Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the world narrowly avoided a radiation disaster as electricity to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was cut for hours due to Russian shelling in the area, allegations that Moscow denied. Read our liveblog to see how all the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).


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10:30pm: Nuclear plant situation still risky, Zelensky says

The situation at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine remains very risky and dangerous even though the facility’s two working nuclear reactors were reconnected on Friday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

In an evening address, he reiterated demands that the International Atomic Energy Agency be allowed to visit the plant as soon as possible.

10:20pm: Ukraine has exported 1 million tonnes of food to 15 nations

Ukraine has now exported one million tonnes of agricultural products from its Black Sea ports under the terms of a grain deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday.

In an evening address, Zelensky said 44 ships had been sent to 15 nations. A further 70 applications for ships to be loaded had been received, he added, reiterating that Kyiv’s goal was to export three million tonnes a month.

8:55pm: Second nuclear reactor reconnected to grid in Ukraine

Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom said on Friday that a second reactor at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant had been reconnected to the Ukrainian grid.

Energoatom made the announcement in a statement. The first reactor was reconnected earlier in the day.

7:24pm: Ukraine strikes strategic bridge, according to military commander

Ukrainian rocket fire hit an important bridge used by Russian occupying forces in southern Kherson region on Friday and put it out of action, Ukraine’s southern military command said.

“Rocket artillery units continued to conduct missions, including ensuring control over the Daryivskiy bridge. Its operation is currently halted,” the southern command said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow.

The Daryivskiy bridge, which spans nearly 100 metres (yards), is the only Russian-controlled crossing across the Inhulets river, a tributary of the vast Dnipro.

The Inhulets splits the Russian-occupied land west of the Dnipro into two parts. Those parts are in turn connected to the eastern bank of the Dnipro – towards Russia – by one bridge each.

6:04pm: Fears of a radiation leak mount at Ukraine nuclear plant

Authorities began distributing iodine tablets to residents near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant Friday in case of a radiation leak, amid mounting fears that the fighting around the complex could trigger a catastrophe. 

The move came a day after the plant was temporarily knocked offline because of what officials said was fire damage to a transmission line. The incident heightened dread of a nuclear disaster in a country still haunted by the 1986 explosion at Chernobyl.

Continued shelling was reported in the area overnight, and satellite images from Planet Labs showed fires burning around the complex — Europe’s biggest nuclear plant — over the last several days.

Iodine tablets, which help block the absorption of radioactive iodine by the thyroid gland in a nuclear accident, were issued in the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is about 45 kilometers (27 miles) from the plant and remains under Ukrainian control. A woman and her small daughter were among those receiving the pills.

The UN‘s atomic energy agency has been trying to send a team in to inspect and help secure the plant. Officials said preparations for the trip were underway, but it remained unclear when it might take place.

5:07pm: Ukraine set to expand civilian evacuations ahead of winter

Ukraine plans to expand the number of districts on the war’s front lines where civilian evacuations will be mandatory, as those areas could be occupied and face central heating problems this winter, a deputy prime minister said on Friday.

The Ukrainian government launched a campaign of mandatory evacuations in July for people in the eastern Donetsk region that it began implementing this month.

Ukrainian-controlled districts and towns in the industrial east are under constant shelling from Russia and its proxies.

“If they stay there, people will suffer, especially children,” Iryna Vereshchuk said on national television, announcing the campaign’s expansion.

She said evacuating women with children and elderly people would be a priority from some districts of the eastern Kharkiv region and the southern Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv regions.

4:24pm: France’s TotalEnergies set to divest stake in major Russian gas field

TotalEnergies is selling its stake in Terneftegaz, a joint venture with Novatek, to the Russian oil and gas company, the French energy major said on Friday amid criticism over its business dealings in Russia.

The French company, unlike many Western rivals, has so far held on to many of its assets in Russia.

“Closing is expected in September 2022, subject to customary conditions,” the company said in a statement, after days of controversy over Terneftegaz, which Le Monde newspaper said supplied condensate gas which was later transformed to kerosene used in two Russian army bases.

TotalEnergies said that the divestment had been planned before the controversy emerged.

“On July 18, 2022, TotalEnergies agreed to sell to Novatek TotalEnergies’ 49% interest in Terneftegaz, which operates the Termokarstovoye gas and condensates field in Russia, on economic terms enabling TotalEnergies to recover the outstanding amounts invested in the field,” it said.

TotalEnergies added that it had sent Russian authorities a request to approve the deal on Aug. 8 and that it got the green light on Thursday.

3:17pm: Russia burns off natural gas amid EU energy crisis 

Russia is wasting large volumes of natural gas by burning it in a huge orange flare near the Finnish border at a time when it has sharply cut deliveries to the European Union, scientists and analysts said on Friday.

Analysts from Rystad, an energy consultancy based in Norway described it as an environmental disaster and estimated the amount of gas being burned off into the atmosphere was equivalent to about 0.5% of daily EU needs.

The spectacular flare can be seen in satellite images of Portovaya, site of a compressor station for the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany.

Russia has cut flows through Nord Stream 1 to just 20% of capacity and plans to shut it down entirely for three days next week, citing maintenance issues with turbines. The EU accuses it of using gas as a weapon to fight back against Western sanctions over Ukraine.

1:43pm: Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant reconnected to Ukrainian grid

The Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has been reconnected to Ukraine’s electricity grid, the national operator said Friday, after a cut-off that had sparked global concern about a nuclear incident.

“Today, August 26, 2022, at 2:04 pm (1104 GMT) one of the power units… that was stopped yesterday was connected to the power grid,” the nuclear agency Energoatom said on Telegram.

12:41pm: Nuclear power must not be instrument of war in Ukraine, Macron says

French President Emmanuel Macron warned Friday against the use of civilian nuclear facilities as an instrument of war in Ukraine, where a Russian-controlled plant has been disconnected from the power grid.

“War in any case must not undermine the nuclear safety of the country, the region and all of us. Civil nuclear power must be fully protected,” Macron said during a visit to Algeria.

12:40pm: Gazprom says Russian gas storage is 91.4 percent full

Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom on Friday said that Russian gas storage was 91.4 percent full as of August 24.

The level of Russian gas storage before the winter heating season has been watched closely since Moscow said  the need to fill domestic storage is to be prioritised over gas exports.

12:34pm: Finns urged to take fewer saunas amid energy crunch

Finns are being urged to turn down their thermostats this winter, take shorter showers and spend less time in their beloved saunas, as Europe faces an energy crunch following Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The nationwide power saving campaign was announced this week Russia has cut gas supplies to Finland and other European countries in recent months, causing energy prices to soar.

In addition to lowering their heating and taking shorter showers, Finns will be encouraged to cut back on sauna time.

11:49am: ‘Very close to a catastrophe’ at Zaporizhzhia

“It’s difficult to know exactly what happened [at Zaporizhzhia]; what is clear though – and that is obvious on satellite pictures you can see on the internet – is that indeed there was a large fire on the southern side of this power station Zaporizhzhia that appears to have damaged the 750 kilovolt line that powers the cooling system of the nuclear power plant,” FRANCE 24’s James Andre reports from Kyiv. “Normally there are four of these very high-tension lines that indeed power the power station; three of those have been severed during the fighting.

“Previously during the war, there was only one left and yesterday that one was cut for several hours. […] President Zelensky said this was very close to a catastrophe on the European continent. Indeed, the fifth power line – the safety one, that is a lot less powerful — did remain functioning, so the cooling system of the power plant was not stopped. And then there are diesel engines inside the power plant,” Andre went on.

© France 24


11:29am: Ukraine is working to restart two Zaporizhzhia reactors, governor says

Ukraine has begun trying to resume operations at two reactors at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said on Friday.

The plant’s sixth reactor is working at 10% capacity, while the fifth reactor is in the process of resuming operations, he said in televised comments.

10:21am: Russians spied on Ukrainian soldiers training in Germany, reports Der Spiegel

German security forces have “indications” that Russian secret services spied on Ukrainian soldiers who are in Germany to receive training on Western weapons, Der Spiegel magazine reported Friday.

German military forces have spotted suspicious vehicles outside two sites where Ukrainian recruits were being trained.

Small drones were also used to fly over the training sites before quickly disappearing, Der Spiegel said, without citing its sources.

The two affected locations are Idar-Oberstein in the western state of Rhineland Palatinate, where Ukrainian soldiers are being trained to use howitzer 2000s, and Grafenwoehr in Bavaria, where the US military is teaching Ukrainians to use Western artillery systems.

10:19am: IAEA mission seeks to visit Zaporizhzhia plant amid concerns

A mission from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant next week after it was temporarily knocked offline and more shelling was reported in the area overnight, Ukrainian officials said Friday.

Fire damage to a transmission line at Europe’s largest nuclear plant caused a blackout across the region on Thursday and heightened fears of a catastrophe in a country still haunted by the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Lana Zerkal, an adviser to Ukraine’s energy minister, told Ukrainian media on Thursday evening that logistical issues are being worked out for the IAEA team to come to the Zaporizhzhia plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces and run by Ukrainian workers since the early days of the 6-month-old war.

Zerkal accused Russia of trying to sabotage the visit. Ukraine has alleged that Russia is essentially holding the plant hostage, storing weapons there and launching attacks from around it, while Moscow accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the facility.

8:37am: TotalEnergies reiterates denial that it produces jet fuel for the Russian army

TotalEnergies, under fire after a report earlier this week saying it was supplying jet fuel to the Russian army, reiterated on Friday that this wasn’t the case, adding it would seek to end this “controversy”.

In a statement, the company said it had asked its Russian partner Novatek clarity about condensate produced by their joint ventures.

“The range of products derived during processing at the Ust-Luga complex includes jet fuel (Jet A-1) that is exclusively exported outside Russia, and it does not even have the certification to be sold inside the country,”  TotalEnergies said, citing Novatek’s response.

8:24am: Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant still disconnected from grid, Ukraine’s Energoatom says

All six reactors of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine are still disconnected from Ukraine’s electricity grid, state nuclear company Energoatom said.

Energoatom said electricity for the plant’s own needs was currently being supplied through a power line from Ukraine’s electricity system.

4:20am: Zelensky says accident averted at Zaporizhzhia plant

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian shelling on Thursday sparked fires in the ash pits of a nearby coal power station that disconnected the reactor complex, Europe’s largest such facility, from the power grid.

Back-up diesel generators ensured power supply that is vital for cooling and safety systems at the plant, he said, praising the Ukrainian technicians who operate the plant under the gaze of the Russian military.

“If our station staff had not reacted after the blackout, then we would have already been forced to overcome the consequences of a radiation accident,” he said in an evening address.

“Russia has put Ukraine and all Europeans in a situation one step away from a radiation disaster.”

Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official in the occupied town of Enerhodar near the plant, blamed Ukraine’s armed forces for a fire in a forest near the plant. He said towns in the area lost power for several hours on Thursday.

“This was caused by the disconnection of power lines from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station as a result of provocations by Zelensky’s fighters,” Rogov wrote on Telegram. “The disconnection itself was triggered by a fire and short circuit on the power lines.”

10:47pm: Zaporizhzhia security measures triggered to prevent nuclear catastrophe

Reporting from Kyiv, FRANCE 24’s James André explains the stakes at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

“The Zaporizhzhia power plant is supplied with electricity with four 750-kilovolt lines. Three of those lines were damaged earlier in the conflict. What happened today is that the fourth, the last line remaining line, was cut off. That triggered the security mechanisms of the actual power plant,” said André.

What’s at stake is the supply of electricity in Ukraine as the winter approaches. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, supplies 20% of Ukraine’s electricity. “If the Russians were to divert that to their own territories, which is a real option, that would be a huge problem for Ukraine,” said André.

© France 24



© France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)