Russia-Ukraine war: Moscow imposes conditions on nuclear plant visit; Zelenskiy shakes up security chiefs – live | Ukraine

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Luke Harding reports for us from Mykolaiv:

In a wrecked office inside Mykolaiv’s administration building in southern Ukraine, Dmytro Pletenchuk showed off his collection of Russian weapons. Propped against the wall were fired Russian rockets and cluster bombs. “I’m thinking about opening a bar for veterans when the war is over,” he said. “My friend who was killed in Kharkiv used to run one. We could use them as decorations.”

Pletenchuk’s one-time government workplace was a spectacular ruin. In March, a Russian missile slammed into the regional state HQ, gouging a giant hole, killing 37 people and wounding many more. The security guards in reception miraculously survived. Colleagues having breakfast in the canteen were less fortunate. There are bloodstains on the stairs and in an upstairs corridor.

“We are fighting against fucking idiots. It’s good for us. But they have nuclear weapons,” Pletenchuk said, showing off his glass-strewn ninth-floor office, with a panoramic view over the city’s river and port. “Russia is like a monkey with a hand grenade,” he added. “It’s a problem for the whole world. We don’t know if they are going to blow everyone up.”

Read more of Luke Harding’s article here: ‘A question of time’: Ukrainians determined to win back the south

Ukraine has not officially confirmed or denied responsibility for the reported explosions in Crimea.

But, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted after the explosions today that there is a “high risk of death for invaders and thieves” in the Russian-occupied area.

Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014, despite most of the world recognising it as Ukrainian territory.

Morning near Dzhankoi began with explosions. A reminder: Crimea of normal country is about the Black Sea, mountains, recreation and tourism, but Crimea occupied by Russians is about warehouses explosions and high risk of death for invaders and thieves. Demilitarization in action.

— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) August 16, 2022

Earlier we reported that an ammunition depot had caught fire in the town of Mayskoye in Crimea.

Russia‘s defence ministry said there were no serious casualties from the explosion, state-owned news agency RIA reported.

Interfax quoted the defence ministry as saying that a fire had broken out in the temporary storage area of the ammunition depot.

Here is a quick snap from Ukrainian senior presidential adviser Anton Gerashchenko purporting to show the explosions reported to have occurred at an ammunition depot in Crimea this morning.

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet struggling: UK MoD

Russia’s Black Sea fleet is struggling to exercise effective sea control, with patrols generally limited to the waters within sight of the Crimean coast, according to the latest British intelligence report.

The Black Sea fleet continues to use long-range cruise missiles to support ground offensives but is keeping a defensive posture, the British Ministry of Defence said in its daily intelligence bulletin.

The Black Sea fleet’s limited effectiveness undermines Russia’s overall invasion strategy, in part because the amphibious threat to Odesa has been largely neutralised, the intelligence update added.

Ammunition depot on fire in Crimea – reports

We have a little more detail on the blasts reported in Crimea earlier this morning.

According to more local media reports, an ammunition depot in the village of Maiskoye near Dzhankoi in the north of Crimea, has also caught fire.

Russian state media outlet Tass cited the Russian-appointed administrative head of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov.

“The detonation of ammunition occurred in the north of Crimea,” the outlet reported in a Telegram update.

Residents are being evacuated, Tass added in a Telegram update.

Aksyonov earlier said that he urgently left for the village, located about 25km south-east of Dzhankoi to investigate an explosion at a transformer substation.

The cause so far remains unknown.

Explosions this morning at a Russian ammunition depot near Dzhankoi, a major junction in NW Crimea. HIMARS? Saboteurs? Neptunes? Something else? Unclear. But Ukraine has struck deep behind enemy lines before. This video shows munitions detonating and springing out of the blaze. https://t.co/gPOYTjbWpf

— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) August 16, 2022

Substation on fire in Crimea – reports

Multiple unconfirmed reports and video footage of explosions are filtering in this morning from occupied territories in Ukraine’s south and south-east.

Ukrainian broadcaster NEXTA-TV published unconfirmed footage of a blast purportedly from Dzhankoi in Crimea.

Russian media outlet RIA Novosti also reported that a transformer substation caught fire in the city around 6am on Tuesday.

The Russian-appointed administrative head of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said that he urgently left for the village of Mayskoye near Dzhankoi.

“I left for the village of Mayskoye, Dzhankoy district. The circumstances of the incident are being investigated. I will inform you as information becomes available,” Aksenov said in his Telegram channel, as reported by RIA.

Zelenskiy replaces security service chiefs

Zelenskiy dismissed or reshuffled the security service heads of four regional departments.

According to the decrees published on the president’s website, Serhiy Zayats was dismissed from the post of head of the SBU main directorate in the Kyiv region. Yuriy Boreichuk was dismissed from the post of head of the SBU main directorate in the Ternopil region.

Artem Bondarenko was moved from the post of head of the SBU main directorate in the Lviv region, to head of the SBU main directorate in Kyiv and its region.

⚡️ Zelensky dismisses Security Service heads in four regions.

President Zelensky signed decrees dismissing the heads of SBU branches in Kyiv and Kyiv, Ternopil, and Lviv oblasts.

Lviv Oblast SBU Head Bondarenko was later appointed as the agency’s head in Kyiv and Kyiv Oblast.

— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) August 15, 2022

Ukraine has received six more M109 howitzers from Latvia, its minister of defence, Oleksii Reznikov, announced.

6 more M109 howitzers that have recently arrived in 🇺🇦 from 🇱🇻 are already showing results on the battlefield. I‘m sincerely grateful to my 🇱🇻 colleague @Pabriks & the people of Latvia for their unwavering support.
Together we will win! pic.twitter.com/t5F3n7parJ

— Oleksii Reznikov (@oleksiireznikov) August 15, 2022

On the topic of grain shipments from Ukraine’s ports, a total of five ships, two from from the port of Yuzhny and three from Chernomorsk, departed from Ukrainian ports loaded with corn and wheat.

In addition, four ships en route to Ukrainian ports will be inspected by the Joint Coordination Centre today, Turkey’s ministry of defence added in an announcement early this morning.

The first cargo of humanitarian food aid bound for Africa from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion has reportedly left the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi.

The ship Brave Commander was seen leaving the port, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov, confirmed the news saying the cargo ship is expected to arrive in Ethiopia in two weeks.

Earlier, a joint co-ordination centre, set up by Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations, said it had approved the ship’s departure.

Russia puts conditions on nuclear plant visit

The United Nations has the logistics and security capacity to support a visit by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, a spokesman said, but a Russian diplomat imposed conditions, saying routing any mission through Ukraine’s capital was too dangerous.

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that “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”.

But he said both Russia and Ukraine have to agree.

An overview of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine on 13 August. Photograph: Planet Labs Pbc/Reuters

However, a senior Russian diplomat said that any such IAEA mission could not pass through the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and through the frontline as it was too dangerous.

Russian state media RIA news agency quoted Igor Vishnevetsky, deputy head of the foreign ministry’s nuclear proliferation and arms control department, as telling journalists:

Imagine what it means to pass through Kyiv – it means they get to the nuclear plant through the front line.

This is a huge risk, given that Ukraine’s armed forces are not all made up in the same way.”

Russia’s Tass news agency also quoted Vishnevetsky as saying that any such mission had no mandate to address the “demilitarisation” of the plant as demanded by Kyiv as it could only deal with “fulfilment of IAEA guarantees”.

The UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, earlier called for an end to military activity around the plant.

Russia’s defence minister and the UN chief discussed the security situation at the plant by phone on Monday, the Russian defence ministry announced. Russia earlier said it would facilitate an IAEA mission to the plant amid warnings from the UN’s nuclear agency of a nuclear disaster unless fighting stops.

Zelenskiy calls for action at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, called for action at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia plant, urging the world not to “lose to terrorism” or “give in to nuclear blackmail”.

In his nightly address he said:

All Russian troops must be immediately withdrawn from the plant and neighbouring areas without any conditions.

… if now the world lacks the strength and determination to protect one nuclear plant, it means that the world loses. Loses to terrorists. Gives in to nuclear blackmail.

If now the world does not show strength and decisiveness to defend one nuclear power station, it will mean that the world has lost.

Any radiation incident at the Zaporizhzhia NPP can affect the countries of the European Union, Turkey, Georgia and countries from more distant regions. Everything depends solely on the direction and speed of the wind. If Russia’s actions cause a catastrophe, the consequences may also hit those who remain silent so far.”

A Russian serviceman stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
A Russian serviceman stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Ukrainian and Russian officials reported shelling near Europe’s largest nuclear plant on Monday with both sides blaming each other.

One Russian-installed regional official said 25 heavy artillery strikes from US-made M777 howitzers had hit near the plant and residential areas. Ukraine said it was Russian forces that had shelled the city to try to make it appear that Ukraine was attacking it.

Summary and welcome

Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

I’m Samantha Lock and I will be bringing you all the latest developments for the next short while. Whether you’ve been following our coverage overnight or you’ve just dropped in, here are the latest lines.

The United Nations has the logistics and security capacity to support a visit by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, a spokesman said, but a Russia diplomat imposed conditions, saying routing any mission through Ukraine’s capital was too dangerous.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, dismissed the security service heads of regional departments in Kyiv, Kyiv region, Ternopil and Lviv regions – the latest in a slew of expulsions of top officials.

It is 7.30am in Ukraine. Here is everything you might have missed:

  • Ukrainian and Russian officials reported shelling near the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, on Monday with both sides blaming each other. One Russian-installed regional official said 25 heavy artillery strikes from US-made M777 howitzers had hit near the plant and residential areas. Ukraine said it was Russian forces that had shelled the city to try to make it appear that Ukraine was attacking it.

  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, called for action at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia plant, urging the world not to “lose to terrorism” or “give in to nuclear blackmail … If now the world does not show strength and decisiveness to defend one nuclear power station, it will mean that the world has lost,” he said in his nightly address. “If Russia’s actions cause a catastrophe, the consequences may also hit those who remain silent so far.”

  • Russia’s defence minister and the UN chief discussed the security situation at the plant by phone on Monday, the Russian defence ministry announced. Russia earlier said it would facilitate an IAEA mission to the plant amid warnings from the UN’s nuclear agency of a nuclear disaster unless fighting stops.

  • However, a senior Russian diplomat said that any such IAEA mission could not pass through the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and through the frontline as it was too dangerous, according to Russian news agencies. The UN says it has the logistics and security capacity to support a visit by experts.

  • Five Europeans face trial on mercenary charges in separatist-controlled Donetsk, Ukraine. Mathias Gustafsson of Sweden, Vjekoslav Prebeg of Croatia, and Britons John Harding, Andrew Hill and Dylan Healy all pleaded not guilty to charges of being mercenaries and “undergoing training to seize power by force”, according to Russian media reports. They could face the death penalty under the laws of the self-proclaimed, unrecognised Donetsk People’s Republic.

  • Three civilians were killed and two wounded by an explosive device while swimming in the Black Sea in the Ukrainian southern region of Odesa, local police said. People working on a construction site reportedly ignored barriers and warning signs on a beach in the Belhorod-Dnistrovskyi district and went swimming in the sea. Three men aged 25, 32 and 53 were killed and another man and a woman were wounded, police said.

  • The British military is training 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers in marksmanship, battlefield first aid and urban warfare. British trainers aim is to turn raw recruits into battle-ready soldiers in a matter of weeks. The first batch arrived last month and have already been sent back to replenish depleted Ukrainian units. Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Nordic nations have also sent trainers.

  • The Moscow-appointed administration in Ukraine’s Kherson region plans to hold a referendum on 11 September, according to Kremlin sources. Referendums are also planned in three other Ukrainian regions – Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia – where Moscow aims to annex the territories and declare them to be a new region of Russia.

A Ukrainian soldier sits in a foxhole at a position along the front line in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on 15 August.
A Ukrainian soldier sits in a foxhole at a position along the front line in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on 15 August. Photograph: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images





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