For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.
The latest developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine. All times EDT.
10 p.m.: Since Russian forces took Mariupol in mid-May, the shelling stopped. But the remaining residents live in dire conditions, The Kyiv Independent reports.
9:25 p.m.: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke with Pope Francis on Friday.
8:55 p.m.: The Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency, says that a blanket ban on visas for all Russian travelers could be the bloc's next sanction on Moscow, Agence France-Presse reported.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky says he will propose the idea at an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Prague at the end of August.
The EU has so far come up with six sanction packages against Russia.
8 p.m.: The Joint Coordination Center (JCC) on Friday authorized the movement of two outbound vessels from Ukraine carrying a total of 14,914 metric tons of grain, through the maritime humanitarian corridor under the Black Sea Grain Initiative in this update from the JCC from VOA’s United Nations correspondent Margaret Besheer.
The vessels authorized to move Saturday are:
MV THOE from Chornomorsk carrying 2,914 metric tons of sunflower seeds with destination Tekirdag, Turkey.
MV FULMAR S from Chornomorsk with 12,000 metric tons of corn with destination Iskenderun, Turkey.
The JCC inspected and cleared MV EFE and MV SARA to depart for the port of Odesa.
On Saturday, the joint inspections teams will inspect outbound MV RAHMI YAGCI at Marmara Sea.
The JCC will monitor closely the passage of those vessels through the maritime humanitarian corridor.
6:25 p.m.: Latvia and Estonia say they have left a Chinese-backed forum aimed at boosting relations with Eastern European countries, in what appears to be a new setback for China’s increasingly assertive diplomacy, The Associated Press reported.
The move follows China’s boosting of its relations with Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine is seen as a possible first step in a series of moves against countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. China has refused to criticize Russia and has condemned punishing economic sanctions imposed on Moscow by the West.
Weeks before the invasion, Chinese President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing and declared their bilateral relations had “no limits” in a joint statement.
4:33 p.m.: Ukraine's military said its artillery hit a Russian ammunition depot near a key bridge in the south on Friday and added it now had the ability to strike nearly all of Moscow's supply lines in the occupied region, Reuters reported.
The military said the attack killed 11 Russian soldiers in the depot in the village of Vesele, about 130 km (80 miles) down the vast Dnipro River from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
There was no immediate comment from Russian authorities on the report of the attack in Kherson province, or the purported reach of Ukraine's firepower. Reuters could not confirm the reports independently.
Natalia Humeniuk, spokesperson for Ukraine's southern military command, said Ukraine has nearly all of Russia's southern supply routes under "fire control," meaning that Ukraine is able to hit them with ranged weapons at will.
"Our forces are controlling the situation in the south, despite the enemy trying to bring in reserves even though almost all their transport and logistical arteries have been hit or are under our fire control," she added in a national broadcast.
3:50 p.m.: A senior U.S. military official gave an update on the Russia-Ukraine war Friday. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin shared the details on Twitter.
3 p.m.: A ship docked in a Ukrainian Black Sea port on Friday to begin loading up with wheat for hungry people in Ethiopia, The Associated Press reported. It will be the first food delivery to Africa under a U.N. plan to unblock grain trapped by Russia’s war on Ukraine and bring relief to some of the millions worldwide who are on the brink of starvation.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the ship named Brave Commander will carry its wheat to the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, where it will be unloaded and sent on to Ethiopia.
“The wheat will go to the World Food Program’s operations in Ethiopia, supporting the Horn of Africa drought response as the threat of famine stalks the drought-hit region,” he said. “It is one of many areas around the world where the near-complete halt of Ukrainian grain and food on the global market has made life even harder for the families already struggling with rising hunger.”
2 p.m.: “They paid us 205,000 rubles ($3,365) a month,” said Aleksandr, a middle-aged man from Tatarstan who recently returned from two months of fighting in Ukraine as a volunteer, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.
“They didn’t give us our combat pay – 8,000 rubles ($130) a day. They didn’t pay any bonuses either,” he added. “We were nothing to them. Zero. It was shameful,” he said.
Aleksandr was one of several volunteer fighters from the Volga River region who agreed to speak to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity. Like the others in this report, his name has been changed due to fears of repercussions.
All of the volunteers had similar stories of their experiences in Moscow’s unprovoked war against neighboring Ukraine, experiences they say left those who survived feeling mistreated and deceived.
1:50 p.m.: The U.N. on Friday tweeted a humanitarian news bulletin which included an update about the first U.N. aid ship to reach Ukraine and start loading grain and security threats to health care across the country.
1:35 p.m.: After a series of explosions on a Russian military airfield on Ukraine's occupied Crimean Peninsula, Kyiv officials told Western media that the blasts marked a new phase in the nearly six-month war and the start of a long-awaited counteroffensive in southern Ukraine.
Has Ukraine's southern offensive finally begun?
To find out more, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty spoke with Dara Massicot, a senior researcher at the U.S.-based RAND think tank and a former senior analyst at the Pentagon, where she focused on the Russian military's capabilities.
1:05 p.m.: The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine has been shelled in recent days, opening up the possibility of a grave accident just 500 km (around 300 miles) from the site of the world's worst nuclear accident, the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
On Thursday United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on both Russia and Ukraine to halt all fighting near the plant after fresh shelling that day.
Reuters has compiled this Factbox about the vast nuclear plant in the eye of the war in Ukraine.
12:45 p.m.: Ukraine's security agencies issued a joint statement on Friday calling for the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross to send representatives to locations where Russia is holding Ukrainian POWs, Reuters reported.
The request follows earlier allegations by Kyiv that Moscow's forces have tortured and executed prisoners, including by staging an explosion in a Ukrainian POW camp in Olenivka.
Moscow claims Ukraine shelled the facility, killing over 50 POWs.
12:20 p.m.: They say they are fighting not only for Ukraine but also for equal rights. VOA talked to Ukrainian soldiers who are also members of the LGBTQ community. VOA’s Lesia Bakalets has the story.
11:55 a.m.: The Sarajevo Film Festival, the largest film industry showcase in the region, is for the first time allowing Ukrainian movies in its competition and providing support to Ukrainian filmmakers, Reuters reported Friday.
"At the onset of the war in Ukraine it has become clear that something must be done in solidarity with colleagues from film industry in Ukraine," Jovan Marjanovic, the festival director, told Reuters.
The festival, which was starting on Friday, decided to open its competition program for work from Ukraine and provided artist-in residence status to Ukrainian filmmakers to enable them to work and further develop their films.
It also offered jobs to Ukrainian professionals who have become refugees but previously worked at film festivals in Kyiv and Odessa.
10:55 a.m.: Jose Andres, whose World Central Kitchen group has served more than 130 million meals in Ukraine since Russia's invasion in February, called for better coordination of food relief efforts in the country ahead of what promises to be a brutal winter, Reuters reported Friday.
Donations were easing as the war drags on, he warned, which meant that WCK, which provides short-term emergency relief, must start winding down operations just as cold weather is likely to exacerbate problems facing millions of displaced Ukrainians.
Andres, whose work was hailed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday in a televised address that usually focuses on the battlefield and diplomacy, is visiting some of WCK's 7,500 distribution sites in Ukraine this month to drum up support for continued food relief in the country.
"The cash is sooner or later going to start finishing, that’s why I’m calling on ... all the countries that want to support Ukraine...that we need to become one," he told Reuters this week at a distribution site in Irpin, a city near Kyiv.
10:25 a.m.: European authorities are considering a liquefied natural gas pipeline from Spain to Italy as a way of getting around France’s opposition to a gas link-up across the Pyrenees between the Iberian peninsula and central Europe, Portugal’s prime minister said Friday, according to The Associated Press.
Portugal and Spain could send a lot of the liquefied natural gas, or LNG, they receive from around the world to other European Union countries, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said. He gave no further details, but such an undersea pipeline would likely take years to complete.
The two Iberian countries receive LNG via pipeline from Algeria and Morocco, as well as by ship from countries such as the United States and Nigeria. But there are currently scant energy connections between Spain and Portugal and rest of Europe.
“The Iberian peninsula has capacity to replace a large part of the liquefied natural gas that central Europe today imports from Russia,” Costa told reporters.
10:10 a.m.: Like other countries in Europe, Britain is experiencing a labor shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But for thousands of Ukrainians fleeing war in their homeland, the deficiency provides crucial opportunities as they resettle in their new homes. For VOA, Tommy Walker reports from Newcastle upon Tyne in England.
9:50 a.m.: Russian aluminum giant Rusal reported a 33% jump in first-half production costs on Friday, hit by a production halt at a refinery in Ukraine and Australia's ban on exports of alumina and bauxite to Russia, Reuters reported.
The world's largest aluminum producer outside China has been suffering these problems since March, shortly after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine prompting waves of Western sanctions on the Russian economy.
"The company is forced to rebuild its supply chains," Rusal, which sells its products to Europe, Russia, Asia and North America, said.
9:15 a.m.: Russian ex-president Dmitry Medvedev issued a veiled threat on Friday to Ukraine's Western allies who have accused Russia of creating the risk of a nuclear catastrophe by stationing forces around the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia power station, Reuters reports.
"They [Kyiv and its allies] say it's Russia. That's obviously 100% nonsense, even for the stupid Russophobic public," Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, wrote on his Telegram channel.
"They say it happens purely by chance, like 'We didn't mean to'," he added. "What can I say? Let's not forget that the European Union also has nuclear power plants. And accidents can happen there, too."
Ukraine has accused Russia of firing at Ukrainian towns from the site in the knowledge that Ukrainian forces could not risk returning fire. It says Moscow has shelled the area itself while blaming Ukraine. Russia says it is Ukraine that has shelled the plant.
8:50 a.m.: Ukraine and Russia accused each other on Friday of risking nuclear disaster by shelling Europe's largest nuclear power plant, occupied by Russian forces in a region expected to become one of the next big front lines of the war, Reuters reports.
Western countries have called for Moscow to withdraw its troops from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, and the United Nations called on Thursday for it to be declared a demilitarized zone. But there has been no sign so far of Russia agreeing to move its troops out of the facility they seized in March.
The plant dominates the south bank of a vast reservoir on the Dnipro river that cuts across southern Ukraine. Ukrainian forces controlling the towns and cities on the opposite bank have come under intense bombardment from the Russian-held side.
Kyiv has said for weeks it is planning a counteroffensive to recapture Zaporizhzhia and neighboring Kherson provinces, the largest part of the territory Russia seized after its Feb. 24 invasion still in Russian hands. Moscow has installed regional officials who say they intend to stage votes to join Russia.
8:35 a.m.: The European Space Agency (ESA) has begun preliminary technical discussions with Elon Musk's SpaceX that could lead to the temporary use of its launchers after the Ukraine conflict blocked Western access to Russia's Soyuz rockets, Reuters reported Friday.
The private American competitor to Europe's Arianespace has emerged as a key contender to plug a temporary gap alongside Japan and India, but final decisions depend on the still unresolved timetable for Europe's delayed Ariane 6 rocket.
"I would say there are two and a half options that we're discussing. One is SpaceX that is clear. Another one is possibly Japan," ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher told Reuters. "Japan is waiting for the inaugural flight of its next generation rocket. Another option could be India," he added in an interview.
"SpaceX I would say is the more operational of those and certainly one of the back-up launches we are looking at."
Aschbacher said talks remained at an exploratory phase.
8:10 a.m.: U.N. humanitarian projects face a record funding gap this year, with only a third of the required $48.7 billion secured so far as global needs outpace pledges, a spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Friday, according to Reuters.
The money is needed to help around 204 million people worldwide as armed conflict and climate change, such as the war in Ukraine and the drought in the Horn of Africa, emerge as key drivers of "mega crises" that threaten the livelihoods of whole communities.
"More than halfway through the year, the funding shortfall is $33.6 billion, our biggest funding gap ever," Jens Laerke, OCHA spokesman told a media briefing. "The needs in the world are rising much faster than the donor funding is coming in," he added.
So far $15.2 billion has been collected by the mid-year mark, also a record, Laerke said, in a year of soaring humanitarian needs. According to OCHA's website, the United States is the top donor, contributing just over $8 billion, while the World Food Program was the largest recipient.
7:35 a.m.: Former German leader Gerhard Schroeder is suing to restore the perks he enjoyed as ex-chancellor after he was stripped of them by parliament following criticism over his ties with Russia, The Associated Press reported.
Schroeder, who was chancellor from 1998 to 2005, has long had a close relationship with Russian energy companies and President Vladimir Putin. Those links came under heightened scrutiny following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly six months ago.
German news agency dpa quoted Schroeder’s lawyer, Michael Nagel, saying Friday that his client had filed a suit with Berlin’s administrative court to restore the necessary funding he previously received for his office and staff.
The Bundestag had changed the rules in May to link some privileges former chancellors receive to their actual duties. In their decision, lawmakers didn’t explicitly state Schroeder’s ties to Russia. But Nagel told dpa that the reasons for the change were obvious and wouldn’t withstand legal challenge.
Earlier this week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party rejected a bid to expel Schroeder, who had refused to distance himself from Putin and recently met with the Russian leader on a visit to Moscow in late July.
7:05 a.m.: The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says agency officials must be allowed to inspect the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant in Ukraine after fighting near the site, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Friday.
"This is a serious hour, a grave hour and the IAEA must be allowed to conduct its mission to Zaporizhzhya as soon as possible," IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on August 11.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also warned about the situation at the nuclear power plant, saying it is of global interest. No other country has used a nuclear plant "so obviously to threaten the whole world," he said in his nightly video address on August 11. "Absolutely everyone in the world should react immediately to expel the occupiers from the Zaporizhzhya [nuclear power plant]." He said only the Russians' full withdrawal would guarantee nuclear safety for all of Europe.
A U.S. State Department official told the Security Council that Washington supports the idea of an IAEA mission to Ukraine.
6:40 a.m.: Ukraine's president has called on officials to stop talking to reporters about military tactics against Russia, and a top Defense Ministry official said an investigation had been opened into the leaks, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Friday.
The comments by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, made on August 11, came amid continuing speculation as to the cause of a series of explosions at a Russian air base in occupied Crimea earlier this week. The explosions destroyed at least Russian eight warplanes and spooked Russian tourists vacationing on the Black Sea peninsula.
Satellite imagery shows widespread destruction at the Saky air base in the western Crimean town of Novofedorivka.
Russia has suggested carelessness was to blame. However, unnamed Ukrainian officials have told U.S. newspapers that Ukrainian forces were responsible.
"War is definitely not the time for vanity and loud statements," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address. “The fewer details you divulge about our defense plans, the better it will be for the implementation of those plans.”
6:10 a.m.: Teenagers in Chicago armed with boxes of breakfast cereal created a Guinness world record-breaking mosaic and raised money for Ukraine in the process, Reuters reported Thursday.
Using about 5,000 boxes of cereal donated by Kellogg's, members of the Chicago Children United for Ukraine created a gigantic cereal mosaic on the floor of the Wintrust Financial Corporation's Grand Banking Hall in downtown Chicago.
They used yellow Corn Pops boxes and blue Rice Krispies to depict the Ukrainian flag. Ukraine has been fighting off a Russian invasion since February.
The cereal will be donated to a local food bank, while donors have pledged nearly $15,000 to the fundraiser so far.
5:29 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said explosions at the Russian-operated Saky military airfield earlier this week were almost certainly from up to four uncovered munition storage areas.
At least eight planes were destroyed or seriously damaged, the update said, and although the airfield probably remains serviceable, the Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet's naval aviation capability is now significantly degraded.
4:10 a.m.: Chef Jose Andres met Thursday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnskyy.
3:06 a.m.: The U.S. think tank the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest Ukraine assessment that the U.S. State Department called on Russian forces to stop military activity surrounding the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and support the creation of a demilitarized zone amidst new reports of shelling at the plant Aug. 11.
2:09 a.m.: Russian officials trained in Iran in recent weeks as part of an agreement on the transfer of drones between the two countries, the U.S. State Department said, according to Reuters.
U.S. officials said last month that Washington had information that Iran was preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred drones, including some that are weapons capable, and that Russian officials had visited Iran to view attack-capable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The claim raised concerns that Iran, which has supplied drones to its allies in the Middle East, was now giving support to Russia for its war in Ukraine.
Iran's foreign minister at the time denied the claim, including in a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart.
U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters during a phone briefing that Russian officials had conducted training on drones in Iran "in the last several weeks."
1:17 a.m.: Latvia and Estonia withdrew from a cooperation group between China and more than a dozen Central and Eastern European countries on Thursday, following in the footsteps of Baltic neighbor Lithuania, which withdrew last year, Reuters reported.
The move comes amid Western criticism toward China over escalating military pressure on democratically ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, and Beijing's strengthening of ties with Russia during the invasion of Ukraine.
In statements published Thursday, both Latvia and Estonia said they would continue to work towards "constructive and pragmatic relations with China" while respecting the rules-based international order and human rights.
Some information in this report came from Reuters.