A nuclear plant located in the middle of intense fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops was disconnected from the power grid Thursday when fires damaged the sole transmission line, Ukraine officials said.
It was the first time the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, has ever been disconnected, and it was not immediately clear if it had been reconnected. While off the grid, the plant must rely on emergency diesel generators to run cooling systems.
The incident heightened fears that fighting near the plant – or mistakes by exhausted operators – could trigger a nuclear catastrophe felt across much of Europe. The UN and international atomic energy officials have been trying for weeks to gain access to the plant.
The plant and surrounding region have been controlled by Russia for months. Zelenskyy has accused Russia of storing weapons there and launching attacks from around it. Zelenskyy says Russia’s military actions there amount to “nuclear blackmail.” Moscow, meanwhile, accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the facility.
‘YOU FIGHT ENDLESSLY’: Ukrainians worldwide grapple with months of war
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►The Moscow Regional Court upheld a guilty verdict and 14-year prison sentence handed down in June for American Marc Fogel, a history teacher at an international school when he was arrested at a Moscow airport for possession of cannabis he used for spinal pain.
►Russian planes flew about 200 sorties over Ukraine on Wednesday, Ukraine’s independence day, the Ukraine air force said. Air raid sirens blared across most of the country.
►The former mayor of Russia’s fourth-largest city was arrested Wednesday on charges of discrediting the country’s military, part of a crackdown on critics of Moscow’s military action in Ukraine. Police arrested Yevgeny Roizman, 59, who served as the mayor of Yekaterinburg in 2013-2018, following searches at his apartment and office.
Russia to add 137,000 soldiers
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to add 137,000 service members to his military, an increase of almost 14%. The new total will be 1,150,628. Pentagon officials have estimated that about 80,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded since the invasion began. The Kremlin has said that only volunteer contract soldiers take part in what it calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine, rejecting claims that it was pondering a broad mobilization.
All Russian men aged 18-27 must serve one year in the military, but a large share avoid the draft for health reasons or deferments granted to university students. The share of men who avoid the draft is particularly large in Moscow and other major cities.
Ukraine has declared a goal of forming a 1-million-strong military.
Biden, Zelenskyy to talk today, but Biden won’t visit Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President Joe Biden will discuss American arms shipments Thursday but there are no plans for Biden to visit Kyiv. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been to Kyiv three times, including Wednesday.
Biden will reaffirm the United States’ commitment to “rally the free world” and support Ukraine, said John Kirby, the communications coordinator at the National Security Council.
On Wednesday, the Pentagon announced a $2.98 billion aid package that will include surface-to-air missile systems, artillery ammunition, and drones. Since January, the Biden administration has spent $13.5 billion on military aid to Ukraine.
6 months into war, Ukrainians around the world share stories
Half a year since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, USA TODAY reporters reconnected with Ukrainians across the globe who first shared their experiences during the early stages of the war.
While some are struggling under Russian occupation or living amid fierce combat and shelling, others in the U.S. and Europe are adapting to new countries and a new normal. Several said they worry public attention to the war and its human toll is waning. Here are their stories.
Two children among dead in Russian rocket attack
Two children were among the dead in the rocket attack that killed 25 people Wednesday in Chaplyne, city official Kirill Timoshenko said. He said 31 people were injured and that search and rescue operations had been completed. The attack struck Chaplyne, 400 miles east of Kyiv, on Ukraine’s independence day. Zelenskyy had warned Ukrainians for days that Moscow might attempt “something particularly cruel” this week.
“An 11-year-old boy died under the rubble of a house. Another 6-year-old child died during a fire in a car near the railway station,” he said.
Russia said it targeted a military train and claimed to have killed more than 200 Ukrainian reservists. Hours before the attack, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia was carrying out strikes with precision weapons against Ukrainian military targets, and “everything is done to avoid civilian casualties.”
A car bombing last week outside Moscow that killed a pro-Putin commentator had put Ukraine on high alert for reprisals, even though Ukraine authorities denied involvement in the attack.
Zelenskyy said Ukraine will “definitely” make Russia take responsibility for their war crimes and once again pledged to drive Russian troops out of his country.
“Not a single stain of this evil will remain in our free Ukraine,” he said.
Contributing: The Associated Press