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Russia-Ukraine live updates: First UN-chartered ship loaded with Ukrainian wheat set to depart for Africa

(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 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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