Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant under occupation by Russian troops was disconnected from the national power supply on Thursday, the state energy operator said. Fire damage to overhead power lines caused the remaining two operating reactors to shut down, the company added. Follow our liveblog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

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4:02pm: Specialists working to reconnect Zaporizhzhia reactor

More details of the Zaporizhzhia reactor disconnection from Ukraine’s national power grid coming in: Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom has said the plant’s security systems were working normally and work was under way to reconnect one of reactor blocks to the grid.

The decision to disconnect the reactors came after fires broke out in the ash pits of a coal plant located near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant – Europe’s largest – and damaged the power lines connecting the nuclear plant to Ukraine’s grid, the company said.

The plant was disconnected from Ukraine’s national supply system after a power line was twice disconnected by fires at the ash pits in the adjacent thermal power plant.

The three other power lines “were earlier damaged during terrorist attacks” by Russian forces, said Energoatom.

As a result, the two of the plant’s six reactors still functioning “were disconnected from the network”.

3:36pm: Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant disconnected from power grid, says operator

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant under occupation by Russian troops was disconnected from the national power supply, said Ukraine’s state energy operator.

“The actions of the invaders caused a complete disconnection of the (Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant) from the power grid – the first in the history of the plant,” Energoatom said on Telegram.

Fire damage to overhead power lines caused the remaining two operating reactors at the Russian-held plant in southern Ukraine to shut down, said Energoatom.

3:23pm: Macron reiterates support for IAEA visit to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

French President Emmanuel Macron met with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi earlier today and expressed his support for a visit by IAEA experts to the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe’s largest, according to a French presidential palace statement.

During his meeting with Grossi, Macron “reiterated his support for the deployment of an IAEA expert mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as soon as possible to address nuclear safety and security issues and safeguards, while respecting Ukraine’s full sovereignty over its territory and infrastructure,” said the statement.

In an interview with FRANCE 24 shortly after the meeting, Grossi said he was hopeful the visit would take place within “days”.

Ukrainian staff are still operating the plant but the site has been controlled by Russian forces since early in the six-month war that began with Russia’s February 24 invasion.

2:35pm: Russia says deadly railway station attack was on Ukrainian military target

Russia’s defence ministry has confirmed that its forces had struck a railway station in Chaplyne in eastern Ukraine, which killed 25 civilians as the nation marked its Independence Day.

In its daily briefing, the ministry said an Iskander missile hit a military train on Wednesday that was carrying Ukrainian troops and equipment to the eastern front line. The ministry claimed more than 200 reservists “were destroyed on their way to the combat zone.” at the Chaplyne station.

1:49pm: Putin signs decree to increase size of Russian armed forces

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Thursday to increase the size of Russia’s armed forces from 1.9 to 2.04 million, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The figure, which includes a 137,000 increase in the number of military personnel to 1.15 million, comes into effect on January 1.

1:14pm: ‘Difficult to say’ if Independence Day motivated Chaplyne strike

“All we know about this attack in Chaplyne in eastern Ukraine, near to Dnipro, is that indeed a missile hit a train in a station and hit some carriages that had people inside,” FRANCE 24’s James Andre reported from Kyiv. “According to the first [reports], at least five people died burnt in a car and an 11-year-old was killed.”

It is “difficult to say of course if this Russian strike was in retaliation or to mark the date of Ukrainian Independence Day,” Andre continued.


 

12:40pm: European gas prices approach record peak on Russian supply fears

European natural gas prices climbed Thursday towards a record peak on heightened fears over Russian supplies, while global equities rose on the eve of a key speech from Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell.

Europe’s benchmark Dutch TTF gas contract advanced to 318 euros per megawatt hour before paring gains. That was not far from the record high 345 euros struck in March shortly after key gas producer Russia invaded Ukraine.

Prices have spiked in recent days as a three-day halt in Russian deliveries to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline approaches.

At the same time, one-year forward contracts for electricity prices in both France and Germany surged on Thursday to record pinnacles on worries over a winter energy crunch.

>> Can Europe keep the heating on this winter amid Russian gas crunch?

12:28pm: Britain to support rebuilding of Ukrainian transport network

Britain will share technical expertise with Ukraine as part of a new package of support to help the country rebuild its infrastructure and transport network following Russia’s invasion earlier this year, the government said on Thursday.

British experts will offer technical knowledge in airport, runway and port reconstruction, and will help identify training opportunities for aviation staff, British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement.

12:18pm: UN rights chief urges Putin to stop Ukraine war

In a departing plea to President Vladimir Putin, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Thursday urged him to stop Russia’s attack on Ukraine and its “unimaginably terrifying” impact on civilians.

Bachelet, who steps down at the end of the month, marked the six months since the February 24 Russian invasion by insisting on accountability for serious rights violations in the conflict, some of which may amount to war crimes, she said.

“I call on the Russian president to halt the armed attack against Ukraine,” the outgoing United Nations high commissioner for human rights told a farewell press conference in Geneva.

11:41am: Polish PM to discuss security, energy crisis with Macron

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday he would visit Paris on Monday to discuss the situation in Ukraine, defence cooperation and energy issues with French President Emmanuel Macron.

“First of all, we will talk about security issues, because France is an important partner … Strengthening (NATO’s) eastern flank will also certainly be a subject of our discussion,” Morawiecki said, pointing to issues such as military cooperation and cooperation between defence industries.

“In addition to security we will also talk about energy. We can see that Russia has caused a huge wave of inflation all over the world … we will talk with the President of France how to alleviate inflationary pressure, especially on the energy market,” he added.

11:20am: FRANCE 24 meets families reunited after Russian retreat

The areas around Kyiv ravaged by the Russian invasion early in the war are now relatively safe, allowing people to go back and see their loved ones in person. FRANCE 24 travelled to Irpin and met Marina, a Ukrainian woman who has lived in London for two decades but wouldn’t miss her mother’s birthday for the world.

The destroyed Irpin bridge – where part of Marina’s family crossed the river to flee the Russians on March 7 – has become a symbol of Moscow’s brutal invasion and Ukraine’s heroic resistance. Marina was keen to show it to her two sons before she went back to the UK.

But top of the agenda was seeing her elderly mother. “My mother is becoming quite frail so it was even more important for us to get together despite the war, to be together and to feel as a family, it just gives us strength, and the feeling that we will overcome this,” Marina said.

“Ukraine became independent when I was 20, now I’m 51,” she continued. “And I’ve lived through all of this just like millions of other Ukrainians, it’s a defining story of our life, that Ukraine is becoming a country, a truly independent country, a truly European country, and it’s paying a very high price.”


 

11:06am: Russian anti-torture activist in hospital after attack

Russian anti-torture activist Igor Kalyapin was in hospital after being attacked by a person claiming to be a police officer, the Presidential Human Rights Council said Thursday.

Kalyapin is a member of Russia’s Human Rights Council, an advisory group with the Kremlin that reports to President Vladimir Putin. For over two decades, he was also head of the “Committee Against Torture” NGO, which reports instances of abuse by law enforcement.

“Igor Kalyapin was attacked by an unknown person” on Wednesday in the Nizhny Novgorod region some 400 kilometres (248 miles) east of Moscow, the council said on social media. It added that the attacker “tried to cut his face and strangle him” before Kalyapin called the police. The attacker was detained. Kalyapin is currently in hospital with a “suspected concussion”, the council said.

10:55am: Russian, French defence ministers discussed Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in phone call

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu discussed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant with his French counterpart by telephone, the ministry said on Thursday.

Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear plant, was captured by Russian troops in March. It remains close to the frontline, and has come under repeated fire in recent weeks, raising fears of a nuclear disaster. Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the plant.

10:52am: Russia’s use of cluster bombs in Ukraine is ‘extensive’

Russia has widely used cluster bombs in Ukraine, causing hundreds of civilian casualties and damaging homes, schools and hospitals, a monitoring body said Thursday.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, hundreds of cluster munition attacks by Russian forces have been documented, reported, or are alleged to have occurred, the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) said in an annual report.

Ukrainian forces appear to also have used cluster munitions several times, the monitoring group said in the 2022 report on the use of the weapons around the world.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine have joined the convention prohibiting the use, transfer, production and stockpiling of cluster bombs, which has 110 states parties and 13 other signatories.

10:40am: Death toll from Ukraine train station strike rises to 25

The death toll from a Russian strike on a train station in central Ukraine rose to 25 overnight, the state rail operator said on Thursday. The strike targeted a station in the city of Chaplyne in the region of Dnipropetrovsk, on Wednesday.

“As of this morning, we have 25 dead, including two children, and 31 people injured, including two children,” Ukrainian Railways said on Telegram on Thursday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky first announced the strike in the evening on Wednesday — as the nation marked the grim milestone of six months of war, and its annual Independence Day. “Chaplyne is our pain today,” Zelensky said.

8:48am: French minister seeks probe into Total’s possible fuel links to Russian army

The French transport minister called on Thursday for an investigation into whether French oil major TotalEnergies was involved in supplying jet fuel to the Russian military through a local joint venture.

Le Monde newspaper reported on Wednesday that TotalEnergies was involved in supplying gas condensate to make jet fuel that may have been used by Russian warplanes in Ukraine, via the French firm’s stake in a venture with Russia’s Novatek.

“This is an extremely serious subject, so there needs to be an investigation into whether, voluntarily or involuntarily, there has been a bypass of either the sanctions or the energy that a company, French or other, has produced,” French Transport Minister Clement Beaune said on France 2 television.


8:34am: Ukrainian fears run high over fighting near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Ukrainians are once again anxious and alarmed about the fate of a nuclear power plant in a land that was home to the world’s worst atomic accident in 1986 at Chernobyl.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, has been occupied by Russian forces since the early days of the war, and continued fighting near the facility has heightened fears of a catastrophe that could affect nearby towns in southern Ukraine — or potentially an even wider region.

The government in Kyiv alleges Russia is essentially holding the Soviet-era nuclear plant hostage, storing weapons there and launching attacks from around it, while Moscow accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the facility, which is located in the city of Enerhodar.

“Anybody who understands nuclear safety issues has been trembling for the last six months,” said Mycle Schneider, an independent policy consultant and coordinator of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report.

6:01am: Six months into war, Russian goods still flowing to US

On a hot, humid East Coast day this summer, a massive container ship pulled into the Port of Baltimore loaded with sheets of plywood, aluminum rods and radioactive material — all sourced from the fields, forests and factories of Russia.

US President Joe Biden promised to “inflict pain” and deal “a crushing blow” on Vladimir Putin through trade restrictions on commodities like vodka, diamonds and gasoline in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine six months ago. But hundreds of other types of unsanctioned goods worth billions of dollars, including those found on the ship bound for Baltimore from St. Petersburg, Russia, continue to flow into US ports.

AP found more than 3,600 shipments of wood, metals, rubber and other goods have arrived at U.S. ports from Russia since it began launching missiles and airstrikes into its neighbor in February. That’s a significant drop from the same period in 2021 when about 6,000 shipments arrived, but it still adds up to more than $1 billion worth of commerce a month.

3:50am: Ukraine plans international court to put Putin on trial

Six months into Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian officials are drawing up plans to make sure Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top military commanders will be tried for launching the war.

The plan for a special international tribunal to investigate Russia’s alleged “crime of aggression” is being spearheaded by Andrii Smirnov, deputy head of Ukraine‘s presidential administration.

The definition of the crime of aggression was adopted in the 2010 Rome Statute, and the similar notion of “crime against peace” was used in trials in Nuremberg and Tokyo after the Second World War.

The International Criminal Court, which has been trying the gravest crimes for the past 20 years, is already investigating war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine.

2:27am: Russian attack kills at least 22 civilians on Ukraine’s Independence Day, Kyiv officials say

A Russian missile attack killed 22 civilians and set a passenger train on fire in eastern Ukraine as the country marked its Independence Day under heavy shelling, officials in Kyiv said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had warned of the risk of “repugnant Russian provocations” ahead of the 31st anniversary on Wednesday of Ukraine’s independence from Moscow-dominated Soviet rule, and public celebrations were cancelled.

The holiday also coincided with six months since Russian forces invaded Ukraine, touching off Europe’s most devastating conflict since World War II.

In a video address to the United Nations Security Council, Zelensky said rockets hit a train in the small town of Chaplyne, some 145 km (90 miles) west of Russian-occupied Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

“Chaplyne is our pain today. As of this moment there are 22 dead,” he said in a later evening video address, adding that Ukraine would hold Russia responsible for everything it had done.

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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