Latest news from Russia and the war in Ukraine

UN visit to nuclear power plant delayed for several hours due to shelling

A visit by a team of experts from the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine has been “delayed” for several hours due to heightened military activity in the area.

There have been multiple reports of shelling on the route to, and in the area of, the nuclear facility which is located in Enerhodar.

“The IAEA mission has been delayed on the Ukrainian-controlled side of the frontline for some three hours,” an IAEA spokesman told NBC News this morning.

“Director General Grossi has personally negotiated with Ukrainian military authorities to be able to proceed and he remains determined that this important mission reaches the ZNPP today.”

Russia and Ukraine trade accusations amid chaotic start to UN’s nuclear power plant visit

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of carrying out “provocations” and attacks on the route to, and in the area of, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on the morning of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection of the site.

Ukrainian officials accused Russia of shelling the route that the heavily-guarded IAEA’s team of inspectors were due to take to the plant and of trying to sabotage their visit while officials in Enerhodar, where the power plant is located, reported that the city was attacked by Russian forces Thursday morning.

“At this moment, helicopters, field and rocket artillery of the Russian army are shelling the city of Enerhodar,” Yevhen Yevtushenko, the head of the Nikopol district military administration (Nikopol lies on the opposite side of the Dnipro River from Enerhodar), said on Telegram.

Ukraine’s Enerhodar Mayor Dmytro Orlov said on his Telegram account that civilian infrastructure had been targeted and that helicopters were circling over the city.

Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom said Thursday morning that the fifth reactor has been shut down at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant because of the nearby shelling this morning.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is seen following speaking to press members before leaving from the hotel with delegation to inspect the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on September 01, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russia’s Ministry of Defense, meanwhile, counteraccused Ukraine of shelling Enerhodar this morning, and claimed that Ukrainian forces tried to “seize” the nuclear power plant.

“”Today, at about 06:00 Moscow time, Ukrainian troops in two sabotage groups of up to 60 people in seven boats landed on the coast of the Kakhovka reservoir, three kilometers northeast of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, and attempted to seize the power plant,” the ministry said.

The enemy was destroyed, “including with the use of army aviation,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement reported by Russian news agency Interfax.

The report went on to say that Enerhodar “was subjected to a massive artillery strike from the Armed Forces of Ukraine” this morning in which an apartment building and a kindergarten were hit (the same targets Ukraine said Russia had hit). CNBC was unable to immediately verify any of the reports.

For its part, the head of the IAEA’s visit to the nuclear power plant has said the mission will continue despite the reports of heightened military activity nearby.

The visit of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog to the nuclear facility, Europe’s largest, was always expected to cause a flurry of fighting, with both sides saying the other was planning “provocations” around the time of the inspection.

— Holly Ellyatt

Nuclear power plant’s fifth reactor shut down after nearby shelling

Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom said Thursday morning that the fifth reactor has been shut down at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant because of nearby shelling this morning.

Attacks have been reported in the Enerhodar area where the plant is located, with both Ukraine and Russia accusing each other of violence on the day a team of UN experts is set to carry out a safety inspection.

There are widespread concerns over the stability of the complex amid the ongoing war.

Zelenskyy says the world narrowly escaped a radiation disaster on Thursday when Europe’s largest nuclear power plant was disconnected from Ukraine’s power grid.

Xinhua News Agency | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Energoatom said on Telegram this morning that “as a result of another mortar shelling by the Russian occupying forces at the site of the Zaporizhzhya NPP, the emergency protection was activated and the operating 5th power unit was shut down.” It said a reserve power supply line was also damaged.

“This is the second time in the last 10 days that the criminal actions of the rioters have led to the shutdown of the unit and power outage of the station,” Energoatom noted.

It said power unit No. 6 continues to work in the energy system of Ukraine and at the same time feeds the ZNPP’s own needs, adding that the Ukrainian personnel at the plant were “doing everything possible to eliminate damage to its infrastructure.”

— Holly Ellyatt

U.S. obtains warrant to seize Boeing 737 owned by Russian firm Lukoil

An image of Russian multinational energy corporation Lukoil depot of Neder-Over-Heembeek on April 7, 2022 in Brussels, Belgium.

Thierry Monasse | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The United States has obtained a warrant to seize a $45 million Boeing 737 aircraft owned by Russian energy firm PJSC Lukoil, the U.S. Justice Department said.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas authorized the seizure after finding “probable cause that the Boeing aircraft was subject to seizure based on violations of federal law,” the department said in a statement.

Court documents revealed that the aircraft did not comply with sanctions that the Department of Commerce had enacted against Russia as it “flew in and out” of the country. The plane last entered the United States in March 2019 and it had Lukoil officials on board, according to the department.

The department has stated that it believes the jet is situated in Russia at present.

— Natalie Tham

IAEA team sets off for nuclear power plant despite reports of intense shelling

Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, speaks to press members before leaving from the hotel with delegation to inspect at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Zaporizhzia, Ukraine on September 01, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s mission to inspect the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has set off, but there are reports this morning of shelling around Enerhodar, where the plant is located.

The IAEA team is due to begin an inspection of the plant this morning following rising concerns over the safety and stability of the facility, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly blamed each other for shelling in the area and on Thursday there were more reports of shelling in the region.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said the mission was aware of “increased military activity in the area” but was pressing ahead with its plan to visit the facility and meet personnel there, Reuters reported.

Russian news agency Interfax reported that its forces had fired on a group of Ukrainian troops which had landed in the Enerhodar region on Thursday morning.

Alexander Volga, head of the provisional administration of the city (a Russian-installed official), told Interfax that, “there was a landing of Ukrainian troops, they are currently immobilized, lying in a summer cottage. Our aviation is working on them. Scouts have figured out their location, at the moment they are being hit by fire. I think that everything will be finished in the near future, and we will win.”

Interfax repeated Russian claims that Enerhodar was “subjected to a massive artillery strike from the Armed Forces of Ukraine” this morning in which it said apartment buildings and a kindergarten were hit.

Ukraine has not responded to those claims, but Oleksandr Starukh, the Ukrainian head of the Zaporizhzhia region, said on Telegram Thursday that Russian forces were shelling the pre-agreed route the IAEA team are due to take to the nuclear power plant.

“The UN advance team cannot continue the movement due to security reasons. Ukraine continues to make efforts to organize safe access of the international IAEA mission to the ZNPP. We demand that the Russian Federation stop the provocations and grant the IAEA unhindered access to the Ukrainian nuclear facility,” he said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia says it is trying to restore supply lines to troops in southern Ukraine

Russian forces are concentrating their efforts on restoring supply lines and keeping a hold on captured territories in Ukraine, the country’s armed forces said in an operational update Thursday morning.

“The opponent is focusing efforts on establishing full control over the territory of the Donetsk region, as well as keeping the captured areas of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and Nikolaiv regions,” the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said in a post on Facebook.

Black smoke rises at the front line in Mykolaiv Oblast on August 30, 2022. Ukraine has begun a major counteroffensive to retake Kherson city and the southern region of the same name. Kherson was the first Ukrainian city to fall into Russian hands after the invasion began in February.

Dimitar Dilkoff | Afp | Getty Images

The comments come amid a renewed push by Kyiv to reclaim Russian-occupied land, particularly in the south of the country around the city Kherson, which was one of the first cities to fall into Russian hands after the invasion.

Ukraine’s forces have attacked supply routes into the city, including key bridges across the Dnipro river, in a bid to prevent Russia being able to re-supply its troops.

In the south, Ukraine’s armed forces said Russia was focusing on maintaining occupied positions and “taking measures to recover losses” and “trying to restore the logistics supply” to its troops there.

Regional officials have reported Ukrainian advances, and Russian retreats in some areas, since the start of the counteroffensive that began earlier this week, but Ukraine is tight-lipped about the operation, not wanting to reveal its strategy or raise expectations of any imminent breakthrough in the conflict.

— Holly Ellyatt

80% of NATO members have ratified Sweden and Finland’s entry into the alliance

Sweden’s foreign minister thanked the 24 NATO countries, or 80% of members, that have cleared Sweden and Finland to join the world’s most powerful military alliance.

Earlier this month, U.S. President Joe Biden signed ratification documents following a 95-1 Senate vote to bring Finland and Sweden into NATO.

In May, both nations began the formal process of applying to NATO as Russia’s war in Ukraine raged. All 30 members of the alliance have to ratify Sweden and Finland into the group.

— Amanda Macias

G-7 finance ministers to discuss a cap on Russian oil prices

Janet Yellen, US Treasury secretary, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister and minister of finance, Christian Lindner, Germany’s finance minister, Rishi Sunak, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, Joachim Nagel, president of the Deutsche Bundesbank, front from left, and fellow ministers and governors pose for a family photo during the G7 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in Konigswinter, Germany, on Thursday, May 19, 2022.

Alex Kraus | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The G-7 finance ministers will unveil new details later this week about a U.S.-led plan to cap the price of Russian oil, a White House spokeswoman said.

The representatives of the G-7 economic powers will meet Friday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. Their agenda will include the plan to effectively bar the shipping of Russian oil that was purchased for more than a maximum price agreed upon by the G-7 group.

The plan is currently the leading proposal to cut into Russia’s oil revenues, which have soared since the invasion of Ukraine drove up global energy prices. Jean-Pierre deflected a question about why President Joe Biden has not authorized more domestic energy production amid record high gas prices.

“We think that working with our allies and making this announcement on this price cap on Russian oil is going to be very effective,” she said.

So far, U.S. and European efforts to deprive Russia of the oil revenue critical to funding its government and its military have fallen flat, largely due to massive increases in Russian oil imports by India and China.

— Christina Wilkie

White House says the next security assistance package for Ukraine will be announced ‘in the coming days’

Ukraine was already stocking up on U.S.-made Javelins before Russia invaded. Here a group of Ukrainian servicemen take a shipment of Javelins in early February, as Russia positioned troops on Ukraine’s border.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

The Biden administration will announce a new security assistance package for Ukraine “in the coming days,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

We have committed more than $13 billion in security assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces, and we will continue to do that,” Kirby said on a conference call with reporters.

“There will be announcements of future security assistance in coming days,” he added.

Last week, to mark Ukraine’s 31 years of independence from the Soviet Union, Biden announced a U.S. military aid package worth approximately $3 billion.

The latest arms package, the 19th such installment, is Washington’s largest since Russia’s full-scale invasion began six months ago.

— Amanda Macias

IAEA wants to establish ‘permanent presence’ at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

The monitoring team from the International Atomic Energy Agency, a U.N. watchdog, has arrived in Zaporizhzhia with the head of the delegation telling NBC News that the agency would like to establish a permanent presence at the Russian-occupied nuclear power plant.

A team from IAEA arrived in the south of Ukraine around midday local time and are due to travel directly to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. They will inspect the facility over several days to assess the security and safety of the plant, which both Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of shelling.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shakes hands with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who is to head a planned mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine August 30, 2022.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi told NBC’s Joshua Lederman that the mission will take a few days and that, in the longer term, the IAEA is also hoping to establish a “permanent presence” at the plant.

When asked whether he’s confident the mission can be carried out safely, Grossi said “of course,” despite fears that Russia could carry out what Ukraine has said could be a “provocation” during the visit. Russia has denied this and in turn, accused Ukraine of planning an attack during the visit.

Asked whether he believes Russia will allow the IAEA inspectors to see what’s really going on at the plant, Grossi said that the team was very experienced and made up of “the best and the brightest” in nuclear safety and security. “We will have a pretty good idea of what’s going on,” he says.

— Holly Ellyatt

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