative”, the Kremlin has announced.

A spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “We express our daily regret that Western heads of state – the US as well as European – engage in nuclear rhetoric every day.”

“We consider this a pernicious and provocative practice. Russia does not want to take part in these exercises and does not take part in them,” he added.

The G7 warned of “severe consequences” if Russia uses nuclear weapons following a call with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

President Joe Biden previously warned the world is its closest point to a nuclear war since the Cuban missile crisis.

President Vladimir Putin noted in a video address that he was “not bluffing” about using nuclear weapons to defend his country’s territories.

Pope Francis condemns ‘relentless bombings’ of Ukrainian cities

Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned Russia’s “relentless bombings” of Ukrainian cities and appealed to “those who have the fate of the war in their hands” to stop.

He was quoted as saying “My heart is always turned to the people of Ukraine, especially those living in places hit by the bombing.”

The Pope prayed for an intercession that “may change the hearts of those who have the fate of the war in their hands, so that they may cease this wave of violence and rebuild peaceful coexistence.”

Leak found on key Russian oil pipeline to Germany: Polish operator

Polish operator PERN has announced it’s discovered a leak on the Druzhba pipeline section, which supplies Russian oil to Germany.

The rupture was detected late on Tuesday by automated systems on one of the two strings of the pipeline, some 70 kilometers from the town of Plock in central Poland, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

The damaged half was switched off immediately, and the other string continues to operate as normal, the company added.

“At this point, the causes of the incident are not known,” PERN said, adding that its staff and firefighters were deployed to the site to assess the situation and secure the area.

There are no grounds to suspect that the leak on the pipeline was a result of sabotage, Mateusz Berger, Poland’s top official in charge of energy infrastructure, told Reuters.

“Here we can talk about accidental damage,” he noted.

Transneft, the Russian operator of the Druzhba pipeline network, has confirmed that PERN notified it about the leak.

The Druzhba pipeline is one of the largest oil transport networks in the world, spanning some 4,000km and bringing oil from Russia to Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany.

The leak on the Druzhba pipeline follows explosions that were detected in late September on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, connecting Russia to the EU via Germany. The incident is widely considered to be the result of sabotage.

Ex-president: NATO admitted it’s at war with Russia

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg may have inadvertently admitted that the Western military alliance is at war with Moscow, at least in the eyes of former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

At issue is Stoltenberg’s statement on Tuesday that a military victory for Russia in Ukraine would be a defeat for NATO.

Medvedev called the comment “an open confirmation of NATO’s participation in the war against our country – an unwise, but pure-hearted remark. The honest Norwegian fellow has finally admitted it.”

Stoltenberg, formerly prime minister of Norway, made his comments in a press briefing as NATO ministers prepared to meet on Wednesday with Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov. Among other issues, the ministers will discuss how to meet Kiev’s “urgent needs” and shore up their own weapons stockpiles after shipping billions of dollars’ worth of military aid to Ukraine in hopes of helping to defeat Russian forces.

“There’s an urgent need for air defense, but of course also many other capabilities – precision-guided ammunition, HIMARS and other advanced, modern, NATO-standard systems,” Stoltenberg said of Ukraine’s aid requests.

He added that NATO members are providing unprecedented support because “they understand that we have a moral, political and security interest in ensuring that Ukraine wins the war against President Putin.”

Russian officials have pointed out that providing more advanced weaponry to Ukraine, such as multiple rocket launcher (MRL) systems, will increase the risk of triggering a wider conflict. “The fastest way to bring the conflict in Ukraine to the point of no return is to arm the psychos in Kiev with longer-range MRLs,” Medvedev stated.

“The elderly leaders of Washington and NATO upstarts must use their softened brains at least sometimes,” he added.

Stoltenberg insisted that NATO is “not a party to the conflict,” even as it plays a “key role.”

He vowed that the bloc will stand with Ukraine “as long as it takes” to defeat Russia.

“It is important for all of us that Ukraine wins the battle, the war against the invading Russian forces, because if Putin wins, that is not only a big defeat for Ukrainians, but it will be a defeat and dangerous for all of us,” he said.

The NATO chief also accused Putin of “reckless nuclear rhetoric,” contributing to “the most significant escalation since the start of the war.” However, when asked whether the risk of a miscalculation amid heightened tensions with Russia prompted NATO members to consider canceling or modifying the bloc’s planned nuclear drill next week, he noted, “Now is the right time to be firm and to be clear that NATO is there to protect and defend all allies.”

IAEA: repeated loss of off-site power at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant ‘deeply worrying’

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency has described developments at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP), which has lost off-site power, as “deeply worrying”.

Rafael Grossi tweeted, “Our team at the ZNPP informed me this morning that the plant has lost all of its external power for the second time in five days. Its back-up diesel generators are now providing electricity for its nuclear safety and security functions. This repeated loss of the ZNPP’s off-site power is a deeply worrying development and it underlines the urgent need for a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the site.”

The ZNPP has been occupied by Russian forces but operated by Ukrainian staff since early in Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has claimed to have “annexed” Zaporizhzhia, and stated it intends to take the plant under its own operational framework.

Russia sustains losses in southern Ukraine

Russian troops have sustained equipment and personnel losses in Ukraine’s south, the Kyiv Independent reported, citing Ukraine’s Operational Command.

“Ukraine’s Operational Command ‘South’ reported that they completed over 300 fire missions, targeting and damaging two Russian Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers and an APC,” the Kyiv Independent wrote on Twitter.

Russia detains 8 people over Crimea bridge attack

Russian authorities have detained eight people in connection with the deadly blast that damaged the only bridge between annexed Crimea and the Russian mainland on Saturday, state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported Wednesday.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed the “terrorist attack” was organized by the main intelligence department of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, its head Kyrylo Budanov, and its employees and agents.

“At the moment, five citizens of Russia, three citizens of Ukraine and Armenia, who participated in the preparation of the crime, have been detained as part of a criminal case,” RIA reported, citing a report by the FSB and Russia’s Investigative Committee.

The report did not reveal where the suspects had been detained.

The FSB report said the explosive device, weighing nearly 23 metric tons, was hidden in polyethylene construction film, RIA reported. Russian officials had earlier claimed the explosion was caused by a truck blowing up on the road bridge.

The FSB report added the explosive device had been sent from the Ukrainian port of Odesa in early August through countries including Bulgaria, Georgia and Armenia, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

Ukraine has yet to publicly comment on the new claims by Russia’s FSB and Investigative Committee.

An explosion early Saturday killed three people and severely damaged parts of the Crimean bridge. Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the blast on the enormous 19-kilometer (about 12-mile) road and rail link, which was was opened by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018.

Biden says he doesn’t believe Putin would risk using a nuclear weapon

After US President Joe Biden warned last week that the risk of nuclear “Armageddon” was at its highest point since the Cuban Missile Crisis, he told CNN on Tuesday he doesn’t believe President Vladimir Putin would ultimately take that step.

“I don’t think he will,” Biden said when asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper whether the Russian leader would use a tactical nuclear weapon — a prospect US officials have watched with concern as Russian troops suffer embarrassing losses on the battlefield.

“I think it’s irresponsible for him to talk about it, the idea that a world leader of one of the largest nuclear powers in the world says he may use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine,” Biden added.

The American president stated even Putin’s threats have a destabilizing effect and warned of the potential errors in judgment that could ensue.

“The whole point I was making was it could lead to just a horrible outcome,” he told Tapper.

“And not because anybody intends to turn it into a world war or anything, but just once you use a nuclear weapon, the mistakes that can be made, the miscalculations, who knows what would happen,” Biden continued.

“He, in fact, cannot continue with impunity to talk about the use of a tactical nuclear weapon as if that’s a rational thing to do,” Biden added later.

“The mistakes get made. And the miscalculation could occur, no one can be sure what would happen and could end in Armageddon,” the president underscored.

Biden refused to disclose what a US response would look like should Putin follow through on his nuclear threats. But he underlined the Department of Defense had proactively developed contingencies should the scenario come to pass.

“What is the red line for the United States and NATO, and have you directed the Pentagon and other agencies to game out what a response would be if he did use a tactical nuclear weapon or if he bombed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine or anything along those lines?” Tapper asked.

“There’s been discussions of that, but I’m not going to get into that. It would be irresponsible of me to talk about what we would or wouldn’t do,” Biden said.

“Have you asked the Pentagon to game it out, though?” Tapper asked.

“The Pentagon didn’t have to be asked,” the US president added.

Biden said he believed Putin is a “rational actor” who nonetheless badly misjudged his ability to invade Ukraine and suppress its people.

“I think he is a rational actor who has miscalculated significantly,” the US president told Tapper as Russian bombardments on civilian targets in Ukraine signaled another turning point in the months-long war.

Biden noted he doesn’t see a good reason to sit down with Putin at next month’s Group of 20 Summit in Indonesia.

Energy minister: About 30% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been hit by Russian missiles since Monday

Around 30% of energy infrastructure in Ukraine has been hit by Russian missiles since Monday, Ukraine’s Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said.

The minister told CNN that this was the “first time from the beginning of the war” that Russia has “dramatically targeted” energy infrastructure.

He noted one reason is because Ukrainian electricity exports to Europe “helps European countries to save on Russian gas and coal,” adding that Ukraine is trying “to reconnect quickly from the other sources.”

On Monday, the Ukrainian government urged people across the country to “limit” their energy use. Asked whether Ukraine would receive extra energy from Europe, Halushchenko stated that was “one of the options on the table.”

The minister added that the Ukrainian energy system “is still stable,” but called on partners to provide “air protection systems which really could help us to protect our infrastructure.”

“We send this message to our partners: we need to protect the sky,” he said, adding, “Russians they are not playing on some games on international laws. They don’t care about any kind of international agreements or conventions.”

The Russian defense ministry on Tuesday confirmed it’s targeting Ukrainian military and energy facilities in attacks.

Zelensky: More than half of Russian missiles and drones fired on Tuesday were shot down

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said more than half the missiles and drones that Russia fired on Tuesday were brought down.

In his daily video address, Zelensky noted that 20 of the 28 missiles that were fired on Tuesday morning were shot down.

He paid tribute to one soldier, Dmytro Shumskyi, for bringing down two Russian cruise missiles on Monday using a shoulder-held anti-aircraft missile.

“If not for today’s strikes, we would have already restored power, water supply and communications, which terrorists damaged yesterday. And today Russia will achieve only one more thing: delay our restoration a little bit,” Zelensky stated.

The Ukrainian president added the power supply and communications have been restored in most of the impacted towns and villages.

“In some cities and districts, the works are still ongoing,” he said, noting that there were some restrictions in the power supply in some areas to maintain the stability of the power system.

Zelensky added that Ukraine would be meeting its partners in Germany on Wednesday to address Ukraine’s military needs.

“I expect our partners to make progress in the issue of air and missile defense, agreements on the new supply of other weapons and ammunition we need,” he continued.

US officials press more than 100 countries to approve UN resolution condemning Russia’s annexation of Ukraine

US Secretary of State Tony Blinken and State’s Undersecretary for Political Affairs Toria Nuland met the DC diplomatic corps – representing more than 100 countries — in virtual meetings on Tuesday to urge them to support a Untied Nation resolution condemning Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories.

This is the latest effort by the Joe Biden administration to maintain global continuity of support for Ukraine.

“This is about collectively saying no to a direct violation of the UN Charter, to say no to an attempt to steal land for the threat force and to steal land through the use of force,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

The vote is expected to take place at an emergency UN General Assembly meeting in the coming days. It comes at a critical moment in the war, with Russia increasing its attacks and Europe heading into a winter during which an energy crisis threatens to test support for Ukraine.

Biden administration officials have their eyes set on getting 100 votes in favor of the resolution, one administration official noted.

But earlier this year the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the vote was 141 nations in favor of the move and five nations against it, with 35 abstaining. If there are fewer supporters on this vote, it may be the reason for concern, some diplomats acknowledged.

The resolution will need yes votes from two-thirds of the attending countries to pass, US officials added.

While Russia is expected to oppose the resolution, the US will be watching for which other countries oppose it as well. And there are some possible detractors that the US is watching closely, specifically India. India abstained from a UN Security Council vote on the same topic last week.

Zelensky: G7 promised ‘justice’ for Ukraine

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said leaders of the G7 powers have promised Ukraine its attackers will be “brought to justice”.

In his nightly video address, Zelensky referred to “new sanctions, new forms of political pressure and new forms of support for Ukraine.”

The president noted G7 leaders had stated those responsible would be held accountable, starting with “the current political leadership of Russia and ending with everyone who serves these terrorist interests”.

Russian comments on talks with West not ‘constructive, legitimate’ offer: US

Washington does not see Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s comment that Moscow is open to talks with the West over the war in Ukraine as a “constructive, legitimate offer” to engage in dialogue, US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price has said.

Lavrov stated earlier on Tuesday that Moscow was open to talks but had yet to receive any serious proposal to negotiate.

Price noted during a regular press briefing that if Russia was serious about talks, a first step would be to stop its “brutal assault” on Ukraine.

“We do not see this as a constructive, legitimate offer to engage in the dialogue and diplomacy that is absolutely necessary to see an end to this brutal war of aggression,” Price added.

IAEA chief urges Ukraine nuclear safe zone at meeting with Putin

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has renewed calls for a protection zone around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during a meeting with Putin.

“There is no time to lose,” Rafael Grossi said after the talks in St Petersburg.

He added the situation around the Russian-occupied nuclear plant was “increasingly dangerous, unstable and challenging” because of frequent military attacks in the area.

Grossi has proposed establishing a ceasefire zone to avoid a nuclear accident. Demilitarisation with troop withdrawals is not part of the plan.

Vladimir Putin said Russia was ready to discuss the situation, adding, “In any case, we are open to this dialogue and glad to see you.”

Putin tells IAEA chief Moscow ‘open to dialogue’ on nuclear plant

President Vladimir Putin has told United Nations nuclear agency chief Rafael Grossi he is “open to dialogue” on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is in territory controlled by Moscow’s forces in southern Ukraine.

In televised comments with Grossi ahead of their meeting in St Petersburg, Putin told the head of the IAEA he was “ready to discuss all issues of mutual interest or cause for concern, for example, regarding the situation around the Zaporizhzhia power plant” and said he was “open to this dialogue”.

A statement by the IAEA released after the meeting announced that Grossi was due to meet with Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv “later this week” for further talks regarding Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant.

US says working to expedite shipment of air defence systems to Ukraine

The United States is working to expedite the shipment of sophisticated NASAMS air defence systems to Ukraine, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby has noted.

US President Joe Biden pledged to President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday that Washington would provide the advanced air systems after a deadly missile barrage from Russia.

Ukraine urges civilians to save energy after Russian strikes

Ukraine is urging civilians not to use domestic appliances like ovens and washing machines to save electricity as millions faced blackouts after the biggest Russian attack on its energy network since the war broke out in February.

The government announced residents of 300 settlements in the Kyiv region and a similar number in the Lviv region woke up on Tuesday to find they had no electricity.

A further 200 settlements in the northeastern region of Sumy and more than 100 in the Ternopil region of western Ukraine were also without power.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal stated Ukrainians had voluntarily cut their electricity consumption by an average of 10 percent on Monday after Russia’s attacks. He urged them to limit use between 5pm and 11pm (14:00 and 20:00 GMT) on Tuesday.

Ukraine says dozens of civilian bodies exhumed in recaptured Donetsk towns

Ukraine says it has recovered the remains of dozens of civilians killed during Russia’s occupation of two towns in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

“In the liberated towns of Sviatohirsk and Lyman, law enforcement officers discovered the sites of mass burials of civilians,” the prosecutor general said in a statement, adding that 34 bodies were exhumed in Sviatohirsk and another 44 in Lyman.

Ukraine receives first of four German air defence systems: Source

Ukraine has received the first of four IRIS-T air defence systems Germany promised to supply, a German defence ministry source has announced, confirming a report by Der Spiegel magazine.

The delivery had taken place earlier than planned, the source added.

The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

G7 promises to hold Putin ‘to account’ for missile attacks

Leaders of the G7 countries condemned Russia’s most recent missile attacks on cities across Ukraine and said, “We will hold President Vladimir Putin and those responsible to account.”

“We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms and recall that indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilian populations constitute a war crime,” they said in a statement after talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The G7 also warned Belarus against any further involvement in the conflict.

Zelensky has told G7 leaders Putin still had “room for escalation” after two days of widespread aerial strikes on cities across Ukraine, including Kyiv.

“The Russian leader, who is now in the final stage of his reign, still has room for further escalation,” Zelensky said, adding that this is “a threat to all of us”.

Zelensky also mentioned the involvement of Belarus in the conflict and stated, “Russia is trying to directly draw Belarus into this war, playing a provocation that we are allegedly preparing an attack on this country”.

“A mission of international observers may be stationed on the border of Ukraine and Belarus to monitor the security situation,” he added, calling on diplomats to work out the details of a deployment with G7 backing.

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