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Latest Developments in Ukraine: August 18

The flag of Ukraine hangs over people walking through a haze of cooling mist at a shopping center in Dnipro, Ukraine, Aug. 17, 2022.
The flag of Ukraine hangs over people walking through a haze of cooling mist at a shopping center in Dnipro, Ukraine, Aug. 17, 2022.

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

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

10:22 p.m.: Denmark joins several European countries that have suspended or stopped issuing visas to Russian citizens.

9:20 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, annoyed Thursday by a translator's failure to interpret his comments properly into English at a major news conference, took over the job himself.

Zelenskyy, who prefers to speak Ukrainian in public, acted after the interpreter cut short his remarks during an event with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Turning toward the interpreter, he said pointedly: "And I said about the window of possibilities. I said that it couldn't be solved because … we see each day guns and firing from the Russian side."

He continued: "And I said 'Slava Ukraini' (Glory to Ukraine).

8:45 p.m.: President Joe Biden's administration is readying about $800 million in military aid to Ukraine and could announce it as soon as Friday, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Biden would authorize the assistance using his Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows the president to authorize the transfer of excess weapons from U.S. stocks, the sources said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the sources said the announcement could be delayed next week, cautioning that weapons packages can change in value before they are announced.

The White House declined to comment.

7:49 p.m.: Russia's Defense Ministry said on Thursday three MiG-31E warplanes equipped with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles have been relocated to its Kaliningrad region, Interfax reported, according to Reuters.

Russian state-owned news agency RIA cited the ministry as saying that the MiG jets would be on round-the-clock duty.

Kaliningrad, a Russian Baltic coast exclave located between NATO and European Union members Poland and Lithuania, became a flashpoint after Lithuania moved to limit the transit of goods to the region through its territory, with Russia promising retaliation.

Earlier on Thursday, Finland's Defense Ministry said that two Russian MiG-31 jets were suspected of violating its airspace near the city of Porvoo, on the Gulf of Finland 150 km (90 miles) from Russia.

6:37 p.m.: Ratings agency Fitch raised Ukraine's credit score on Thursday after the war-torn secured a two-year reprieve on its foreign debt from creditors, Agence France-Presse reported

Fitch said the August 11 agreement gives Kyiv breathing room on almost $6 billion in principal and interest owed on Eurobonds, "alleviating external debt servicing pressure, in the context of weakening international reserves and acute war-related spending needs."

While Fitch upgraded Ukraine on Thursday from RD to CC, the rating means the risk of some kind of default appears probable.

6 p.m.: Ukrainians crowdfund a satellite for their army.

5:07 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he agreed to the parameters of a mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant at talks on Thursday with the U.N. secretary-general and Turkey's leader.

"We agreed with the secretary general the conditions of a possible mission by the IAEA to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, in a legal way, via territory free from occupiers," Zelenskyy told a news conference after the talks in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

"Russia should immediately and unconditionally withdraw its forces from territory of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as well as stopping any provocations and shelling," he said.

4 p.m.: An American stockbroker, who made a fortune in the Russian market in the 1990s and 2000s and later co-founded a posh Moscow nightclub before leaving the country, died after being found lying on a sidewalk in Washington, police said.

Police said they were investigating the death of Dan Rapoport, 52, who was found outside an apartment building in a northwestern district of the U.S. capital, but there were no immediate indications of foul play.

Brianna Burch, a police spokesperson, told RFE/RL that there did not appear to be anyone with Rapoport at the time and there were no listed witnesses. She said she did not have information to suggest he left a suicide note. The FBI did not immediately respond to queries about whether it was involved in the investigation.

In 2016, four years after leaving Russia, Rapaport set up an office in Kyiv and opened a private equity fund. In social media posts, he was a vocal supporter of Ukraine, and an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Raporport's co-founder of the Soho Rooms nightclub, Sergei Tkachenko, was found dead outside a Moscow building. Investigators said Tkachenko's body was found on a building awning “with injuries typical of a fall from a great height.”

3:12 p.m.: The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is using mobile teams of aid workers to reach Ukrainians displaced by the war, to help them with immediate needs, the agency said on Twitter Thursday.

2:15 p.m.:

2 p.m.: The Moscow-controlled Supreme Court of Russian-annexed Crimea has shortened the prison term of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty freelance correspondent Vladyslav Yesypenko by one year to five years, RFE/RL reported. Yesypenko's wife, Kateryna Yesypenko, told RFE/RL on Thursday that the decision to fine her husband 110,000 rubles ($1,810) remains in effect.

"We will continue to appeal the verdict. Because of the decision by the court of appeals, we now have a very good chance. In half-a-year, we can request an early release. If the sentence remained six years in prison, the time for early release would be in one year," Kateryna Yesypenko said, adding that her husband was present at the hearing and looked well.

Yesypenko, a dual Russian-Ukrainian citizen who contributes to RFE/RL's Crimea.Realities project, was sentenced in Crimea in February after a closed-door trial. He was detained in Crimea in March 2021 for allegedly collecting information for Ukrainian intelligence. Before the arrest, he had worked in Crimea for five years reporting on social and environmental issues on the peninsula.

Yesypenko testified during a court hearing that the Russian authorities "want to discredit the work of freelance journalists who really want to show the things that really happen in Crimea."

RFE/RL President Jamie Fly has called the judgment a “travesty” of justice.

1:50 p.m.:

1:35 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he agreed the parameters of a mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant at talks on Thursday with the U.N. secretary-general and Turkey's leader, Reuters reported.

Zelenskyy told a news conference after the talks in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv that Russia should immediately withdraw its forces and stop shelling from the nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

"We agreed with the secretary general the conditions of a possible mission by the IAEA to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, in a legal way, via territory free from occupiers," Zelenskyy told reporters.

"Russia should immediately and unconditionally withdraw its forces from territory of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as well as stopping any provocations and shelling," he said.

1:20 p.m.: The United Nations released comments by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres following his trilateral meeting with Ukraine’s president and Turkey’s president Thursday.

12:45 p.m.: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday he discussed possible ways of ending the war between Ukraine and Russia in a trilateral meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy and U.N. chief Antonio Guterres, Reuters reported.

Speaking after the meeting in Ukraine's Lviv, Erdogan said they discussed using the positive atmosphere created by a U.N.-brokered grain export deal to establish lasting peace.

He also said they discussed the exchange of prisoners of war between Ukraine and Russia, and that he would later raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We attach great importance to this issue...of what happened to the exchange of these captives," Erdogan said.

12:30 p.m.:

11:50 a.m.: A restaurateur and rapper duo unveiled Stars Coffee on Thursday, reopening the chain of coffee shops in Russia formerly owned by Starbucks Corp., the latest major company rebranding after a months-long Western corporate exodus from the country, Reuters reported.

At a packed launch in central Moscow, rapper Timati presented the new brand, whose logo features an image of a woman with a star above her head, alongside co-owner and restaurateur Anton Pinskiy, before shops start opening on Friday.

Banned from using the Starbucks logo, Timati said they had sought to find some continuity, namely the circular shape and "female gender", which he said contrasted nicely with the brown, cigar-like "masculine colour" in the new logo.

"People's perceptions may be different," said Pinskiy. "But if you compare, then apart from the circle, you won't find anything in common."

11:25 a.m.:

11:05 a.m.: Russian Jews are heading for Israel as the Kremlin targets an emigration group, Reuters reported Thursday.

In the hours after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Ilya Fomintsev, a 43-year-old oncologist and director of a medical charity, took to the streets of Moscow to protest. He was arrested and sentenced to 20 days’ detention.

Fearing for his future, like many other opponents of the “special military operation” in Ukraine, Fomintsev decided to leave the country.

Fomintsev was part of a renewed wave of Jewish emigration from Russia that, though not as large as earlier pre-revolutionary and post-Soviet exoduses, has seen tens of thousands of Russians make for the Jewish state.

10:30 a.m.: Moscow has rejected a proposal by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres to demilitarize the area around the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

During a press briefing on August 18, according to reports by RFE/RL, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ivan Nechaev said the proposals were "unacceptable."

10:10 a.m.: Russia said on Thursday there was a risk of a man-made disaster at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and accused Kyiv and the West of planning "provocation" there during a visit to Ukraine by U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Reuters reported.

The Russian defense ministry accused Ukraine and what it called its "U.S. handlers" of trying to stage a "minor accident" at the plant in southern Ukraine to blame Russia.

A Ukrainian official dismissed what he depicted as a cynical assertion by Moscow and said Russian forces should leave the plant they captured, demine it, and remove any munitions stored there.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, dismissed the Russian defense ministry's remarks, saying it "laughs cynically."

"There is a solution. You just need to take the (munitions)out of the halls, demine the buildings, release the plant's personnel from cells, stop shelling (the southern city of) Nikopol from (the plant's) territory and leave the station," he wrote on Twitter.

9:50 a.m.:

9:35 a.m.: Two Russian MiG-31 fighter jets are suspected of violating Finnish airspace on Thursday morning near the coastal city of Porvoo on the Gulf of Finland, the Finnish defense ministry said.

The suspected violation happened at 0640 GMT and the jets were westbound, communications chief Kristian Vakkuri told Reuters, adding the aircraft were in Finnish airspace for two minutes. "The depth of the suspected violation into Finnish airspace was one kilometer," he said, but would not elaborate on whether the planes were escorted out.

Russia's Defense ministry on Thursday was cited by Interfax as saying it had relocated three MiG-31E warplanes equipped with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles to its Kaliningrad region, a Russian Baltic coast exclave between Poland and Lithuania.

9:15 a.m.: The Russian military said Thursday that it has deployed warplanes armed with state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles to the country’s Kaliningrad region, a move that comes amid soaring tensions with the West over Moscow’s action in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said three MiG-31 fighters with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles arrived at the Chkalovsk airbase in the Baltic Sea enclave as part of “additional measures of strategic deterrence.” A video released by the Defense Ministry showed the fighters arriving at the base but not carrying the missiles, which were apparently delivered separately.

The deployment of Kinzhal missiles to Kaliningrad as Russia’s campaign in Ukraine nears the sixth-month mark appeared intended to showcase the Russian military’s capability to threaten NATO assets. The region borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania.

The ministry said the warplanes will be put on round-the-clock alert. Moscow has strongly criticized the deliveries of Western weapons to Ukraine, accusing the U.S. and its allies of fueling the conflict.

8:55 a.m.:

8:40 a.m.: Russian anti-war activists in Cyprus have vowed to continue holding protests against the invasion of Ukraine despite, they say, becoming the target of a threat after their faces appeared on a billboard site draped in black ribbons.

According to Reuters, the pictures of nine activists appeared in late July on the seafront in Limassol, a city popular with both Russians and Ukrainians and where anti-war demonstrators regularly gather.

All nine had participated in protests that regularly take place in the city, which draw crowds ranging from dozens to hundreds. Their photos, each with a ribbon, had been set into a collage attached to a fence used for billboard announcements, together with three red candles set on a ledge.

"Its a memorial for people. In Russia its very common to make threats like this," said one of those depicted, Evgenii Elesin, 38, one of thousands of Russians living in Cyprus.

8:30 a.m.:

8:10 a.m.: A Russian paratrooper who condemned his country's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine after taking part in the war has fled Russia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Thursday.

France-based human rights activist Vladimir Osechkin said on August 17 that he and his team helped Pavel Filatyev to "urgently" leave Russia. Filatyev took part in Russia's attack on Ukraine in February and March. He later wrote a book titled ZOV (A Call) in Russian. The title was written in Latin script to highlight the letters "Z" and "V."

Russian military vehicles in Ukraine are marked with those letters, which have become symbols promoted by Russian state media and other Kremlin supporters as patriotic emblems expressing support for the military and the invasion.

Before leaving Russia, Filatyev gave an interview to The Guardian saying that after his book was published, he changed his address several times to avoid possible arrest. Filatyev also said that he was not aware of whether a criminal case has been launched against him.

7:55 a.m.:

7:40 a.m.: Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Thursday that Germany will temporarily lower taxes on natural gas to ease the financial pressure on people struggling with soaring energy costs fueled by Russia’s war in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

The announcement at a hastily convened news conference in Berlin comes a day after Scholz met with hostile protests during a town hall event outside the capital.

Scholz said his government had decided to lower the value-added tax on gas from 19% to 7% until the end of March 2024. “The rising gas prices are a big burden for many citizens,” Scholz said, adding that further measures would be announced in the coming weeks.

In addition to rising wholesale prices for natural gas caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, consumers will have to pay a new surcharge to prop up energy companies scrambling to find new supplies on the global market.

7:25 a.m.: Germany is trying to reduce its dependence on Russian gas due to the war in Ukraine, Reuters reports. German residents are worried about rising energy costs and supply shortages during the upcoming winter.

7:10 a.m.: Germany is likely to miss a November target for gas storage levels set by the government to avoid an energy crisis, Reuters reported. The head of the Bundesnetzagentur energy regulator told German media outlet t-online on Thursday that Europe's biggest economy faced two tough winters.

Germany is in the second phase of a three-stage emergency plan to reduce its dependence on Russian gas due to the war in Ukraine. "I don't expect we will achieve the next storage targets as quickly as the first one," Klaus Mueller, head of the Bundesnetzagentur, told t-online.

Russia has drastically cut flows to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline since mid-June and is currently supplying only 20% of agreed volumes, blaming technical issues. Europe says the move has been politically motivated.

6:50 a.m.: Europe's attempts to wean itself off Russian gas have given Algeria a shot in the arm, Reuters reported.

Flush with energy revenues after Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent demand for its oil and gas soaring, authorities are spending more on social benefits and taking a more assertive stance abroad, pivoting from years of declining wealth and the political upheaval of a mass protest movement.

President Abdulmadjid Tebboune has announced expected increases to public sector wages, pensions and unemployment payments, returning to a model of generous social spending to which Algerians have long been accustomed.

6:35 a.m.: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, visiting Ukraine on Thursday, gave remarks at the National University of Lviv,

“Today, many people think that only governments matter but on the contrary, more and more the contribution of civil society and the contribution of academia are essential in the development of modern democracies,” he said.

6:20 a.m.: Half of Russia's flight dispatchers have been put on forced leave as Western sanctions batter the country's travel industry, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty quoted a labor union official as saying.

Sergei Kovalyov, the president of Russia's Federal Trade Union of Air Traffic Controllers, made the statement in a complaint sent to the Prosecutor-General's Office earlier this week, Russian media reported.

Russia has about 30,000 flight dispatchers, suggesting 15,000 have been put on leave.

Russia's aviation industry -- highly dependent on Western technology and Western routes -- has been among the hardest hit by sweeping sanctions triggered by Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The United States and its allies have banned the sale of planes and plane parts to Russia, while the EU has banned Russia from using its airspace.

6:05 a.m.:

5:50 a.m.: One more ship carrying grain has left Ukraine's Chornomorsk port, Reuters reported.

This brings the total number of vessels to leave Ukraine's Black Sea ports under a U.N.-brokered grain export deal to 25, Turkey's Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

The Belize-flagged I Maria was loaded with corn, it said, adding that four other ships will arrive in Ukraine's ports on Thursday to be loaded with grain.

5:35 a.m.:

5:24 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest assessment of the Ukraine conflict that Russian forces attempted several unsuccessful assaults near the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border, continued to unsuccessfully attack settlements southeast of Siversk, and launched several assaults northeast and south of Bakhmut.

Russian forces made limited gains northwest of Donetsk City and near the Zaporizhia-Donetsk Oblast administrative border and are likely attempting to improve tactical positions near Horlivka.

4:58 a.m.: Reuters reported that Russia's defense ministry says it may shut down the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant if shelling continues.

In a briefing, Igor Kirillov, head of Russia's radioactive, chemical and biological defense forces, said the plant's back-up support systems had been damaged as a result of shelling. Kirillov said that in the event of an accident at the plant, radioactive material would cover Germany, Poland and Slovakia.

The Zaporizhzhia plant was seized by Russian forces in March. It remains close to front lines, and has repeatedly come under shelling in recent weeks. Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for strikes on the plant.

4:31 a.m.: Reuters reported that Myanmar plans to import Russian oil and gasoline amid supply concerns and rising prices.

3:41 a.m.: Al Jazeera reported that a pre-dawn shelling of a residential area in Kharkiv, Ukraine, killed one person and injured 18.

3:03 a.m.: Canada has disbursed $348.1 million in loans to Ukraine to support the purchase of necessary heating fuel before winter, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement, according to Reuters.

The amount is a part of $1.51 billion in loans Canada committed to Ukraine to support Kyiv during the Russian invasion.

"With today's disbursement of C$450 million [$338.1 million U.S.] in loans—which will help Ukraine purchase the heating fuel it needs before winter—we have now disbursed all loans to Ukraine committed to date," Freeland said.

2:06 a.m.: That latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said the war has seen numerous failures by Russian commanders to enforce low-level battle discipline. The cumulative effect of these failures is likely a significant factor behind the poor performance of Russia’s forces.

One of these failures, the update said, involves troops' failure to use adequate Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA). Used correctly, the update said, ERA helps protect tanks from incoming projectiles.

1:02 a.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Wednesday with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on continued U.S. support for Ukraine’s defense needs, according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

The secretary updated Kuleba on U.S. deliveries of security assistance and condemned recent Russian actions in and around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

Additionally, the secretary reaffirmed the United States will continue to call for an end to all military operations at or near Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, the return of full control of these facilities to Ukraine, and Moscow to end its war of choice against its sovereign neighbor.

12:02 a.m.: Residential construction by the Russian military is in full swing in one of the most heavily bombed areas of the occupied Mariupol, The Associated Press reported.

The first two buildings of the new complex are set to be completed by September with the construction site employing 2,080 workers and over 280 units of heavy machinery.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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