Ukraine war: 'Nuclear accidents can happen in the EU too', warns Russia's ex-President in veiled threat

·28-min read
An Orthodox priest prays at the graves of unidentified civilians during their funeral at a local cemetery in the city of Bucha, Kyiv region, on Thursday - ERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP 
An Orthodox priest prays at the graves of unidentified civilians during their funeral at a local cemetery in the city of Bucha, Kyiv region, on Thursday - ERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP

Russia's former president Dmitry Medvedev has issued a veiled threat to Ukraine's Western allies who have accused Russia of creating the risk of a nuclear catastrophe by stationing forces around the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia power station.

Ukraine has accused Russia of firing at Ukrainian towns from the site in the knowledge that Ukrainian forces could not risk returning fire. It says Moscow has shelled the area itself while blaming Ukraine.

Russia says it is Ukraine that has shelled the plant.

"They [Kyiv and its allies] say it's Russia. That's obviously 100 per cent nonsense, even for the stupid Russophobic public," Mr Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, wrote on his Telegram channel.

"They say it happens purely by chance, like 'We didn't mean to'," he added. "What can I say? Let's not forget that the European Union also has nuclear power plants. And accidents can happen there, too."

Follow the latest updates below.

05:00 PM

Evening summary

As it approaches 7pm in Kyiv, these are the key events from today.

  • Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of risking nuclear disaster by shelling Europe's largest nuclear power plant, occupied by Russian forces in a region expected to become one of the next big front lines of the war.

  • Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has issued a veiled threat to Ukraine's Western allies, saying "Nuclear accidents can happen in the EU too."

  • Liverpool, Glasgow and Birmingham are among the cities shortlisted to host the 2023 Eurovision song contest in the UK, as Ukraine - winners of this year's competition - will not be able to host the event due to the war.

  • Three civilians, including a boy, were wounded in overnight shelling of Marhanets, a town opposite the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, said in the latest in a string of similar reports.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told officials to stop talking to reporters about Kyiv's military tactics against Russia, saying late on Thursday that such remarks were "frankly irresponsible".

04:51 PM

Zelensky speaks to the Pope

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been speaking to Pope Francis.

This is what he said:

04:43 PM

Russian oil flows to Czech Republic will resume

Russian oil flows to the Czech Republic will resume through the Druzhba pipeline after more than a week this evening, Slovak pipeline operator Transpetrol said, as transit fee payments were unblocked.

Supplies via the Druzhba pipeline had been suspended to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia since Aug. 4 because Western sanctions prevented paying transit fees to Ukrainian transit company Ukrtransnafta, Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft said on Tuesday.

Storage tanks are seen at the Mero central oil tank farm, which moves crude through the Druzhba oil pipeline, near Nelahozeves, Czech Republic - REUTERS/David W Cerny
Storage tanks are seen at the Mero central oil tank farm, which moves crude through the Druzhba oil pipeline, near Nelahozeves, Czech Republic - REUTERS/David W Cerny

A European bank has agreed to process the payment for the transit of Russian oil through Ukraine, removing the cause of the stoppage.

"Tonight (Friday) at 2000 GMT, oil flow to the Czech Republic will be resumed," a spokesperson for Transpetrol said.

04:36 PM

Ukraine's creditors agree 2-year freeze on $20 billion overseas debt

Ukraine's overseas creditors backed its request for a two-year freeze on payments on almost $20 billion in international bonds, a regulatory filing showed on Wednesday, a move that will allow the war-ravaged country to avoid a messy debt default.

With no sign of peace or a ceasefire on the horizon nearly six months after Russia's invasion began, holders of around 75% of the outstanding total agreed to Kyiv's proposal, documents showed.

"Ukraine will save almost $6 billion on payments," said Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in a statement. "These funds will help us maintain macrofinancial stability, strengthen the sustainability of the Ukrainian economy and improve the power of our army."

04:19 PM

India says no pressure to limit energy purchases from Russia

India says there is no pressure on it from Western countries or anywhere else over its energy purchases from Russia, as Indian firms step up imports of oil and coal from the country shunned by some governments for its invasion of Ukraine.

India, the world's third-biggest crude importer, overtook China to become the biggest buyer of Russian oil in July based on sea-borne volumes, having bought very little from the country before the start of the war in Ukraine in February.

Also in July, Russia became India's third-largest coal supplier, up from the sixth position historically, as discounts drove shipments to a record.

The United States has tried to lure India away from its main arms supplier Russia, but New Delhi says its own needs as an emerging country are paramount. India has not condemned the invasion.

"Our decisions on what we do regarding purchase of oil or other things related to that will be guided by our energy security requirements, our perspective will be guided by energy security," India's foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a press conference.

04:00 PM

‘It won’t be another Chernobyl, it will be worse’

For the thousands of Ukrainians near to the Russian-occupied plant, ‘suicidal’ shelling of the area means taking each day as it comes.

Read Danielle Sheridan's dispatch from Nikopol.

03:39 PM

Latvia, Estonia leave China-backed East Europe forum

Latvia and Estonia say they have left a Chinese-backed forum aimed at boosting relations with Eastern European countries, in what appears to be a new setback for China's increasingly assertive diplomacy.

The move follows China's boosting of its relations with Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine is seen as a possible first step in a series of moves against countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. China has refused to criticize Russia and has condemned punishing economic sanctions imposed on Moscow by the West.

Weeks before the invasion, Chinese President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing and declared their bilateral relations had "no limits" in a joint statement.

03:24 PM

UK defence assessment

The latest UK Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine from today.

03:07 PM

Ethiopia awaits gran shipment from Ukraine

In recent days, several ships carrying grain have left Ukrainian ports under the new deal - but most of the shipments were of animal feed and went to Turkey or Western Europe.

But today, European Council President Charles Michel announced that the first shipment by the UN's World Food Program of humanitarian aid for Africa would soon load and then depart for Ethiopia.

Mr Michel said: "cooperation of all involved actors is key" to alleviating food shortages and hunger around the world.

The MV Brave Commander was expected to carry take more than 23,000 metric tons, according to Ukraine's Infrastructure Ministry - only a tiny portion of the some 20 million tons of grain that has languished in Ukraine.

The ship was expected to dock in Djibouti.

Ethiopia, along with neighbouring Somalia and Kenya, is in the grips of the driest drought in four decades in the Horn of Africa. Thousands of people across the region have died from hunger or illness this year.

02:40 PM

Ukraine excited for UK Eurovision

Ukrainian Eurovision winner Jamala has said next year's song contest, set to be held in the UK, will be the "greatest Eurovision" yet.

The singer-songwriter, 38, has been fundraising for her country through various concerts, interviews and festival appearances, and partnered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine to release a song and video titled Thank You, Stranger - a way of showing "deep gratitude" to countries around the world for their ongoing support throughout the war.

Jamala won Eurovision in 2016 with her song 1944 and said the UK is the "best place in the world" to host the competition, despite admitting she first held hope Ukraine would be able to host following Kalush Orchestra's win in Turin.

Jamala representing Ukraine at Eurovision - JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images
Jamala representing Ukraine at Eurovision - JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

Twenty UK cities submitted an "expression of interest" to host, but only seven were selected by the BBC and European Broadcasting Union.

Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield have reached the second round of the selection process but must now compete in the final round.

02:11 PM

Ukraine calls for UN, Red Cross to send representatives to Russian POW camps

Ukraine's security agencies issued a joint statement on Friday calling for the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross to send representatives to locations where Russia is holding Ukrainian prisoners of war.

The request follows earlier allegations by Kyiv that Moscow's forces have tortured and executed prisoners, including by staging an explosion in a Ukrainian POW camp in Olenivka. Moscow claims Ukraine shelled the facility, killing over 50 POWs.

An interior view of the prison building which was damaged by shelling in July  - REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
An interior view of the prison building which was damaged by shelling in July - REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

01:54 PM

Afternoon update

Here are the key events in Ukraine today:

  • Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of risking nuclear disaster by shelling Europe's largest nuclear power plant, occupied by Russian forces in a region expected to become one of the next big front lines of the war.

  • Three civilians, including a boy, were wounded in overnight shelling of Marhanets, a town opposite the Russsian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, said in the latest in a string of similar reports.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told officials to stop talking to reporters about Kyiv's military tactics against Russia, saying late on Thursday that such remarks were "frankly irresponsible".

  • Ukrainian children returning to school after the summer holidays will be taught lessons on how to avoid mines and other dangerous objects leftover from the war with Russia.

  • Liverpool, Glasgow and Birmingham are among the cities shortlisted to host the 2023 Eurovision song contest in the UK, as Ukraine - winners of this year's competition - will not be able to host the event due to the war.

01:42 PM

First UN ship for Ukrainian grain to dock today

The first UN-chartered vessel set to transport grain from Ukraine under a deal to relieve a global food crisis should dock in Ukraine today, the United Nations said.

The MV Brave Commander, which left Istanbul on Wednesday, is due to arrive in Yuzhne, east of Odessa on the Black Sea coast, the UN's World Food Programme said.

Wheat harvesting in Kyiv region earlier this week - REUTERS/Viacheslav Musiienko
Wheat harvesting in Kyiv region earlier this week - REUTERS/Viacheslav Musiienko

It will collect Ukrainian wheat grain purchased by the WFP, the agency's spokesman Tomson Phiri said.

"This is obviously the first shipment of humanitarian food assistance under the Black Sea Grain Initiative," he said.

On July 22, Kyiv and Moscow signed a landmark deal with Turkey to unblock Black Sea grain deliveries, following Russia's February invasion of Ukraine.

01:31 PM

Ukraine thanks UK for military aid

Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov has thanked Ben Wallace and the UK for the delivery of  M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, saying: "UK promised, UK delivered!"

01:19 PM

Ukraine and Russia trade blame over Zaporizhzhia

Ukraine and Russia have again accused each other  of risking nuclear disaster by shelling Europe's largest nuclear power plant, occupied by Russian forces in a region expected to become one of the next big front lines of the war.

Western countries have called for Moscow to withdraw its troops from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, and yesterday, the United Nations called for it to be declared a demilitarised zone. But there has been no sign so far of Russia agreeing to move its troops out of the facility they seized in March.

Kyiv has said for weeks it is planning a counteroffensive to recapture Zaporizhzhia and neighbouring Kherson provinces.

Ukraine's Energoatom agency, whose workers still operate the plant under Russian occupation, said the power station was struck five times on Thursday, including near where radioactive materials are stored.

Russia says Ukraine is recklessly firing at the plant. Kyiv says Russian troops struck it themselves, and are also using the plant as a shield to provide cover while they bombard nearby Ukrainian-held towns and cities.

01:04 PM

Europe eyes Musk's SpaceX to replace Russian rockets

The European Space Agency (ESA) has begun preliminary technical discussions with Elon Musk's SpaceX that could lead to the temporary use of its launchers after the Ukraine conflict blocked Western access to Russia's Soyuz rockets.

The private American competitor to Europe's Arianespace has emerged as a key contender to plug a temporary gap alongside Japan and India, but final decisions depend on the still unresolved timetable for Europe's delayed Ariane 6 rocket.

The political fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine has already been a boon for SpaceX's Falcon 9, which has swept up other customers severing ties with Moscow's increasingly isolated space sector.   - JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images
The political fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine has already been a boon for SpaceX's Falcon 9, which has swept up other customers severing ties with Moscow's increasingly isolated space sector. - JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

"I would say there are two and a half options that we're discussing. One is SpaceX that is clear. Another one is possibly Japan," ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher told Reuters.

"Japan is waiting for the inaugural flight of its next generation rocket. Another option could be India," he added in an interview.

"SpaceX I would say is the more operational of those and certainly one of the back-up launches we are looking at."

12:31 PM

McDonald's to reopen in Ukraine

McDonald's has announced plans to reopen outlets in Ukraine, which closed after Russia's invasion in March, according to the BBC.

The fast food chain said it hoped the move would help restore a "small but important sense of normalcy".

There will be a phased reopening over the next several months in Kyiv and western Ukraine in areas deemed safe, the burger giant said.

McDonald's had more than 100 restaurants in Ukraine before the conflict started.

The company has continued to pay wages to more than 10,000 staff since then.

"We've spoken extensively to our employees who have expressed a strong desire to return to work and see our restaurants in Ukraine reopen, where it is safe and responsible to do so," senior vice president Paul Pomroy said in a message posted on the firm's website.

12:12 PM

Ukraine today, in pictures

Russia-Ukraine war: Stop revealing our defence plans, Zelensky warns officials - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu 
Russia-Ukraine war: Stop revealing our defence plans, Zelensky warns officials - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu
Russia-Ukraine war: Stop revealing our defence plans, Zelensky warns officials - David Goldman /AP
Russia-Ukraine war: Stop revealing our defence plans, Zelensky warns officials - David Goldman /AP

11:50 AM

Russian journalist who protested Putin's war live on TV placed under house arrest

A Russian state TV journalist who denounced Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine live on air has been placed under house arrest by a Russian court.

On Wednesday, investigators detained Marina Ovsyannikova, 44, and charged her with spreading information about the Russian armed forces deemed false by the government.

The mother-of-two faces up to 10 years in prison, if convicted.

Russia-Ukraine war: Stop revealing our defence plans, Zelensky warns officials - DSK/EPA-EFE//Shutterstock 
Russia-Ukraine war: Stop revealing our defence plans, Zelensky warns officials - DSK/EPA-EFE//Shutterstock

You can read our report in full here.

11:10 AM

EU presidency mulls visa ban for all Russians

The Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency, has said that a blanket ban on visas for all Russian travellers could be the bloc's next sanction on Moscow.

"The flat halting of Russian visas by all EU member states could be another very effective sanction," Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said in a statement obtained by AFP. He said he would propose the idea at an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Prague at the end of August.

"In a time of Russian aggression, which the Kremlin keeps on escalating, there cannot be talks about common tourism for Russian citizens," said Mr Lipavsky.

The EU has so far come up with six sanction packages against Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the West to ban all Russian travellers in an interview with the Washington Post this week, saying Russians should "live in their own world until they change their philosophy".

The Czech Republic stopped issuing visas for ordinary Russians on February 25, a day after Russia invaded Ukraine.

But Russian tourists are still flowing into Europe through Finland. Once they enter the visa-free Schengen zone, the Russians - including spies - are free to travel across most of Europe.

Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto last week introduced a plan to limit tourist visas for Russians.

10:49 AM

Ukraine trolls Russia over Crimea base attack

Ukraine has continued to taunt the Kremlin over its lost aircrafts destroyed in the explosions at an airbase in occupied Crimea, reports our Brussels correspondent Joe Barnes.

Its Territorial Defence Forces shared on Twitter a mock “Captcha” test asking users to identify the ruins of Russian jets to “Prove that you’re not a robot”.

Captcha tests were designed by Google to protect websites from automated hackers by ensuring that a human, rather than a robot, is interacting with the site.

While Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the strike in Crimea, Kyiv has celebrated the Russian losses through social media.

On Thursday, its defence ministry shared a mock promotional video advising Russian tourists to steer clear of the peninsula, which was illegally annexed by Moscow in 2014, soundtracked by Bannarama's Cruel Summer.

10:21 AM

Ukrainian children to be taught how to avoid mines

Ukrainian children returning to school after the summer holidays will be taught lessons on how to avoid mines and other dangerous objects leftover from the war with Russia, reports Joe Barnes, our Brussels correspondent.

Deputy education minister Andriy Vitrenko announced “defence of Ukraine” would be added to the national curriculum, alongside regular maths and science lessons.

“National-patriotic education will be strengthened and there will be a separate block that will deal with anti-mine activities. So that children are aware of what can't be touched, what is dangerous for them,” Mr Vitrenko said.

Officials have estimated that some 160,000 square kilometres of Ukrainian land will require demining after the conflict with Russia is resolved

Mr Vitrenko also made clear that vast changes would be made to world literature programmes, removing “everything that sings of the Orkish troops”.

New “history of Ukraine” and “world history” classes would be tweaked to better reflect the “relationships between the Ukrainian nation and Russia based on historical truth”, the minister added.

10:03 AM

Gas flows via Nord Stream and Ukraine remain steady

Russian gas flows to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline and via Ukraine remained steady on Friday, operator data showed.

Physical flows via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia to Germany were at 14,575,401 kilowatt hours per hour (kWh/h) for 8am - 9am (CET), similar to the previous 24 hours.

Russia cut flows on the pipeline to only 20 per cent of capacity on July 27, citing maintenance work.

09:43 AM

Eurovision host city shortlist announced

Liverpool, Glasgow and Birmingham are among the cities shortlisted to host the 2023 Eurovision song contest in the UK, as Ukraine - winners of this year's competition - will not be able to host the event due to the war.

Take a look at the full shortlist here.

09:13 AM

Mykolaiv today, in pictures

Russia-Ukraine war: Stop revealing our defence plans, Zelensky warns officials - DANIEL BEREHULAK /NYTNS / Redux / eyevine
Russia-Ukraine war: Stop revealing our defence plans, Zelensky warns officials - DANIEL BEREHULAK /NYTNS / Redux / eyevine
Russia-Ukraine war: Stop revealing our defence plans, Zelensky warns officials - DANIEL BEREHULAK /NYTNS / Redux / eyevine 
Russia-Ukraine war: Stop revealing our defence plans, Zelensky warns officials - DANIEL BEREHULAK /NYTNS / Redux / eyevine

08:47 AM

First grain leaves Ukraine since outbreak of war

The first Ukrainian wheat has been exported under a UN-brokered deal, Turkey's defence ministry said.

The Belize-flagged Sormovsky left Ukraine's Chornomorsk port on Friday, Turkey's defence ministry said, carrying 3,050 tonnes of wheat to Turkey's northwestern Tekirdag province.

It was the first shipment of wheat from Ukraine, which, along with Russia, accounted for nearly a third of global wheat exports before Feb. 24, when Moscow launched what it describes as a "special operation" to demilitarise its neighbour.

Ukraine has some 20 million tonnes of grain left over from last year's crop, while this year's wheat harvest is also estimated at 20 million tonnes.

08:30 AM

Crimea attack is Russia’s ‘biggest loss of aircraft in a single day since Second World War’

Russia appeared to suffer its biggest loss of aircraft in a single day since the Second World War as fresh analysis of the explosive strike at an air base in occupied Crimea contradicted Moscow’s claim that no jets had been destroyed, reports our Brussels correspondent Joe Barnes.

A review of new satellite images revealed at least 10 Russian planes had been destroyed or seriously damaged by the series of explosions that rocked the Saky air base in Novofedorivka on Tuesday afternoon.

Military analysts predicted the full extent of the damage sustained by Russia’s air force was still yet to be discovered, with some suggesting Moscow could have lost as many as 20 jets in the attack.

"The satellite imagery presents clear indications that the full tally is higher," the War Zone website wrote.

You can read Joe's report in full here.

08:04 AM

Nuclear escalation and how Germany got hooked on Russian energy

07:40 AM

Gerhard Schroeder sues Bundestag to regain privileges

Gerhard Schroeder, who has become increasingly derided in Germany for his pro-Russian views, has filed a suit against Germany's Bundestag lower house of parliament that seeks to reinstate his privileges as former chancellor, DPA reported.

Mr Schroeder, 78, was stripped of his right to a publicly funded office in May, amid mounting dismay at his refusal to distance himself from Russian President Vladimir Putin following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The court filing, seen by DPA, said that the decision to close Mr Schroeder's office and reallocate its remaining staff was "rather reminiscent of an absolutist princely state in terms of the way they were made" and should not be allowed to stand in a democratic constitutional country.

While chancellor from 1998 to 2005, Mr Schroeder forged the relationship with Putin that came to overshadow much of his career. Schroeder called Putin a close personal friend, and they spent long hours in discussion over drinks.

He travelled to Moscow in late July for a meeting with Mr Putin, after which he said that Russia wanted a negotiated solution to the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky branded Mr Schroeder's behaviour as "disgusting".

A champion of the Nord Stream pipeline which carries Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, Mr Schroeder is chairman of the shareholders' committee of Nord Stream AG, operator of the pipeline majority-owned by Russia's Gazprom, according to LinkedIn.

After intense criticism, Mr Schroeder stood down in May from the board of Russia's state-owned oil company Rosneft and declined a nomination for a board position at Gazprom.

07:17 AM

Strikes at nuclear plant prompt UN chief to call for demilitarised zone

Russia and Ukraine accused each other of shelling Europe's biggest nuclear power plant as the UN chief proposed a demilitarised zone at the site amid fears of a catastrophe.

Ukraine's Energoatom agency said the Zaporizhzhia complex was struck five times on Thursday, including near where radioactive materials are stored. Russian-appointed officials said Ukraine shelled the plant twice, disrupting a shift changeover, Russia's TASS news agency said.

The UN Security Council met on Thursday to discuss the situation. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on both sides to halt all fighting near the plant.

"The facility must not be used as part of any military operation. Instead, urgent agreement is needed at a technical level on a safe perimeter of demilitarisation to ensure the safety of the area," Mr Guterres said in a statement.

06:45 AM

MoD: Russian military may revise threat perception

In its daily social media update, the Ministry of Defence posted on Twitter: "The loss of eight combat jets represents a minor proportion of the overall fleet of aircraft Russia has available to support the war.

"However, Saky was primarily used as a base for the aircraft of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet.

"The fleet’s naval aviation capability is now significantly degraded.

"The incident will likely prompt the Russian military to revise its threat perception. Crimea has probably been seen as a secure rear-area."

An infrared overview of Saki Airbase showing the extent of fire after attack, in Novofedorivka, Crimea - Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS
An infrared overview of Saki Airbase showing the extent of fire after attack, in Novofedorivka, Crimea - Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

06:41 AM

'Airfield probably remains serviceable' after blast

The UK's Ministry of Defence said on Friday morning that the original cause of the explosions that occurred at the Russian-operated Saky military airfield in western Crimea was unclear, "but the large mushroom clouds visible in eyewitness video were almost certainly from the detonation of up to four uncovered munition storage areas".

"At least five Su-24 Fencer fighter-bombers and three Su-30 Flanker H multi-role jets were almost certainly destroyed or seriously damaged in the blasts," MoD said on Twitter.

"Saky’s central dispersal area has suffered serious damage, but the airfield probably remains serviceable."

06:36 AM

Ministry of Defence daily update

06:30 AM

More grain ships leave Ukraine port

Two more ships left Ukraine's Black Sea ports on Friday, Turkey's defence ministry said.

It brings the total number of ships to depart the country under a United Nations-brokered deal to 14 and marks the first export of wheat.

Belize-flagged Sormovsky left Ukraine's Chornomorsk port, carrying 3,050 tonnes of wheat to Turkey's north-western Tekirdag province, it said.

Also, Marshall Island-flagged Star Laura departed from Pivdennyi and headed to Iran, carrying 60,000 tonnes of corn.

06:16 AM

In pictures: Waiting on the front line

Ukrainian servicemen wait along the front line of Eastern Kharkiv Oblast in Ukraine
Ukrainian servicemen wait along the front line of Eastern Kharkiv Oblast in Ukraine

05:47 AM

Crimea strike may be start of counter-offensive

Rising smoke can be seen from the beach at Saky after explosions were heard from the direction of a Russian military airbase near Novofedorivka, Crimea, Tuesday - UGC via AP
Rising smoke can be seen from the beach at Saky after explosions were heard from the direction of a Russian military airbase near Novofedorivka, Crimea, Tuesday - UGC via AP

The Institute for the Study of War has said Ukrainian officials were framing the Crimea strike as the start of Ukraine's counter-offensive in the south, suggesting intense fighting in August and September that could decide the outcome of the next phase of the war.

Exactly how the attack was carried out remains a mystery but the near-identical impact craters and simultaneous explosions appear to indicate it was hit by a volley of weapons capable of evading Russian defences.

The base is well beyond the range of advanced rockets that Western countries acknowledge sending to Ukraine so far, though within range of more powerful versions Kyiv has sought. Ukraine also has anti-ship missiles that could theoretically be used to hit targets on land.

04:56 AM

Crimea attack destroys ‘up to 20’ Russian jets​

Russia appeared to suffer its biggest loss of aircraft in a single day since the Second World War as fresh analysis of the explosive strike at an air base in occupied Crimea contradicted Moscow’s claim that no jets had been destroyed.

A review of new satellite images revealed at least 10 Russian planes had been destroyed or seriously damaged by the series of explosions that rocked the Saky air base in Novofedorivka on Tuesday afternoon.

This combination of pictures from handout satellite images courtesy of Maxar Technologies shows the Saki airbase at Novofedorivka, Crimea, before (top) and after - Satellite image Maxar Tech/AFP 
This combination of pictures from handout satellite images courtesy of Maxar Technologies shows the Saki airbase at Novofedorivka, Crimea, before (top) and after - Satellite image Maxar Tech/AFP

Military analysts predicted the full extent of the damage sustained by Russia’s air force was yet to be discovered, with some suggesting Moscow could have lost as many as 20 jets in the attack.

READ MORE: Crimea attack is Russia’s ‘biggest loss of aircraft in a single day since Second World War’

03:55 AM

Zelensky demands Moscow returns nuclear power plant

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has demanded that Russia return the Zaporizhzhia plant to Ukraine's control.

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling Europe's biggest nuclear power plant as the United Nations' chief proposed a demilitarised zone at the site amid fears of a catastrophe.

Russia seized Zaporizhzhia in March. The plant, near the front line in the fighting, is held by Russian troops and operated by Ukrainian workers.

"Only a full withdrawal of the Russians... and the restoration of full Ukrainian control of the situation around the station can guarantee a resumption of nuclear security for all of Europe," Mr Zelensky said in a video address.

France echoed his demand and said Russia's occupation of the site endangered the world.

"The presence and actions of the Russian armed forces near the plant significantly increase the risk of an accident with potentially devastating consequences," the French foreign ministry said.

The United States has supported calls by the UN and others to establish the demilitarised zone around the plant.

03:43 AM

Leaks disrupt Ukrainian army's plans, officials warned

Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister, Hanna Malyar, has said that security services have opened a probe into a case where officials have talked to newspapers.

"A leak like this disrupts the plans of the Ukrainian armed forces since the enemy adjusts its actions and uses this information against us," she wrote on Facebook.

03:16 AM

Zelensky: Stop revealing our defence plans

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has told officials to stop talking to reporters about Kyiv's military tactics against Russia, saying such remarks were "frankly irresponsible".

In the wake of blasts that wrecked a Russian air base in Crimea on Tuesday, the New York Times and Washington Post newspapers cited unidentified officials as saying Ukrainian forces were responsible. Kyiv, on the other hand, declined to say whether it had been behind the explosions.

"War is definitely not the time for vanity and loud statements. The fewer details you divulge about our defence plans, the better it will be for the implementation of those defence plans," Mr Zelensky said in his evening address.

"If you want to generate loud headlines, that's one thing – it's frankly irresponsible. If you want victory for Ukraine, that is another thing, and you should be aware of your responsibility for every word you say about our state's plans for defence or counter attacks."

Mr Zelensky addressed his remarks to state, local and military officials as well as other people he said were commenting on events at the front.

03:12 AM

Fear of nuclear catastrophe

A Russian serviceman guards in an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station - Russian Ministry of Defence
A Russian serviceman guards in an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station - Russian Ministry of Defence

Several times in the past 10 days reports have emerged of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant being shelled, writes The Telegraph's defence editor, Danielle Sheridan:

Moscow accuses Ukraine; Kyiv counters that Russian munitions are to blame, part of an effort to destroy Ukrainian infrastructure.

On Thursday, Ukrainian authorities said five Russian shells struck the site next to an area where radiation sources are stored. No one was hurt and staff managed to contain the fire, according to Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear regulator.

The US State Department on Thursday said the United States supported calls by the UN and others to establish a demilitarised zone around the plant.

READ MORE: ‘It won’t be another Chernobyl, it will be worse’: Zaporizhzhia locals live in fear of nuclear catastrophe

02:56 AM

Today's top stories

  • Russia appeared to suffer its biggest loss of aircraft in a single day since the Second World War as fresh analysis of the explosive strike at an air base in occupied Crimea contradicted Moscow’s claim that no jets had been destroyed

  • A German army officer has gone on trial accused of feeding Russia’s spy service with German military and industrial secrets out of “sympathy” for the country

  • Plumes of smoke on Thursday rose over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, a low-slung grey complex on the banks of the river Dnipro. For the Ukrainian citizens on the other side of the river – and the world watching on social media – the smoke provoked a fresh shiver of fear: was it a shell? Fire? Something worse?

  • A Russian state TV journalist who denounced Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine live on air has been placed under house arrest by a Russian court