Both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin have signaled support for international inspectors to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after both nations claimed the other attacked it, striking fears of an impending nuclear disaster.
In his nightly address Friday, Zelenskyy said that a delegation of Ukrainian diplomats, United Nation diplomats and the International Atomic Energy Agency are “working out specific details” of a mission to be sent to the power plant.
The Kremlin said that Putin told French President Emmanuel Macron in their first phone conversation since May that Ukrainian shelling around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant “raised the threat of a large-scale catastrophe that could lead to radioactive contamination of large territories.” Putin also agreed to the mission’s deployment, according to statements by the French president’s office and the Kremlin.
Russia and Ukraine are still blaming each other for an attack on the nuclear power plant, which is the largest of its kind in Europe.
►Russian forces shelled "critical infrastructure facilities” Saturday morning in the Kharkiv city and region, the head of Kharkiv’s regional state administration, Oleg Synegubov, wrote on Telegram Saturday. There were no casualties.
►Russian forces stepped up their battle to seize one of the dwindling number of cities in embattled eastern Ukraine not already under their control while continuing to fire on towns and villages in the country’s north and south, Ukrainian officials said Saturday.
Russian authorities said their forces shot down Ukrainian drones over Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
Local air defenses shot down a drone over the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol, Russian authorities said. The drone fell on the roof of the fleet’s headquarters and did not cause damage, Mikhail Razvozhaev, the governor of Sevastopol, said.
However, Oleksiy Honcharenko, a local member of parliament, posted video on Telegram of what he said was the incident, which appears to show a column of smoke coming up from a building.
Oleg Kryuchkov, an aide to Crimea’s governor, also said Saturday that “attacks by small drones” triggered air-defense systems in western Crimea.
"Air defense systems successfully hit all targets over the territory over Crimea on Saturday morning. There are no casualties or material damage,” his boss, Sergei Aksyonov, said on Telegram.
Lawmakers from the United States and United Kingdom on Saturday suggested that any deliberate damage to the Zaporizhzhia power plant that could cause a radiation leak to a Ukrainian nuclear reactor would be a breach of NATO’s Article 5.
The article says that if a NATO ally is victim of an armed attack, all other NATO members will consider it an armed attack against all other members — and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the attacked ally.
“This really isn’t even up for debate,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., tweeted Friday night. “Any leak will kill people in NATO countries, that’s an automatic article 5.”
The situation at the nuclear power plant remained largely unchanged on Friday, despite claims by the Russian Ministry of Defense that Ukrainian forces would stage a provocation there Friday, said the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think-tank.
US to ship $775 million aid package of arms, drones to Ukraine, official says
The United States will ship another package of arms to Ukraine, including long-range artillery ammunition used to devastating effect on Russian forces, according to a senior defense official.
The $775 million aid package includes ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, which has been employed masterfully by Ukrainian forces, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under guidelines set by the Pentagon. The rockets with a range of more than 40 miles have been used to destroy Russian command posts, ammunition depots and logistics hubs.
The military aid package includes drones, conventional artillery ammunition and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to protect Ukrainian troops from Russian roadside bombs, the official said.
The United States has provided $12.6 billion in military aid to Ukraine since 2014, more than $10 billion of it in the last year.
On the second anniversary of the poisoning attack on Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, the U.S. State Department called for his immediate release and condemned the Russian government’s crackdown on opposition figures and independent media.
“It is no coincidence that the Kremlin’s aggression in Ukraine has been accompanied by intensified repression at home,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
Navalny is Putin’s most well-known critic and has detailed huge incidents of corruption by his regime. He was arrested in Russia in January 2021 upon returning from Germany, where he had been recuperating from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. He was handed a 2½-year sentence for a parole violation.
In March, he was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of fraud and contempt of court, which he rejected as politically motivated and an attempt by the authorities to keep him behind bars for as long as possible.
Medical centers:Ukraine hospitals struggle to operate in war time
US buying big Ukraine grain shipment for hungry regions, UN says
The United States is stepping up to buy about 150,000 metric tons of grain from Ukraine in the next few weeks for an upcoming shipment of food aid from ports no longer blockaded by war, the World Food Program chief told The Associated Press.
The final destinations for the grain are not confirmed and discussions continue, David Beasley said. But the planned shipment, one of several the U.N. agency is pursuing, is more than six times the amount of grain carried by the first ship the World Food Program arranged to travel from Ukraine to people in Africa at risk of starvation.
The Horn of Africa region's bone-dry communities face yet another failed rainy season within weeks that could tip parts of the region, especially neighboring Somalia, into famine. Already, thousands of people have died. The World Food Program says 22 million people are hungry.
Contributing: Associated Press