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August 15, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news
By Kathleen Magramo, Amy Woodyatt and Hafsa Khalil, CNN
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the world to introduce tough sanctions as a response to Russia's "nuclear blackmail" around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
"Provocative shelling of the territory of the plant continues. Under cover of the plant, the invaders are shelling nearby towns and communities. The Russian military hides munitions and equipment at the facilities of the plant. The station is de facto mined," Zelensky said during his evening video address on Monday.
"It is necessary to move from discussions and calls to new tough sanctions against Russia, against 'Rosatom' and the entire nuclear industry of the terrorist state. All Russian forces must immediately withdraw from the territory of the station and neighboring areas without any conditions," he added.
Ukraine's president claimed that Russia “ignores” the security demands of 42 countries that called on it to withdraw its forces from the station.
"Any radiation incident at the Zaporizhzhia NPP can be a blow to the countries of the European Union, and to Turkey, and to Georgia, and to countries from more distant regions. Everything depends on the direction and strength of the wind. If a catastrophe occurs due to Russia's actions, the consequences can hit even those who remain silent for the time being," Zelensky said.
"And if now the world lacks the strength and determination to protect one nuclear plant, it means that the world will lose. Lose to terrorists. Yield to nuclear blackmail," he added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called attempts to cancel Russian culture and Russia itself "futile" in a video address to the Tavrida.ART festival held in Crimea on Monday.
"It is just stupid. And those who think otherwise, unfortunately for them, have not learned the lessons of history," Putin added.
Putin noted that this year the festival team also includes people from the "liberated territories" — from the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics.
"Today, you are together, ready to join efforts to achieve common goals, and it means that you know that to be strong, you need to be together. The entire rich, thousand-year history of Russia teaches this," he said.
He thanked for the support to the "Russian heroes" — volunteers and fighters in Donbas.
"We know all difficulties and trials are a time of new opportunities, and we often talk about it. It is a time to be daring, it is true, and you are just that," said Putin.
More background: Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and considers Crimea part of its territory. Kyiv and its allies do not recognize the annexation and consider the peninsula Ukrainian territory under Russian occupation.
Donbas blankets much of eastern Ukraine, and has been the front line of the country's conflict with Moscow since 2014. The city of Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics are territories currently under Russian control.
CNN's Petro Zadorozhnyy, Vasco Cotovio and Josh Pennington contributed to this report.
European leaders on Monday discussed a potential Schengen or European Union visa ban for Russian citizens.
It was important to impose sanctions on "those who are responsible for the war, and a lot of oligarchs and those who are financially and economically profiting from this Putin regime, and we will continue to do so,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters at a joint press conference in Oslo.
However he urged that leaders should “also understand that there are a lot of people fleeing from Russia because they disagree with the Russian regime. … And all the decisions that we make should not make it more complicated for them to go for freedom and to leave the country, to get away from their leadership and the dictatorship in Russia."
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin disagreed. She noted that while it is "not a black and white issue,” she understood “the frustration that people have now in Europe about Russians traveling like nothing has happened.”
“I think it’s not right that Russian citizens can travel, enter Europe, enter the Schengen area, be tourists, see the sights while Russia is killing people in Ukraine. It’s wrong," she said, adding that leaders would need to discuss the matter in the European Council and amongst Schengen area — which is a zone where 26 European countries — members.
The Prime Minister of Norway — a Schengen member but not, however, in the European Union — pointed that Russians have "limited" opportunity to travel because of severe air restrictions imposed by Europe.
He also added that travel allowed Russians to gain a different perspective on the war in Ukraine.
“They get a black and white picture in Russia because of the propaganda. So Russians being in other parts of the world, seeing this conflict from the other side, getting other information is also a perspective that needs to be taken into account,” Jonas Gahr Støre told reporters.
The United Nations has denied allegations by Russians it blocked or canceled a visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine.
Here is the full statement by Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the UN secretary-general:
"In the past few days, there have been repeated comments by various Russian officials accusing the United Nations Secretariat of having either cancelled or blocked a visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
I want to clarify a few points. First, the IAEA is a specialized agency that acts in full independence in deciding how to implement its specific mandate.
Second, the UN Secretariat has no authority to block or cancel any IAEA activities.
Third, in close contact with the IAEA, the UN Secretariat has assessed that it has in Ukraine the logistics and security capacity to be able to support any IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant from Kyiv, should both Russia and Ukraine agree."
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held a phone call with UN Secretary General António Guterres on Monday, when the two discussed conditions for safe operation of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to the statement published by the Russian defense ministry.
According to the statement, Shoigu and Guterres also spoke on the functioning of the "fact-finding mission" regarding the attack on a pre-trial detention center in Olenivka. They also discussed UN initiatives to simplify conditions for export of Russian food products and fertilizers.
The Russian military took over key administration buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Enerhodar on Monday, Enerhodar Mayor Dmytro Orlov posted to telegram.
Thirty-three workers refused to cooperate with the Russian military and will not go to work tomorrow, he said.
“The occupiers continue to seize objects and enterprises in Enerhodar, establish their own rules, and pressure workers,” Orlov wrote.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is the largest nuclear power facility in Europe, is located in the town of Enerhodar.
Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief warned that the fighting near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant "could lead to very serious consequences."
The Ukrainian government says its demining forces have detected and defused more than 180,000 explosive devices since the beginning of Russia's invasion in February.
Yevhenii Yenin, the first deputy interior minister, said on Ukrainian television Monday that "one-fifth of the territory of Ukraine was contaminated with shells, mines and aerial bombs that did not explode. "
"Since the beginning of the war, our services have detected and defused more than 180,000 explosive devices. Over 68,000 hectares have already been surveyed."
Yenin said technicians were surveying about 500 hectares every week.
"In the Kyiv region, 1,000 explosive objects are still being defused every day," he said.
Russia is ready to supply military equipment to allied countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa and Moscow is open to training foreign fighters, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during the “Army-2022” opening ceremony on Monday.
“Russia sincerely cherishes historically strong, friendly, truly trusting ties with the countries of Latin America, Asia, and Africa. (We) are ready to offer our allies the most modern types of weapons, from small arms to armored vehicles and artillery to combat aviation and unmanned aerial vehicles," Putin said during opening remarks.
“We highly value the fact that our country has many allies, partners, like-minded people on different continents,” Putin said.
Putin also stressed the advantages of training foreign soldiers in Russia and said Russia invites allies to do joint military exercises.
“We also see great prospects in the training of foreign servicemen and their advanced training. Thousands of military professionals from around the world are proud alumnus of the military universities and academies of our country,” Putin said.
Russia will continue to work energetically in this important area, he said.
The EU and 42 countries, including the United States, have called on Russia to immediately withdraw its forces from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russian forces are evacuating to the left bank of the Dnipro River in the southern Kherson region after Ukrainian strikes made a third key bridge in the area impassable, according to Ukrainian officials.
Here are the latest developments:
- Calls for Russian withdrawal from nuclear plant: The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant — the largest nuclear complex of its kind in Europe — is the focal point of growing global concern following days of increased shelling. This has triggered calls for international experts to visit the facility and ratcheted fears of a potential nuclear accident.
- Russian presence in south complicated by Ukrainian attacks on supply lines, officials say: Ukrainian officials have said that Russia's presence in the southern Kherson region and parts of Zaporizhzhia is becoming more tenuous as supply lines are targeted daily by Ukrainian long-range systems, many of them supplied by Western allies. Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of occupied Melitopol, said that the destruction of a railway bridge south-west of the city at the weekend had further complicated Russian resupply routes.
- Spike in Russian attacks in Kharkiv region: Russian forces have increased shelling in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, bombarding Ukrainian units trying to challenge their supply lines running into Donetsk, according to Ukraine's military. Ukrainian officials on Monday reported rocket and artillery attacks against the Chuhuiv district south of the city of Kharkiv. Oleh Synyehubov, head of the Kharkiv region military administration, said five people were injured in the shelling, which saw at least 10 missiles fired from the Russian city of Belgorod.
- Third key bridge destroyed, impedes Russian forces: The destruction of the three bridges — including the Kakhovka bridge this weekend — has impeded the movement of heavy military equipment and the supply of ammunition to the Russians on the right bank of the Dnipro River, making it ''extremely complicated to the point of being impossible,'' Ukrainian military spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk said Sunday.
- Griner’s legal team files appeal: Brittney Griner’s legal team has filed an appeal against a Russian court’s verdict sentencing the WNBA basketball player to nine years in prison for smuggling drugs into Russia, Griner’s lawyer Maria Blagovolina told CNN on Monday. Meanwhile, a Russian official confirmed names are being discussed in potential prisoner swap talks between Moscow and Washington.
- Wagner base in Luhansk hit: Social media videos geolocated to the Russian-occupied town of Popasna show that a base used by the Wagner military contractors was hit by artillery or rocket fire at the weekend. The Wagner group of private military contractors has played an active role in the fighting in Donbas, often deployed as infantry to advance on towns from which Ukrainian forces have withdrawn. The paramilitary group is sponsored by Russia.
- Grain ship ready to set sail to Ethiopia: A cargo ship carrying 23,000 metric tons of wheat is ready to set sail from the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi to Ethiopia, the Ukrainian infrastructure minister said Sunday. The Liberian-flagged Brave Commander cargo ship arrived in Pivdennyi Friday, according to Oleksandr Kubrakov, and will be the first UN-chartered ship to head for an African nation, Reuters reported.