Russia-Ukraine war: UN nuclear envoy sets off for Zaporizhzhia; Russia shelling routes to plant, Zelenskiy says – live | Ukraine

Key events

Ukraine pushing Russia’s frontline back in south: UK MoD says

Ukraine continue its offensive against Russia’s forces across southern Ukraine, pushing the frontline back “some distance in places”, according to British intelligence.

The full report released by the UK Ministry of Defence this morning reads:

Ukrainian armoured forces have continued to assault Russia’s Southern Grouping of Forces on several axes across the south of the country since Monday.

Ukrainian formations have pushed the front line back some distance in places, exploiting relatively thinly held Russian defences.

In line with its doctrine, Russia will likely now attempt to plug the gaps in its line using pre-designated mobile reserve units. These will likely include some of those from the Eastern Grouping of Forces.

Russia continues to expedite attempts to generate new reinforcements for Ukraine. Volunteer battalions of the new 3rd Army Corps had departed their home base near Moscow by 24 August, highly likely for onward deployment to Ukraine.

The operational effectiveness of these units is not known. The 3rd Army Corps is highly likely short of personnel and these troops have had limited training.”

The UN’s cultural agency has said it supports a bid by Ukraine to put its port city of Odesa on the Unesco world heritage list of protected sites.

The historic centre of Odesa has already been “struck by artillery fire” and is “located only a few dozen kilometres from the front line”, the agency said in a statement.

The statement followed a meeting of the agency’s director, Audrey Azoulay, and Ukraine’s culture minister, Oleksandr Tkachenko, in Paris. The agency added:

On 24 July 2022, part of the large glass roof and windows of Odesa’s Museum of Fine Arts, inaugurated in 1899, were destroyed.

It said it had mobilised experts to support Ukraine so that the nomination can be examined urgently by World Heritage Committee member states.

The UN agency also said it wants to add Odesa, Kyiv and Lviv to the list of world heritage sites “in danger”.

Russia switches off gas pipeline citing maintenance

Russia has halted gas supplies via a major pipeline to Europe, citing a need for maintenance on its only remaining compressor and raising the prospects of recession and energy rationing throughout the region.

The outage for maintenance on Nord Stream 1 means that no gas will flow to Germany between 1am GMT on Wednesday and 1am GMT on Saturday, 3 September, according to Russian state energy giant Gazprom.

Data from the Nord Stream 1 operator’s website, as cited by Reuters, showed flows at zero for 4-5am Central European Time (2-3am GMT) on Wednesday.

European governments fear Moscow could extend the outage in retaliation for western sanctions imposed.

Further restrictions to European gas supplies would heighten an energy crunch that has already sent wholesale gas prices soaring over 400% since last August.

The upcoming work was announced less than two weeks in advance and is being carried out by Gazprom not Nord Stream AG, focusing on the last operating turbine at the station. Moscow blames maintenance issues and sanctions it says prevent the return and installation of equipment.

Gazprom said the latest shutdown is needed to perform maintenance on the pipeline’s only remaining compressor.

Russia shelling routes to nuclear plant, Zelenskiy says

Ukraine has accused Russia of deliberately shelling corridors to make it unsafe for the IAEA inspectors to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the south of the country.

A key adviser to Ukraine’s president Mykhailo Podolyak said Russia was attempting to force the mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) through Crimea and parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions temporarily occupied by Moscow’s forces.

Another senior presidential adviser Andriy Yermak said Russia aimed to force the UN team through Crimea and parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions temporarily occupied by Moscow’s forces.

🇷🇺 is deliberately shelling corridors for IAEA mission to reach ZNPP. All to offer passage through Crimea/ORDLO. 🇺🇦 position is the same. Access only through controlled territory of 🇺🇦. Nuclear power plant demilitarization. Ru-troops withdrawal. Only ua-personnel at the station.

— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) August 30, 2022

“Russia is trying to disrupt the visit of the IAEA mission to the nuclear power plant by simulating combat operations in Energodar and shelling the area near the nuclear power plant,” he said.

Zelenskiy also claimed Russia “does not stop provocations precisely in those directions from which the mission is supposed to arrive at the station”.

The occupiers have not abandoned the plant, they are continuing bombardments and are not withdrawing arms and ammunition from the site. They are intimidating our personnel. The risk of a nuclear catastrophe due to Russian actions is not diminishing for even an hour”, he added.

“An immediate and total demilitarisation in Zaporizhzhia is necessary”.

Zelenskiy meets with UN nuclear chief

Zelenskiy met with the UN nuclear watchdog chief who will lead an expert team to inspect the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine this week.

Director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, arrived in the Ukrainian capital late on Monday at the head of a 14-strong team before a visit to the Russian-occupied plant.

Zelenskiy said the mission was “probably one of the top-priority questions regarding the safety of Ukraine and the world today”, and called for the “immediate de-militarisation of the plant” and its transfer to “full Ukrainian control”.

The Ukrainian president said he hoped the delegation would “find an opportunity, thanks to our special services, thanks to the security corridors, to get to the station and do the best to avoid all those threats on a global scale”.

He also urged the mission to do more than inspect the plant, saying that strategic decisions were required “regarding the urgent demilitarisation of the station, the withdrawal of all, any, military personnel of the Russian Federation with explosives, with any kind of weapon”.

UN nuclear envoy sets off for Zaporizhzhia

A team of nuclear experts are en route by car to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant amid international concern of a potential accident or radiation leak.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) envoy set off from Kyiv this morning to the plant in southeastern Ukraine, a Reuters witness reported from the scene.

UN nuclear chief Rafael Grossi told a briefing in Kyiv as reported by Ukrainian media outlet Ukrinform:

We are finally leaving after six months of effort. The IAEA is heading to the Zaporizhzhya NPP. As you know, we have a very important task there – to work and examine the real situation there, to help stabilise the situation as much as possible.”

Grossi said he hoped to establish a permanent mission in Ukraine to monitor Europe’s largest nuclear plant before the mission’s departure.

These operations are very complex operations. We are going to a war zone. We are going to occupied territory. And this requires explicit guarantees from not only from the Russians, but also from the Republic of Ukraine.

We have been able to secure that … So now we are moving.”

“I am really very conscious of the relevance of this moment but we are ready. The IAEA is ready. We will be reporting back after the mission. We are going to be spending a few days there,” he added.

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.

A team of nuclear experts are en route to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant from Kyiv this morning amid international concern of a potential accident or radiation leak.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has accused Russia of deliberately shelling corridors to make it unsafe for the IAEA inspectors to visit the plant in the south of the country.

It is 7.30am in Kyiv. Here is where we stand:

  • Ukraine’s counteroffensive to retake Kherson will be a “slow operation to grind the enemy”, the senior presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych has said. “Of course, many would like a large-scale offensive with news about the capture by our military of a settlement in an hour,” he wrote. “But we don’t fight like that … Funds are limited.”

  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said “heavy fighting” continues in “almost the entire territory” of Kherson. A spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern command, Natalia Humeniuk, said Ukraine’s forces had succeeded in damaging bridges that join Kherson across the river, rendering them “impassable for heavy machinery”.

  • A Moscow-installed leader of occupied Kherson has reportedly fled to Russia. When asked by the Guardian about his location, Kirill Stremousov said he was currently “travelling around Russian cities, meeting different people for work”.

  • The previous head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, welcomed Ukraine’s counterattacks in Kherson, saying it is a key moment in the war. Sir Alex Younger told the BBC that the fightback from Kyiv showed the two opposing forces had “reached some kind of balance, which is an unexpected and frankly welcome situation”.

  • Ukraine is using wooden decoys of advanced US rocket systems to trick Russia into wasting its missiles on them, according to The Washington Post. The decoy versions of US-supplied rocket launcher systems drew at least 10 Russian Kalibr cruise missiles, leading Ukraine to further boost its production of replicas, in an effort to lure Moscow into firing its expensive long-range missiles on fake targets, the publication said.

  • The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, has died in Moscow aged 91. Gorbachev’s reforms led to the unlooked-for break-up of his own country, and to the demise of communism across central and eastern Europe. He died after a “difficult and protracted illness”, Russian news agencies cited hospital officials as saying on Tuesday. Recent reports suggested he was had a kidney ailment.

  • The UN’s cultural agency has said it supports a bid by Ukraine to put its port city of Odesa on the Unesco world heritage list of protected sites. The UN agency also said it wants to add Odesa, Kyiv and Lviv to the list of world heritage sites “in danger”. Ukrainian officials said Moscow’s forces are approaching Odesa and analysts believe Russia could soon target the city to completely block Ukraine’s Black Sea access.

  • Ukraine’s parliament endorsed several laws and ratifications on Tuesday to bring the country closer to the European Union, Volodymyr Zelenskiy said. “We are moving step by step towards full membership in the EU,” he added.

  • Zelenskiy met with the UN nuclear watchdog chief who will lead an expert team to inspect the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine this week. “It’s an important mission, and we’re doing everything we can for it to be safe and work at full capacity,” he said during a meeting with the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, on Tuesday. The head of the Russian-installed local administration, Yevgeny Balitsky, said he did not expect much from the IAEA visit and told the Interfax news agency the inspectors “must see the work of the station in one day”.

  • Ukraine has accused Russia of deliberately shelling corridors to make it unsafe for the IAEA inspectors to visit the plant. The senior presidential adviser Andriy Yermak said Russia aimed to force the UN team through Crimea and parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions temporarily occupied by Moscow’s forces. “Russia is trying to disrupt the visit of the IAEA mission to the nuclear power plant by simulating combat operations in Energodar and shelling the area near the nuclear power plant,” he said. Zelenskiy also claimed Russia “does not stop provocations precisely in those directions from which the mission is supposed to arrive at the station”.

  • At least five people were killed and 12 wounded in Russian shelling of Kharkiv, Zelenskiy said. “Only one Russian shelling of Kharkiv took the lives of five people today, another 12 were wounded.”

  • The wholesale price of gas has dropped sharply in a rare respite from recent highs on signs that Europe is preparing to intervene directly in energy markets. The European Commission said it was working “flat out” on an emergency package, and on a longer-term “structural reform of the electricity market” to combat soaring prices while efforts to fill gas storage facilities appear to be ahead of schedule. The day-ahead UK wholesale gas price tumbled by more than 20% to 447p per therm on Tuesday, while the month-ahead contract dropped by a quarter, to 473p per therm.

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