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Latest Developments in Ukraine: August 15

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Sergey gestures as he drives his car in Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues on Aug. 14, 2022. "They shoot all day and night, and I cannot sleep," Sergey says.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine. All times EDT.

11:15 p.m.: Moscow has pledged to do "everything necessary" to allow experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant while Russia's defense minister reportedly spoke to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about the situation at the facility.

9:42 p.m.: No reliable medicine, empty shops, and Russian flags everywhere. These are the impressions of Ukrainians who have managed to flee from life under Russian occupation in the southern region of Kherson. Having escaped to Zaporizhzhya, some said Sunday that they plan to stay with family in western Ukraine, while others are still working out their plans. Many of those passing through a transit hub for evacuees describe strip searches by Russian forces at check points. But Ukrainian government officials are commending those who have left war-torn Kherson, saying this is the only way civilians can keep safe as battles with Russian forces continue. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

8:49 p.m.: VOA United Nations correspondent Margaret Besheer reports on the phone call between U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu.

The two discussed “the conditions for the safety operations of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. They have also exchanged views on the fact-finding mission in relation to the Olenivka prison incident. Finally, they have discussed the United Nations’ initiatives in order to facilitate the exports of Russian food and fertilizers,” according to a U.N. statement.

7:06 p.m.: The Ukrainian government has asked parliament to partially restore excise tax on petrol and diesel fuel to boost the state budget, depleted by months of war with Russia, Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said, according to Reuters.

He said the resumption of excise tax at $101.96 per 1,000 liters could provide the state budget with about $135.54 million each month amid a monthly deficit of about $5 billion.

"The finance ministry is in a challenging situation," Kubrakov told a televised briefing. "Any additional revenues to the budget from taxes that were previously cancelled are essential and matter." He said the tax could be launched in September or October.

Ukraine canceled excise tax, which was $216 for petrol and $142 for diesel fuel, in March after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and cut logistic chains

6:18 p.m.:

5:33 p.m.: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said while there was room for a European-level debate on banning Russian tourists, it was important not to make life harder for Kremlin opponents to flee Russia, Reuters reported.

"What is important for us is that we understand there are a lot of people fleeing from Russia because they disagree with the Russian regime," he said following a meeting with leaders of the Nordic countries in Oslo.

"All the decisions we take should not make it more complicated to leave the country, for getting away from the leadership and the dictatorship in Russia," he added.

Several European countries, including Finland's Sanna Marin who was also at the meeting, have called for Russian tourists to be banned from the EU to ensure that they too pay a penalty for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

4:21 p.m.: A court in Moscow has begun bankruptcy proceedings against Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Russian entity, RFE.RL LLC, after local tax authorities initiated the process earlier this year, a move that prompted the broadcaster to suspend operations in the country. RFE/RL had to close its Moscow bureau in March after 30 years operating in the Russian capital, the media organization reported.

The Arbitration Court of Moscow ruled to start bankruptcy proceedings, which were initiated by the Federal Tax Service on March 4, saying that RFE.RL LLC owes about $112,000 to the tax authorities for 2021.

RFE/RL LLC in Moscow represents RFE/RL's interests in Russia. It was established in 2020 due to Russia's controversial law on "foreign agents."

The bankruptcy proceedings stem from Russian media regulations requiring that RFE/RL and other outlets deemed “foreign agents” mark themselves as such with a lengthy notice in large text for all written materials, an audio statement with all radio materials, and a text declaration with all video materials.

They also coincided with a new law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin that took effect on March 5 and allows for prison sentences of up to 15 years for people who distribute "false news" about the Russian Army at a time when Moscow had invaded neighboring Ukraine.

RFE/RL has refused to comply with this mandate and since last year Russia's media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has filed more than a thousand administrative charges against RFE/RL LLC and its director, ordering them to pay almost 1 billion rubles ($16 million) in fines.

3:28 p.m.: Five European citizens captured in eastern Ukraine went on trial in a court administered by Kremlin-backed separatists in the city of Donetsk, Russian media reported, according to The Associated Press.

The five, including Swede Matthias Gustafsson, Croat Vjekoslav Prebeg and Britons John Harding, Andrew Hill and Dylan Healy, all pleaded not guilty to charges of mercenarism and “undergoing training to seize power by force,” according to Russian media.

They could face the death penalty under the laws of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

The next court hearing in their case is scheduled for October, the Interfax news agency reported, citing a statement by the separatists' court.

On June 9, the supreme court of the self-proclaimed republic sentenced two Britons and a Moroccan, all of whom were captured by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine’s industrial east, to death for being mercenaries.

All three have appealed their verdicts, according to the AP.

2:30 p.m.:


2:15 p.m.: The first grain ship to leave Ukraine under a wartime deal has had its cargo resold several times and there is now no information about its location and cargo destination, the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut said Monday, according to The Associated Press.

The Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni, which left Odesa on Aug. 1, and moved through the Black Sea carrying Ukrainian corn, later passed inspection in Turkey. It was initially heading for Lebanon with 26,000 metric tons of corn for chicken feed. The corn’s buyer in Lebanon later refused to accept the cargo, since it was delivered much later than agreed.

The Razoni hasn’t had its tracker on for the last three days and it appeared off the east coast of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus at last transmission.

It was not clear if the Razoni had its tracker off because it was heading to a port in Syria, a strong ally of Russia that Ukraine had accused of importing grain stolen from Ukraine.

Syria is also under Western sanctions because of the 11-year conflict there that has killed hundreds of thousands. Syrian port officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

2 p.m.:


1:50 p.m.: A few weeks ago, Serhiy was a business analyst at an IT company. Zakhar was a civil engineer. Now they are soldiers, training to liberate Ukraine from Russia’s invasion — but doing it more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away in Britain, The Associated Press reported.

They are among several hundred Ukrainian recruits pounding through an intense form of infantry training at an army base in southeast England. One batch of the 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers that the British military has pledged to train within 120 days, they are spending several weeks learning skills including marksmanship, battlefield first aid and — crucially for their country’s future — urban warfare.

As the Ukrainians practice house-clearing amid the rattle of gunfire and pall from smoke grenades on a mock-townscape where British soldiers once trained for operations in Northern Ireland, they think about driving Russian troops from the streets of their own cities.

“The most important part is urban training, because it’s the most dangerous combat, in cities,” said Serhiy, who like the other Ukrainians did not want his full named used because of security concerns. “The British instructors have a lot of experience, from Iraq, Afghanistan. We can adapt all this knowledge to the Ukrainian situation and use it to liberate our country from Russian invasion.”

1:35 p.m.:

1:20 p.m.: President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Moscow was ready to sell advanced weapons to allies globally and cooperate in developing military technology, nearly six months into the Ukraine war in which his army has performed worse than expected, Reuters reported.

With the Russian leader's forces beaten back from Ukraine's two biggest cities and making slow headway, at heavy cost, in the east of the country, the war has so far not proved to be a convincing showcase for Russia's arms industry.

But the Kremlin leader, addressing an arms show outside Moscow, insisted Russian weaponry was years ahead of the competition.

Russia cherished its strong ties with Latin America, Asia and Africa, "and is ready to offer partners and allies the most modern types of weapons - from small arms to armored vehicles and artillery, combat aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles", he said.

1:05 p.m.:


12:55 p.m.: The Polish president and other officials marked their nation’s Armed Forces Day holiday Monday alongside the U.S. army commander in Europe and regular American troops, a symbolic show of support for NATO members on the eastern front as Russia wages war nearby in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

Gen. Darryl Williams, the new commanding general of United States Army Europe and Africa, attended the ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in downtown Warsaw.

Nearby Polish children climbed on top of a U.S. and other NATO tanks, helped by smiling American, British and Romanian soldiers.

Despite the festive atmosphere, Williams told The Associated Press that the U.S. presence was meant to deliver a message of “strength and resilience”

“It is about deterrence, about being strong, NATO is strong, the Polish people are strong, and we are standing shoulder to shoulder with them,” he said.

The holiday commemorates Poland’s victory in 1920 over Soviet Russia in the Battle of Warsaw, which stopped the Bolshevik army’s westward advance.

12:40 p.m.:


12:25 p.m.: Norway’s exports reached a record in July, driven mainly by natural gas prices that have soared since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

The Scandinavian country’s statistics agency on Monday said Norwegian exports reached 229 billion kroner ($24 billion) last month, 0.4% higher than the previous record set in March this year. Norway’s trade surplus of 153.2 billion kroner ($15.8 billion) also was the highest on record.

Norway, a major producer of offshore oil and gas, has seen energy exports surge as European countries scramble to find alternatives to Russian energy in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Since the invasion, the EU has approved bans on Russian coal and most oil to take effect later this year, but it did not include natural gas because the 27-nation bloc depends on gas to power factories, generate electricity and heat homes.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has weaponized gas exports to pressure the bloc into reducing its sanctions over the war in Ukraine or to push other political aims, and the EU has been left scrambling to fill gas storage ahead of winter, when demand rises and utility companies draw down their reserves to keep homes warm and power plants running.

12:05 p.m.:



11:45 a.m.: Germans are facing a new tax on natural gas use that could cost the average household several hundred euros a year, The Associated Press reported Monday. The measure is aimed at rescuing importers slammed by Russian gas cutbacks tied to the war in Ukraine.

Russia’s state-owned gas exporter Gazprom has dialed back shipments to Europe, leading to charges the Kremlin is using the resulting gas shortage to drive up prices and pressure European Union governments over their support for Ukraine, and over sanctions against Russia following the invasion.

The tax on gas used to heat homes in winter and generate electricity is set to take effect in October and run through the beginning of April. It will not show up in utility bills until November or December.

The government is seeking ways to soften the blow through financial assistance for poorer households and a proposed break on value-added tax.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted Monday that “we will leave no one behind” amid the higher costs.

11:20 a.m.:


11:05 a.m.: Russia says it will do "everything necessary" to allow specialists from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine amid fears over the plant's safety due to shelling, Reuters reported.

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe, was captured by Russia in March shortly after its invasion of Ukraine. The plant has come under fire in recent days, with Moscow and Kyiv blaming each other for the shelling, which they both say risks a nuclear accident.

"In close cooperation with the Agency and its leadership, we will do everything necessary for the IAEA specialists to be at the station and give a truthful assessment of the destructive actions of the Ukrainian side," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement published on Monday.

Russia's permanent representative to the IAEA was quoted as saying that a visit to the plant by the agency will be worked out in the near future but that obstacles remain. "For us, the most important thing is to ensure the absolute security of the international mission," RIA cited Mikhail Ulyanov as saying.

10:35 a.m.:

10:15 a.m.: Three civilians have been killed and two wounded by an explosive device while swimming in the Black Sea in the Ukrainian southern region of Odesa, local police said on Monday, according to Reuters.

It said the accident happened on Sunday when several people working on a construction site ignored barriers and warning signs on the beach and went swimming in the sea in the Belhorod-Dnistrovskyi district.

“In the water, as a result of an explosion of an unknown object, three men aged 25, 32 and 53 years old ... were killed,” the police said in a written statement.

It added that another man and a woman had been wounded.

This summer Ukrainian authorities closed sea beaches because of mines or artillery shells because of the war with Russia and shelling by Russian forces.

Ukraine’s military also planted mines along the coast in case of a Russian amphibious assault after Moscow’s February 24 invasion, cordoning off beach entrances with red and white tape to ensure civilians don’t get hurt.

9:40 a.m.: A spokesman for the U.N. humanitarian office in Geneva, Jens Laerke, said that there is currently a record shortfall in funding for humanitarian responses around the world.


9:15 a.m.: The Dutch court handling the murder trial of four suspects in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 said on Monday it would hand down its verdict on November 17, Reuters reported.

The Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit over Ukraine’s rebel-held Donetsk region by what international investigators say was a Russian-made surface-to-air missile. The eastern region has also become a key focus of Russia’s nearly six-month-old war in Ukraine.

Prosecutors say the one Ukrainian and three Russian defendants, who are all at large, helped supply a missile system that Russian-backed separatists used to fire a rocket at the plane on July 17, 2014. All 298 people on board were killed.

The prosecution is seeking life terms for all suspects.

Lawyers for Oleg Pulatov, the only defendant who has chosen to participate in the proceedings through counsel, have argued that the trial was unfair and prosecutors did not properly examine alternative theories about the cause of the crash or the involvement of Pulatov.

The other suspects, named as Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, and Ukrainian national Leonid Kharchenko, are being tried in absentia. Under Dutch law Pulatov, while he is also at large, is not considered to be tried in absentia because he is represented through lawyers he has instructed.

8:50 a.m.:

8:15 a.m.: Forty-two countries from around the world have signed a statement urging Russia to withdraw its armed forces from Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, saying their presence poses "a great danger," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Monday.

The statement, released on the European Union's website on August 14, condemns Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and says the presence of Russian military forces at the plant -- Europe's largest nuclear power generation station -- prevents authorities from maintaining nuclear and radiation safety obligations.

"It is undeniable that Russia’s invasion and its continued presence at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities significantly raise the risk of nuclear incidents and accidents," the statement says.

"We urge the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw its military forces and all other unauthorized personnel from the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, its immediate surroundings, and all of Ukraine so that the operator and the Ukrainian authorities can resume their sovereign responsibilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and the legitimate operating staff can conduct their duties without outside interference, threat, or unacceptably harsh working conditions," the statement continues.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned over the weekend that recent shelling at the plant has increased the threat of a leak of radiation. Russia doesn't deny it has troops located at the plant but has disputed claims it has shelled the area. Instead, Moscow blames Ukrainian forces for firing artillery shells in the area, which officials in Kyiv deny.

7:55 a.m.:



7:40 a.m.: Kosovo's electricity distribution company KEDS says it will limit the power supply to customers from August 15 due to flagging local production and the high cost of importing electricity from abroad, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Monday.

European electricity prices reached record highs in the first week of August as a prolonged heat wave across the continent disrupted power markets that were already under strain from Russia’s cuts to the continent’s gas supplies amid its war with Ukraine.

KEDS said in a statement that it was informed by the national grid operator KOSTT that the cuts are necessary because it will have to rely solely on domestic production for supplies.

"[We] no longer have the financial means to get energy outside of that which is produced by local generators. This situation has arisen due to high prices on international markets and the inability to cover these costs through our system," it said.

KEDS noted that under the system, consumers will receive electricity for six hours, then supplies will be cut for two hours.

7:25 a.m.:


7:10 a.m.: Ukraine's grain exports are down by almost half despite unblocked ports, Reuters reported. The country’s grain exports are down 46% year on year at 2.65 million metric tons so far in the 2022/23 season, the agriculture ministry said on Monday.

Grain exports for the 2021/22 season ending June 30 rose 8.5% to 48.5 million metric tons, driven by strong shipments before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Ukraine’s grain exports have slumped since the start of the war because its Black Sea ports - a key route for shipments - were closed off, driving up global food prices and prompting fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East.

At the end of July, three Black Sea ports were unblocked under the deal between Moscow and Kyiv, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, which made it possible to send hundreds of thousands of metric tons of Ukrainian grain to buyers.

6:35 a.m.:

6 a.m.: A program that started last year to support evacuated Afghans following the U.S. military’s chaotic withdrawal has recently been expanded to help Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion of their country, Reuters reported.

The program — started by a coalition of non-profit organizations in partnership with the U.S. State Department — allows any group of five or more individual adults to support a refugee’s temporary resettlement in the United States, a job traditionally performed by a handful of well-established resettlement agencies.

The effort is still small. Local sponsor circles have supported the arrival of around 600 Afghans and just 20 Ukrainians, according to Sarah Krause, the director of the New York City-based Community Sponsorship Hub, leading the national initiative. Another staff member from the hub told Reuters that an additional 40 Ukrainians are currently being processed to receive support.

5:30 a.m.: The British Ministry of Defense published its updated map Monday with details that include Russian military attacks and troop locations in Ukraine.

4:50 a.m.: The defense team of Brittney Griner, the U.S. basketball star jailed for nine years in Russia on drugs charges, has appealed against her conviction for narcotics possession and trafficking, Griner’s lawyer Maria Blagovolina told Reuters on Monday.

Griner, who had played for a Russian club, was arrested at a Moscow airport on February 17 after cannabis-infused vape cartridges were found in her luggage.

She pleaded guilty to the charges but said she had made an “honest mistake” by entering Russia with cannabis oil, which is illegal in the country. She was convicted on August 4.

The U.S. government says Griner was wrongfully detained. It has offered to exchange her for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States.

4 a.m.: Manila’s ambassador to Washington said Monday that the Philippines is looking to buy heavy-lift Chinook helicopters from the United States, after scrapping a deal with Russia worth $227.35 million (12.7 billion pesos) in order to avoid sanctions, Reuters reported.

In June, days before President Rodrigo Duterte ended his six-year term, the Philippines scrapped a deal to buy 16 Mi-17 Russian military transport helicopters because of fears of U.S. sanctions linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“This cancellation of this contract is precipitated mainly by the war in Ukraine. While there are sanctions expected to come our way, from the United States and western countries, obviously it is not in our interest to continue and pursue this contract,” ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez told journalists in a virtual forum.

Moscow says it is conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Romualdez said the Chinooks would replace existing hardware used for the movement of troops and in disaster preparedness in the Southeast Asian country.

The United States is willing to strike a deal for the amount the Philippines was set to spend on the Russian helicopters, Romualdez said, adding the deal with Washington will likely include maintenance, service and parts.

The Philippines is pursuing discussions with Russia to recover its $38 million down payment for the helicopters, the delivery of which was supposed to start in November next year, or 24 months after the contract was signed.

The Philippines is at the tail-end of a five-year, 300 billion-pesos modernization of its outdated military hardware that includes warships from World War Two and helicopters used by the United States in the Vietnam War.

Aside from military deals, the Philippines, under new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, also wants increased economic exchanges with the United States including in fields of manufacturing, digital infrastructure and clean energy, including modular nuclear power, Romualdez said.

3 a.m. According to Telegram feed of The Kyiv Independent, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said Russian forces shelled Slobidsky district of the city and hit a factory around 2:50 a.m. Monday. There was no information on casualties at the time of the publication.

2:30 a.m.: Rustem Umerov, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, shared a picture of Canadian military on his Twitter account, thanking them for providing assistance in training members of the Ukrainian armed forces.

2 a.m.:

1:45 a.m.: Several major Wall Street banks have begun offering to facilitate trades in Russian debt in recent days, according to bank documents seen by Reuters, giving investors another chance to dispose of assets widely seen in the West as toxic.

Most U.S. and European banks had pulled back from the market in June after the Treasury Department banned U.S. investors from purchasing any Russian security as part of economic sanctions to punish Moscow for invading Ukraine, according to an investor who holds Russian securities and two banking sources.

Following subsequent guidelines from the Treasury in July that allowed U.S. holders to wind down their positions, the largest Wall Street firms have cautiously returned to the market for Russian government and corporate bonds, according to emails, client notes and other communications from six banks as well as interviews with the sources.

The banks that are in the market now include JPMorgan Chase & Co JPM.N, Bank of America Corp BAC.N, Citigroup Inc C.N, Deutsche Bank AG DBKGn.DE, Barclays Plc BARC.L and Jefferies Financial Group Inc JEF.N, the documents show.

The return of the largest Wall Street firms, the details of the trades they are offering to facilitate and the precautions they are taking to avoid breaching sanctions are reported here for the first time.

Bank of America, Barclays, Citi and JPMorgan declined to comment, Reuters reported.

A Jefferies spokesperson said it was “working within global sanctions guidelines to facilitate our clients’ needs to navigate this complicated situation.”

A source close to Deutsche Bank said the bank trades bonds for clients on a request-only and case-by-case basis to further manage down its Russia risk exposure or that of its non-U.S. clients, but won’t do any new business outside of these two categories.

1 a.m.: New Zealand is sending 120 military personnel to Britain to help train Ukrainians in front-line combat, Reuters reported Monday, citing the government.

The deployment will enable two infantry training teams to equip Ukrainian personnel with the core skills to be effective in combat, including weapon handling, combat first aid, operational law and other skills.

The training of about 800 Ukrainian soldiers will be conducted exclusively at one of four locations in Britain, and New Zealand defense personnel will not travel to Ukraine, the government said in a statement.

“We have been clear that a blatant attack on a country’s sovereignty and the subsequent loss of innocent lives is wrong and intolerable. Our condemnation will continue to extend beyond words and include critical support,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference to announce the deployment.

She stressed that New Zealand troops have not and would not engage in combat in Ukraine.

Thirty New Zealand defense personnel completed a deployment in May to train Ukrainian military personnel in operating artillery.

The training deployments are part of a series of actions in response to Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of its southern neighbor that have included more than $25.70 million (NZ$40 million) in financial support and the sanctioning of 840 individuals and entities.

Russia calls its intervention in Ukraine a “special operation” to demilitarize it.

12:01 a.m.: Ukrainian forces reported that, though there has been heavy Russian shelling and attempts to advance on several towns in the eastern region of Donetsk that has become a focus of the near six-month war, they have repelled many of the attacks, according to Reuters.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces also reported Russian shelling of more than a dozen towns on the southern front — particularly the Kherson region, mainly controlled by Russian forces, but where Ukrainian troops are steadily capturing territory.

Much attention has been focused on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine amid fears of a catastrophe over renewed shelling in recent days that Russia and Ukraine blame on each other.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the establishment of a demilitarized zone and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned Russian soldiers who shoot at Europe’s largest nuclear power station or use it as a base to shoot from that they will become a “special target” of Ukrainian forces.

The Zaporizhzhia plant dominates the south bank of a vast reservoir on the Dnipro River. Ukrainian forces controlling the towns and cities on the opposite bank have come under intense bombardment from the Russian-held side.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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