Ukraine Live Briefing: U.N. warns of danger at nuclear plant, rejects Russian claims

Ukrainian service members drive past damaged buildings Sunday in Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region.
Ukrainian service members drive past damaged buildings Sunday in Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

The United Nations on Monday rejected Russian claims that U.N. officials had blocked inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency from visiting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the latest development in the global, high-stakes bid to secure the site of Europe’s largest nuclear facility.

The plant remains under Russian occupation and experts have warned of catastrophic disaster risks amid ongoing fighting and artillery fire in the area. U.N. leaders have pushed for the site’s demilitarization and have demanded access for international monitors.

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

Key developments

  • Ukrainian troops struck a base used by a shadowy, Kremlin-linked mercenary firm, the Wagner Group, in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said. The number of casualties from the strike was not known, he said. Ukrainian forces were able to target the site, in the city of Popasna, after a Russian journalist posted photos to social media identifying it as a Wagner Group base, Haidai said.
  • Brittney Griner’s defense team has appealed the Russian court’s verdict that sentenced her to more than nine years in prison for drug charges. A top Russian diplomat told state-run media over the weekend that the names of Griner and detained American Paul Whelan were mentioned in discussions of a potential prisoner swap between Washington and Moscow, along with Russia’s Viktor Bout, who is incarcerated in the United States.
  • The trial of five captured European citizens began on Monday in a Kremlin-backed court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, a separatist region in eastern Ukraine. The group — three men from the United Kingdom, one from Croatia and another from Sweden — pleaded not guilty to charges of acting as mercenaries and training to “seize power by force,” Russian media reported. A separatist court in June sentenced three foreign fighters to death on mercenary charges, and international observers denounced the proceedings as sham trials.
  • Vladimir Putin said Moscow is ready to arm its allies with modern, combat-tested weapons. At the “Army-2022″ arms show outside Moscow on Monday, Putin emphasized Russia’s “truly trusting ties” with countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa, and said Russia is ready to offer allies and partners “the most modern types of weapons — from small arms to armored vehicles and artillery, combat aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles,” reported the Moscow Times.
  • Putin told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that the two countries will expand their bilateral relations, North Korean state media reported Monday. The leaders exchanged congratulatory letters to mark Korea’s Liberation Day.
  • Forty-two countries are calling on Russia to withdraw troops from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, according to a statement by the European Union dated Friday and posted Sunday. The statement says Russia’s military aggression around the plant poses a threat to nuclear safety. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow’s troops have hidden ammunition inside the nuclear facilities. Without tough new sanctions in response, he said, “the world loses, loses to terrorists” and “gives in to nuclear blackmail.”

Battlefield updates

  • The latest round of shelling near the Zaporizhzhia plant killed one employee and injured two others, Ukraine’s nuclear power regulator said on Telegram. The city of Enerhodar was hit at least six times, the regulator said, further shaking the enclave where many nuclear power plant employees live.
  • Russian forces are taking over more buildings and businesses in Enerhodar, the city’s mayor said Monday. Most recently, soldiers seized a university and government laboratory, where more than 30 people were working, said Mayor Dmitry Orlov. The moves underscore Russia’s attempt to dig in around the area, even as the international community calls for its troops to withdraw.
  • The Ukrainian government has evacuated more than 5,500 people from the Donetsk province since late last month, when Kyiv ordered residents to leave as fighting in the region grew increasingly severe, officials said Monday. Now, just a quarter of Donetsk’s population remains, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said. Some have refused to leave.
  • Moscow is probably in the “advanced planning stages to hold a referendum” for the eastern Donetsk region to join Russia, even though it has not been completely captured, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Monday.
  • Ukrainian forces again struck a bridge near Kherson over the weekend, probably rendering all three bridges into the Kherson region “unusable,” the Institute for the Study of War, a D.C.-based think tank, said Sunday evening.

Global impact

  • Germany will not support a ban on Russian tourists entering the European Union, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday. Calls for slamming the E.U.'s door to travelers from Russia have accelerated since Zelensky suggested it in an interview with The Washington Post this month. Scholz, who leads one of the bloc’s most influential nations, said Europe should be open for Russian’s fleeing Putin’s regime. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin is among those who back the ban and said she understands those frustrated that Russians can travel abroad “like nothing has happened.”
  • Russia’s space agency unveiled a model for a new Russian-built space station. At the “Army-2022″ military exhibition, national space agency Roscosmos presented a physical model for the planned station. Russia announced last month it would pull out of the International Space Station after 2024.
  • New Zealand deployed 120 people Monday from its defense force to Britain to train Ukrainian soldiers, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement. The deployment is a fourfold increase from the 30 it sent in May.
  • Pope Francis said the war in Ukraine is diverting “attention and resources” from famine in Somalia. In his weekly address, the pope said he hoped that “international solidarity can respond effectively to this emergency.”
  • A U.N.-chartered vessel packed with 23,000 tons of Ukrainian grain set sail for Ethiopia on Sunday. The ship is the first one bound for an African country and is carrying wheat purchased by the World Food Program. Six more ships have been authorized by the Joint Coordination Center, a U.N.-backed initiative involving Russia and Ukraine, to sail through the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports for loading. They will first need to pass inspection.

From our visual forensics team

In less than an hour, at least six explosions rocked Russia’s Saki air base on the Crimean Peninsula last week, The Washington Post confirmed through an analysis of more than two dozen videos and conversations with eyewitnesses and military and geospatial experts.

(Video: The Washington Post)

The blasts at the base, home to the Russian navy’s 43rd Independent Naval Attack Aviation Regiment, left at least eight military aircraft destroyed or significantly damaged and wrecked parts of the facility, according to defense officials, military analysts and a review of satellite imagery.

If Ukraine was responsible, the attack would be one of its most audacious of the war, playing out in front of residents and tourists deep in Crimea, which Russia seized in 2014.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of troops in an address to the nation on Sept. 21, framing the move as an attempt to defend Russian sovereignty against a West that seeks to use Ukraine as a tool to “divide and destroy Russia.” Follow our live updates here.

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

Annexation referendums: Staged referendums, which would be illegal under international law, are set to take place from Sept. 23 to 27 in the breakaway Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine, according to Russian news agencies. Another staged referendum will be held by the Moscow-appointed administration in Kherson starting Friday.

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 help support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video.

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