(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.
The Russian military has since launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, capturing the strategic port city of Mariupol and securing a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Aug 18, 12:04 PM EDT
Russia rejects calls to create demilitarized zone around Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
The international calls and proposals for Russia to create a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine are “unacceptable,” according to Ivan Nechayev, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department.
“Their implementation will make the plant even more vulnerable,” Nechayev said at a press briefing on Thursday.
Moscow is expecting experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations, to visit the Zaporizhzhia plant “in the near future,” according to Nechayev.
The secretary-generals of the U.N. and the IAEA have called for the establishment of a demilitarized zone around the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia plant, which is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
Shortly after invading neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian troops stormed the Zaporizhzhia plant, near the town of Enerhodar, on the banks of the Dnipro River in the country’s southeast. The Ukrainian workers have been left in place to keep the plant operating, as it supplies electricity across the war-torn nation. However, heavy fighting around the site has fueled fears of a catastrophe, like what happened at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine over 36 years ago.
Aug 18, 9:34 AM EDT
Firefighter describes destruction after deadly strikes in Kharkiv
A Ukrainian firefighter who responded to the Russian missile attacks in Kharkiv overnight told ABC News that the scale of the blasts was “one of the biggest” he’s ever seen.
One of the rockets struck a large apartment block on Wednesday night, killing at least nine people and injuring another 16, according to Ukrainian authorities.
“It went through all four floors and hit the ground and almost blew up everything,” the firefighter, Roman Kachanov, told ABC News during an interview on Thursday. “All the buildings around were without windows.”
“There was a dormitory, and the building was almost completely ruined,” he added. “There was a playground that was smashed like a big titan blew it up.”
Kachanov is among the rescue workers searching for survivors amid the smoldering rubble.
“I’ve seen three bodies on the floor covered by objects,” he said. “We tried to extract them and while we tried, the other wall started to fall and we had to run away as fast as we can.”
Kachanov said another missile hit the city before dawn Thursday, not far from where he and his team were working. He said the blast “was very loud” and “sounded close.”
“Everyone had to lay down,” he recalled. “The team had to split — fire truck had to leave to go to that other fire.”
-ABC News’ Britt Clennett, Dragana Java, Natalya Kushnir and Sohel Uddin
Aug 17, 5:40 PM EDT
Large apartment block struck in Kharkiv, at least 7 dead
At least seven people are dead and another 13 injured by strikes on a large apartment block in Kharkiv, officials said.
Based on recovered shrapnel, authorities determined an Iskander-M missile system was used in the strike, said Ivan Sokol, Ukraine’s director of the regional Department of Civil Defense.
Search and rescue efforts are ongoing at the three-story residential building, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine said.
-ABC News’ Tatiana Rymarenko
Aug 15, 1:49 PM EDT
Shelling resumes near power plant, both sides claim the other is firing
More shelling was underway Monday in city of Enerhodar, which is under Russian control and where the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is located.
Enerhodar Mayor Dmytro Orlov urged residents to stay inside. He said Russian forces seized another government facility in Enerhodar, a lab where 30 of the employees are refusing to cooperate with the Russian-appointed administration.
Meanwhile, Russia’s semi-official Interfax reported that Ukrainian forces opened fire in Enerhodar.
Ukraine’s state nuclear regulator Energoatom said the plant remained occupied and controlled by Russian forces on Monday. The Ukrainian staff continues to work and make every effort to ensure nuclear and radiation safety, but Energoatom warned that periodic shelling by Russian troops with multiple rocket launchers since last week caused a serious risk to the safe operation of the plant.
-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou, Fidel Pavlenko, Natalia Shumskaia and Yulia Drozd
Aug 15, 5:53 AM EDT
Griner to appeal Russian conviction, lawyer says
Brittney Griner’s defense team filed an appeal for the verdict by Khimky City Court, according to Maria Blagovolina, a partner at Rybalkin Gortsunyan Dyakin and Partners law firm.
The WNBA star was found guilty on drug charges in a Moscow-area court this month.
-ABC News’ Tanya Stukalova
Aug 14, 4:44 PM EDT
1st UN-chartered ship loaded with Ukrainian wheat set to depart for Africa
The first UN-chartered ship loaded with Ukrainian wheat is set to head for Africa from the near the port city Odesa, Ukrainian officials said Sunday.
The MV Brave Commander is loaded with 23,000 tons of wheat that will be shipped to Ethiopia as part of a mission to relieve a global food crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has halted grain exports for months, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Alexander Kubrakov announced at a news conference.
Kubrakov said the UN-chartered ship is scheduled to leave the Pivdenny port near Odesa on Monday.
“When three months ago, during the meeting of the President of Ukraine (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy and the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Kyiv the first negotiations on unlocking Ukrainian maritime ports began, we have already seen how critical it is becoming a food situation in the world.” Kubrakov wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday. “This especially applies to the least socially protected countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, for whom Ukraine has always been a key importer of agro-production.”
He said Ethiopia is in desperate need of Ukrainian grain.
“This country has been suffering from record drought and armed confrontation for the second year in a row,” Kubrakov said. “Ukrainian grain for them without exaggeration — the matter of life and death.”
He said he hopes the MV Brave Commander will be the first many more grain shipments under the U.N. World Food Program.
Aug 12, 2:28 PM EDT
‘They treat us like captives’: Exiled Zaporizhzhia manager on conditions at plant
An exiled manager at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant told ABC News that the Ukrainian staff is treated “like captives.”
Oleg, who asked to be referred by a pseudonym, said he felt threatened by the Russian soldiers.
“They didn’t say, ‘I’m going to shoot you now,’ but they always carry guns and assault rifles with them,” said Oleg, who managed one of 80 units at the plant but was able to leave last month. “And when an assault rifle or a gun has a cocked trigger, I consider it as a threat.”
Amid reported shelling in the vicinity of the plant, Oleg said he was primarily concerned about its spent fuel containers, “which are in a precarious position, and they are not shielded well.”
-ABC News Dragana Jovanovic, Britt Clennett, Nataliya Kushnir and Sohel Uddin
Aug 11, 4:43 PM EDT
UN secretary-general calls for all military activities around nuclear power plant to ‘cease immediately’
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “calling for all military activities” around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant in southern Ukraine “to cease immediately,” and for armies not “to target its facilities or surroundings.”
Ukraine’s nuclear regulator Energoatom said Russian forces shelled the plant for a third time on Thursday, hitting close to the first power unit. Earlier on Thursday, Energoatom said five rockets struck the area around the commandant’s office, close to where the radioactive material is stored.
Yevgeny Balitsky, the Russian-installed interim governor of Zaporizhzhya Oblast, issued a statement claiming Ukrainian forces struck the plant, hitting close to an area with radioactive material.
Guterres said he’s appealed to all parties to “exercise common sense” and take any actions that could endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
“Instead of de-escalation, over the past several days there have been reports of further deeply worrying incidents that could, if they continue, lead to disaster,” he said, adding that he’s “gravely concerned.”
Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, pleaded with the U.N. Security Council Thursday to allow for an IAEA mission to visit the plant as soon as possible. He said the situation at the plant is deteriorating rapidly and is “becoming very alarming.”
-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou, Fidel Pavlenko, Natalya Kushnir and Natalia Shumskaia
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