Ukraine Live Briefing: Radiation levels remain normal after shelling at nuclear plant, official says

A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar, Ukraine, on Aug. 4
A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar, Ukraine, on Aug. 4 (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Radiation levels at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant are still within normal range, a Ukrainian official said Sunday, after Kyiv accused Russia of carrying out artillery strikes on the grounds of the facility, damaging monitoring sensors and heightening concerns of a “nuclear disaster.” The situation remains “tense,” the official said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded a forceful reaction from international organizations. “There is no such nation in the world that can feel safe when a terrorist state fires at a nuclear plant,” he said during his evening address.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the world.

Key developments

  • Power unit No. 4 was disconnected from the grid after Saturday’s shelling attack due to “partial destruction” of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant’s infrastructure, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said Sunday. “Everything is more or less under control,” he told government television. “Our country has lived through Chernobyl,” he said. “And, understandably, every person and the country has a special attention to these issues.”
  • The Russian shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant injured one person in Marhanets, a town across the Dnieper River, and damaged 50 houses, the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office said. Barns, cars, a public transportation stop, a church, a gas pipeline and power lines were also damaged.
  • Ukraine and Russia on Sunday traded blame for the latest attack at the plant. Ukraine’s state nuclear power company, Energoatom, said that radiation-monitoring sensors were damaged and that at least one worker was injured. “This time a nuclear catastrophe was miraculously avoided, but miracles cannot last forever,” the company said.
  • Energoatom said the Russian shelling was aimed at 174 containers of spent nuclear fuel stored in the open air at the Zaporizhzhia plant. Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has underscored that Russian strikes on the plant could have “catastrophic consequences,” including a “nuclear disaster.”
  • Zelensky, seeking a united response from Europe and other allies, portrayed the strike on the plant as a threat to the continent. “God forbid, if something irreparable happens, no one will stop the wind that will spread the radioactive contamination,” he said in his address.
  • The head of Amnesty International in Ukraine resigned after a report from the human rights organization accused Ukraine’s military of repeatedly endangering civilians by operating in heavily populated areas. Zelensky and other officials swiftly condemned the investigation, arguing that it unfairly blames the victims in Russia’s war and is likely to fuel Russian propaganda.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken began his three-country tour of Africa on Sunday, seeking to shore up support on the continent for Ukraine and its allies after a recent Russian charm offensive there. The West is battling Moscow for influence across Africa and the diplomatic maneuvering is another sign that Russia’s war in Ukraine is “taking the world back to Cold War postures and risking making Africa a proxy battleground again,” the Institute for Security Studies noted recently.

Spotlight: Grain ships

  • A second caravan of ships loaded with Ukrainian agriculture products sailed from Black Sea ports, as officials hail the movement of grain under a deal brokered by the United Nations and facilitated by Turkey. The four ships carried almost 170,000 metric tons of grain, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said, and world leaders hope the shipments will alleviate the global food crisis.
  • The first grain ship to leave Ukraine’s shores will not arrive in Lebanon on Sunday as planned, officials said. They did not provide details on why the ship, the Razoni, has been delayed or on the new expected arrival date.
  • Ukraine’s largest and most profitable port will join those restarting operations after months of blockades, Deputy Infrastructure Minister Mustafa Nayyem said on Facebook. The Pivdennyi port will work with the Odessa and Chornomorsk ports to export 3 million tons of Ukrainian agricultural products within a month, Nayyem said.
  • Pope Francis lauded the departure of the ships loaded with grain from Ukrainian Black Sea ports as “a sign of hope.” During his weekly address to a crowd in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, the pope said the developments showed “that it is possible to dialogue and achieve concrete results which benefit everyone.”

Battlefield updates

  • Russia is preparing to hold a sham referendum in Luhansk, the region’s exiled governor, Serhiy Haidai, said Sunday. Analysts and officials have warned for months that Moscow and its proxies would seek to hold pseudo votes and use the falsified results as a pretext to annex swaths of eastern and southern Ukraine. Haidai warned that Russia’s backers were using food and water to lure the residents of his war-torn region to the polls.
  • Russian shelling struck several factories on the outskirts of the southern port city of Mykolaiv early Sunday, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said in a post on Telegram. Since the war began, 132 residents of Mykolaiv have died in Russian shelling, including one child, and more than 619 people have been injured, the mayor said.
  • The “poor performance” of Russian troops in the conflict has been costly for its military leadership, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Sunday, noting that at least six Russian commanders had been dismissed from their roles in recent months.
  • In Kharkiv, Russian missiles targeted at least two city districts overnight, said the city’s mayor, Ihor Terekhov. The extent of the destruction, and the potential death toll, was not yet clear on Sunday, he said. Russian attacks have killed more than 1,000 civilians, including 50 children, in the Kharkiv region since the war began, the head of the regional prosecutor’s office said Sunday in a news release.
  • In the city of Bakhmut, in the Donetsk province, “constant shelling” from Russian troops has killed civilians and destroyed infrastructure, but local leaders say their resistance is still strong. Bakhmut is key to Russia’s war plan in the east, and the city’s deputy mayor said the offensive has not stopped essential service providers such as hospitals, pharmacies and markets. “There is no humanitarian disaster,” he told Suspilne, Ukraine’s public broadcaster.
  • Russian forces have carried out ground attacks as they seek to break through Ukrainian defensive lines north, west and south of the city of Donetsk. In southern Ukraine, Russian troops remain on the defensive, according to an Institute for the Study of War analysis.
  • Russia and Ukraine are blaming each other for a blast that killed Ukrainian prisoners of war in Olenivka last month. The massacre — a potential war crime — killed at least 50 people. Here is what we know about what happened on July 29.

From our correspondents

The deaths of Russian men in the war are leaving many families sad, angry and silent. When Yevgeny Chubarin told his mother he was joining the Russian army to fight against Ukraine, she cried and begged him not to go. By May 15, he had an AK-47 and was on his way. The 24-year-old stone-factory worker was killed the next day, The Washington Post’s Robyn Dixon writes.

Stories like his are taboo in Russia, where the wrenching grief of many families is buried beneath the bombast of state media. The war is portrayed as an existential struggle for survival, against “Nazis” as well as NATO, and a virtual news blackout about the bloody toll underscores Kremlin’s anxiety about the durability of its manufactured support.

Mary Ilyushina contributed to this report.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin will move Friday to formally annex four occupied regions of Ukraine, following staged referendums that were widely denounced as illegal. In a grand ceremony at the Kremlin, he is expected to sign so-called “accession treaties” to absorb parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. Follow our live updates here.

In Russia: Putin declared a military mobilization on Sept. 21 to call up as many as 300,000 reservists in a dramatic bid to reverse setbacks in his war on Ukraine. The announcement led to an exodus of more than 180,000 people, mostly men who were subject to service, and renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.

The fight: Ukraine mounted a successful counteroffensive that forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in early September, as troops fled cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large amounts of military equipment.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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