Ukrainian forces began a counter-attack to retake the southern city of Kherson currently occupied by Russian troops, a local government official said today. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi said Monday he was leading a mission to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant that would arrive later this week. Follow our liveblog to keep up with the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).


3:21pm: Ukraine launches counter-offensive to retake occupied city of Kherson

Ukrainian forces have begun a counter-attack to retake the southern city of Kherson currently occupied by Russian troops, a local government official said Monday.

“Today there was a powerful artillery attack on enemy positions in… the entire territory of the occupied Kherson region,” Deputy of Kherson Regional Council Sergey Khlan told Ukraine’s Pryamyi TV channel.

“This is the announcement of what we have been waiting for since the spring — it is the beginning of the de-occupation of Kherson region.”

3:08pm: Several killed in Russian shelling of Mykolaiv, says region’s governor

A passer-by and an unspecified number of residents have been killed after Russian shelling of private homes in Mykolaiv on Monday, regional governor Vitaliy Kim wrote on Telegram.

“The center of the city is being heavily shelled. There are still rockets being launched. Do not leave shelters,” Kim wrote minutes before confirming the deaths.

FRANCE 24 was not immediately able to confirm the report.

1:15pm: Ukraine says long-anticipated southern offensive has begun

Ukraine has started a long-awaited counter-offensive in the country’s south, said a spokesperson for the country’s southern military command.

“Today we started offensive actions in various directions, including in the Kherson region,” Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne cited southern command spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk as saying.

At a press briefing in Kyiv, Humeniuk said Ukraine’s recent strikes on Russia’s southern logistical routes had “unquestionably weakened the enemy,” adding that more than 10 Russian ammunition dumps had been hit over the last week.

However, she declined to be drawn into giving more details about the new offensive.

“Any military operation needs silence,” she said, adding that Russia’s forces in the south are “rather powerful” and have been built up over a long time.

11:55am: Germany has ‘special responsibility’ to help Ukraine’s defence: Scholz

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he saw Germany taking on “special responsibility” to help Ukraine build up its artillery and air defence systems, as he vowed that Berlin will maintain its backing for “as long as it takes”.

Calling on allies to coordinate a “long-term and reliable division of labour” on support for Ukraine, Scholz said that he can “imagine that Germany will assume special responsibility in terms of building up Ukraine’s artillery and air defence capacities”.

In a speech titled “Europe is our future”, Scholz called for an enlargement of the EU to eventually include Ukraine, Moldova, the countries of the Western Balkans and Georgia.

11:55am: IAEA’s Zaporizhzhia mission had to overcome several ‘hurdles’

An attack on spent nuclear fuel and a breakdown in the power supply are among the risks to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is occupied by Russian forces and has seen shelling on or near it in recent weeks. FRANCE 24 international affairs editor Philip Turle explains.

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10:40am: Russian official welcomes IAEA mission to Zaporizhzhia: state media

A top Russian diplomat said Moscow welcomes the IAEA’s upcoming mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s permanent representative to the international organisations in Vienna, said Russia had made a significant contribution to the visit, which the IAEA said will take place this week.

10:23am: Sweden announces new military aid package for Ukraine

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Stockholm will provide a further 500 million crowns ($46.75 million) in military assistance to Ukraine. 

Andersson told reporters after hosting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba for talks that her government would provide a total additional aid package of 1 billion crowns in military and civilian assistance to Ukraine.

Kuleba called on Sweden to provide the country with weapons such as howitzers and shells. “As long as the war continues, we will be asking for more weapons,” Kuleba told reporters.

10:08am: G7 group welcomes IAEA mission to Zaporizhzhia plant, says its electricity is Ukraine’s

The Group of Seven‘s Non-Proliferation Directors’ Group has welcomed the IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and reiterated concerns about the plant’s safety under the control of Russian armed forces.

“We reaffirm that the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and the electricity that it produces rightly belong to Ukraine and stress that attempts by Russia to disconnect the plant from the Ukrainian power grid would be unacceptable,” it said in a statement.

8:26am: IAEA team cleared for Zaporizhzhia mission after intense negotiations

Reporting from Kyiv, FRANCE 24’s James André explains that the long-awaited green light for the IAEA’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant inspection mission came after intense negotiations. 

In a message posted on Twitter this morning, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said the inspection team would be at the site “later this week”.  

Some of the key sticking points were the composition of the team, André explains, with “Russia and Ukraine haggling over the names. It appears Rafael Grossi will be part of that team, as well as experts who are considered pro-Ukrainian – such as Polish and Latvian experts – but also experts from countries considered pro-Russian, from Serbia or other countries considered close to Moscow. And then there are experts from a list of countries considered to be neutral.”

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6:44am: IAEA team heading to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi has said he was on his way to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which has been the target of strikes in recent weeks.

“The day has come, IAEA‘s Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya is now on its way,” Grossi tweeted, saying the team from the UN atomic watchdog would arrive at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant “later this week”.

Grossi has for months been asking to be able to visit the site, warning of “the very real risk of a nuclear disaster”.

The Zaporizhzhia plant, which has six of Ukraine’s reactors, has been occupied by Russian troops since shortly after Moscow launched its invasion on February 24, and has remained on the frontlines ever since.

1:05am: EU foreign policy chief says a visa ban on Russians is unlikely

European Union foreign ministers meeting later this week are unlikely to unanimously back a visa ban on all Russians, as would be needed to put such a ban in place, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told Austria’s ORF TV on Sunday.

“I don’t think that to cut the relationship with the Russian civilian population will help and I don’t think that this idea will have the required unanimity,” Borrell, who chairs EU foreign ministers’ meetings, told the national broadcaster.

“I think that we have to review the way that some Russians get a visa, certainly the oligarchs not. We have to be more selective. But I am not in favour of stopping delivering visas to all Russians.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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