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Latest Developments in Ukraine: August 19

Raindrops fall down the face of a statue of a couple embracing in the city center, where many residents have evacuated from, in Druzhkivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, before a nightly curfew Aug. 18, 2022.
Raindrops fall down the face of a statue of a couple embracing in the city center, where many residents have evacuated from, in Druzhkivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, before a nightly curfew Aug. 18, 2022.

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

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

9:20 p.m.: On World Humanitarian Day, Charles Michel, president of the European Council, thanks humanitarian workers, including in Ukraine.

8 p.m.: Hours after talking with Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday accused the Russian leader of launching a "brutal attack" on Ukraine in an imperialist, revanchist violation of international law.

Macron, who tried unsuccessfully to prevent the invasion and long vaunted the importance of dialogue with Putin, has grown increasingly critical of the Russian president as the war bears on.

The resulting energy and economic crisis confronting Europe isn't over, calling it "the price of our freedom and our values," he said in a speech commemorating the 78th anniversary of the Allied landing in Nazi-occupied southern France during World War II.

7:10 p.m.: Russia's Black Sea Fleet is set to receive 12 new vessels alongside additional aviation and land-based vehicles in 2022, newly appointed commander Vice Admiral Viktor Sokolov said on Friday, state-owned TASS news agency reported.

State-owned news agency RIA said on Wednesday that Sokolov had been appointed head of the Black Sea Fleet. He replaced Igor Osipov, its head since 2019, after a series of setbacks. The week before, blasts at an air base in Crimea destroyed much of one of the fleet's air regiments.

In April, the fleet's flagship, the cruiser Moskva, was sunk in what Ukraine's Defense Ministry said was a missile strike. Two months later, the Black Sea Fleet withdrew from strategically vital Snake Island, near the Ukrainian port of Odesa.

6:12 p.m.: Vice Admiral Viktor Sokolov has confirmed media reports that he has taken over as commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet after a series of setbacks, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports.

Sokolov said on August 19 that he had been appointed to take over the Black Sea Fleet for Igor Osipov, who was removed from the post earlier this week in one of the most prominent dismissals of a military official so far in Russia's war against Ukraine.

5:18 p.m.: Russia will halt gas supplies to Europe for three days at the end of the month via its main pipeline into the region, state energy giant Gazprom said on Friday, as the region seeks to refuel ahead of winter.

The unscheduled maintenance order on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which runs under the Baltic Sea to Germany, deepens an energy standoff between Moscow and Brussels that has helped send inflation surging and raised the risk of rationing and recession.

Gazprom said the three-day shutdown was because the pipeline's only remaining gas compressor requires maintenance, yet the move will bring further disruption particularly for Germany, which depends largely on deliveries from Moscow to power its industry.

The Nord Stream pipeline had already been running at just a fifth of its capacity, stoking fears that Russia could halt supplies completely heading into the winter heating season and make it more difficult to fill up storage facilities.

4:28 p.m.: The Ukrainian military's push to "hollow out" invading Russian forces and retake territory will soon get a boost in the form of a new $775 million security aid package from the United States, VOA's National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin reports.

The Pentagon on Friday confirmed it was readying the package — the 19th from the U.S. in the past year — complete with more ammunition for Ukraine's 16 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, anti-armor systems and rounds, anti-radar missiles and mine-clearing capabilities.

"These are capabilities that are enhancing the Ukrainians' mobility as they look at this very challenging environment in southern Ukraine in particular," a senior defense official told reporters on the condition of anonymity, under ground rules established by the Pentagon.

"This continues our tradition of providing the Ukrainians what they need when they need it," the official said, adding, "This isn't the end."

3:20 p.m.: Here’s the latest from the briefing with a senior U.S. defense official on the new $775 million security package for Ukraine, with details and the latest U.S. assessments of the fighting, from VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin:

2:30 p.m.:

2:05 p.m.: Vice Admiral Viktor Sokolov has confirmed media reports that he has taken over as commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet after a series of setbacks, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Sokolov said on August 19 that he had been appointed to take over the Black Sea Fleet for Igor Osipov, who was removed from the post earlier this week in one of the most prominent dismissals of a military official so far in Russia's war against Ukraine.

The change came after a series of explosions rocked Russian-occupied Crimea, which had previously been seen as a secure rear base for Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, launched in late February.

Osipov had been on the hot seat since April, when Russia's flagship vessel in the Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva, sank near Crimea. Ukraine claimed it hit the ship with a missile strike, while Russia said a fire caused a munitions explosion onboard and that the ship sank in stormy seas while being towed to port.

Either way, the sinking of the vessel was widely seen as an embarrassment for the Kremlin.

1:45 p.m.:

1:10 p.m.: French President Emmanuel Macron told his Russian counterpart on Friday that he is concerned about safety risks at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, the Elysee said. It added that Putin had agreed to send a mission of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the site, according to Reuters.

The two presidents agreed to continue their talks in the coming days, according to a readout sent to journalists by Macron's office.

Ukraine's nuclear power operator said on Friday it suspected Moscow was planning to decouple the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant from Ukraine's grid, a complex operation that Kyiv says could cause a disaster.

According to a Kremlin readout of the call, Putin said the shelling of the Russian-controlled nuclear site, which he blamed on Kyiv, created the risk of "large-scale catastrophe."

12:35 p.m.:

12 p.m.: Europe’s embrace of millions of Ukrainians who fled Russia’s invasion showed that it’s possible to welcome large numbers of asylum-seekers, and the approach should be replicated to receive those fleeing other nations, the head of the U.N. refugee agency said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi described the European Union’s response as “exemplary,” noting that nearly 4 million Ukrainians, mainly women and children, have registered with the bloc’s temporary protection system since the start of the war nearly six months ago.

That stands in stark contrast to EU efforts in recent years to keep migrants from Africa and the Middle East from reaching Europe’s shores. Some European leaders have sought to differentiate between the plight of Ukrainians and that of other refugees — a distinction that Grandi condemned as “racist.”

“If that’s possible for such a large number of people, and since that has proven so effective, why not use some of these approaches also for other people that are coming to knock at Europe’s doors?” Grandi asked.

Though it was created decades ago, the EU’s emergency protection system was activated for the first time this year in response to the flight of more than 6 million Ukrainians over the course of just a few months — the largest exodus of refugees the continent has seen since World War II. It allows Ukrainians to move around the bloc, gives them the right to work and helps them to access housing, education and health care.

11:45 a.m.:

11:25 a.m.: A district court in Moscow has postponed for one month its hearing of a Justice Ministry request to close down the Russian offices of a prominent Jewish nongovernmental organization, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Friday.

Moscow has accused the organization of unspecified violations of Russian law. According to media reports, however, the government believes the Jewish Agency for Israel illegally collects the personal data of Russian citizens.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied Israeli media reports that Moscow wants to shutter the organization to combat a brain drain that has accelerated since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February.

The Jewish Agency for Israel, which was founded in 1929 and began working in the Soviet Union in 1989, works to promote Jewish cultural identity and facilitate the immigration of Jews to Israel. It has helped hundreds of thousands of Jews from Russia and other former Soviet countries to immigrate to Israel.

11:05 a.m.:

10:20 a.m.: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that the electricity generated at the Russian-held nuclear power plant in Ukraine's southern region of Zaporizhzhia belonged to Ukraine and demanded that principle be fully respected, Reuters reported.

"Obviously the electricity from Zaporizhzhia is Ukrainian electricity and it's necessary especially during the winter for the Ukrainian people. And this principle must be fully respected," he said.

Ukraine accused Russia earlier on Friday of planning a "large-scale provocation" at the vast nuclear plant and said Russian forces planned to disconnect the facility from the Ukrainian power grid and link it up to the Russian one.

Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling Europe's largest nuclear power plant, which was captured by Russia in March, but is still run by Ukrainian technicians. Only two of the facility's six reactors are working.

Guterres, asked about Russian plans to divert power to the Russian power grid, told reporters in the Black Sea port of Odesa that the plant should be demilitarized, a move that he said would resolve the problem.

10:05 a.m.: The United Nations released remarks made to the media by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres while he was visiting the Black Sea port of Odesa, Ukraine, on Friday.

9:50 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping plan to attend the G20 summit on the Indonesian island of Bali on November 15-16, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Friday, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Widodo also said that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been invited, even though Ukraine is not a G20 member. He has reportedly confirmed he would attend either in person or virtually.

Xi has not traveled internationally since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, he made his first trip away from mainland China when he traveled to Hong Kong.

Jakarta has faced Western pressure to exclude Putin because of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. However, Indonesia has sought to maintain a neutral stance, and Widodo has visited both Kyiv and Moscow this year.

9:35 a.m.:

9:20 a.m.: UN chief Antonio Guterres was expected in war-scarred southern Ukraine's main port of Odessa on Friday, a day after he said Turkey and Ukraine hoped to scale up their landmark grain export deal with Russia, Agence France-Presse reported.

As part of the UN chief's visit to Ukraine, he met with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who helped broker the grain deal inked in Istanbul, and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

At a joint press conference with the three leaders Thursday, Guterres said the United Nations aimed to "scale-up" operations under the deal ahead of winter.

The only significant agreement between Russia and Ukraine since Moscow invaded in February, has so far seen 25 boats carrying some 600,000 metric tons of agricultural products depart from three designated ports, Kyiv has said.

Guterres is expected to head to Turkey after Odessa to visit the Joint Coordination Centre, the body tasked with overseeing the accord.

9:10 a.m.:

8:50 a.m.: A former mayor of a Russian city has been appointed to head a new Russian-installed government in northeastern Ukraine, the latest in a string of such appointments which Kyiv says are part of attempts to annex its territory, Reuters reported.

Andrei Alekseyenko resigned as mayor of Krasnodar, Russia's sixteenth-largest city, on Thursday. He will now head a new Russian-appointed council of ministers in the Kharkiv province, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported on Friday, citing a decree by the local Russian-installed administration.

The province, which has been partially occupied by Russian troops, surrounds Ukraine's second biggest city Kharkiv. It lies north of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions which Moscow is seeking to capture on behalf of separatist proxy forces who have declared independence from Kyiv.

Russian officials have previously said that occupied areas of Ukraine will never return to Kyiv's control, and that referendums on their accession to Russia may be held in the autumn. Ukraine has called them "pseudo-referendums" and vowed to prevent them.

8:35 a.m.:

8:15 a.m.: Explosions erupted overnight near military bases deep within Russian-held areas of Ukraine and in Russia itself, an apparent display of Kyiv's growing ability to wreak havoc on Moscow's logistics far from front lines, Reuters reported.

In Crimea - the peninsula Russia seized and annexed in 2014 - explosions were reported near an air base in Belbek, on the southwest coast near Sevastopol, headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. On the opposite end of the peninsula, the sky was also lit up at Kerch near a huge bridge to Russia, with what Russia said was fire from its air defenses.

Inside Russia, two villages were evacuated after explosions at an ammunition dump in Belgorod province, near the Ukrainian border but more than 100 km (60 miles) from territory controlled by Ukrainian forces.

Closer to the front, Kyiv also announced a number of strikes overnight behind Russian lines in southern Kherson province, including at a bridge at the Kakhovska Dam, one of the last routes for Russia to supply thousands of troops on west bank of the Dnipro River.

Ukraine hopes its apparent new-found ability to hit Russian targets behind the front line can turn the tide in the conflict, disrupting supply lines Moscow needs to support its occupation.

8:05 a.m.:

7:55 a.m.: Over 7,000 civilians have been evacuated from the eastern Donetsk region since August. 1, according to a Ukrainian government official.

“Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that the government plans to evacuate at least 200,000 more from embattled Donetsk Oblast,” according to the Kyiv Independent.

Earlier this month Ukraine began mandatory civilian evacuations from the region, which has been the scene of a major assault by Russia’s military in recent weeks.

7:40 a.m.:

7:25 a.m.: Russian forces pursued a relentless bombardment campaign in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, with Kyiv reporting five people killed across the industrial province of Donetsk in the last 24 hours, Agence France-Presse reported.

The primary tool of Russia's forces has been artillery barrages, and recent bombardments over the Donetsk region -- which has been partially controlled by Russian proxies since 2014 -- left several dead.

The Ukrainian head of the region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said on social media Friday that Russian strikes had killed five people and injured 10 more in three settlements.

Strikes early Friday in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, left one person dead and damaged a school and a private business, the head of the region said. Russian strikes around Kharkiv have killed more than a dozen people over the last two days.

But concerns in recent days have centered around the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in south Ukraine, where both sides have traded blame for strikes and accused the other of planning attacks.

The flare-up around Europe's largest nuclear facility has sparked urgent warnings from world leaders, and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres cautioned during talks this week with the presidents of Ukraine and Turkey that any damage to the plant would be akin to "suicide."

The Turkish leader meanwhile said: "We are worried. We do not want another Chernobyl" referring to the 1986 nuclear disaster.

7:10 a.m.:

6:40 a.m.: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday that Russia's military presence at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine is a guarantee against what he called a "Chernobyl scenario", referring to the 1986 nuclear catastrophe, Reuters reported.

Yesterday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ivan Nechaev said that a U.N. proposal to demilitarize the area around the nuclear plant was "unacceptable."

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe's largest, was occupied by Russia in March. It remains near the frontline, and has repeatedly come under fire in recent weeks, raising fears of a nuclear disaster. Both Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the facility.

6:25 a.m.:

6:10 a.m.: Estonia’s foreign minister defended his country’s decision to bar Russian tourists, saying they are shirking their “moral responsibility” to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime and its “genocidal war” in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

The small Baltic country, which shares a 300-kilometer (190-mile) border with Russia, stopped issuing tourist visas to Russians months ago, and as of Thursday no longer accepts those previously issued.

“Our idea is to give a signal to all our European partners, all our Western community partners, to close down our borders to Russian citizens, except humanitarian cases,” Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told The Associated Press in an interview in Tallinn. “Russian citizens are not welcome in Europe. Their country is committing a genocidal war against an innocent people.”

Despite bans on air travel from Russia to the European Union, Russians have been able to vacation in western Europe this summer by traveling by land through Estonia and other neighboring countries with tourist visas that are valid throughout Europe’s border-free travel zone.

5:50 a.m.:

5:31 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said Russian strikes on residential areas of Kharkiv killed at least 12 civilians on Aug. 17, 2022. Multiple rocket launchers and generally inaccurate area weapons have caused devastation across large parts of the city, the update said.

4:26 a.m.: The latest Ukraine assessment from the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said Russian forces conducted ground assaults south of Siversk, northeast and south of Bakhmut and north, west, and southwest of Donetsk City.

It also said the Russian Ministry of Defense may be setting information conditions to blame Ukraine for a false flag attack at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

3:04 a.m.: A journalist with the BBC reports on the path potential radioactivity could take.

2:05 a.m.: The inhabitants of two villages in southern Russia near the Ukrainian border were evacuated Thursday after a nearby ammunition storage depot caught fire but no one was hurt, Reuters quoted an official as saying.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod region, said in a statement that emergency services were investigating the cause of the fire near the settlements of Timonovo and Soloti, 15 kilometers from Ukraine. He did not give details.

A popular Ukrainian news website posted a video it said showed a large ball of flame erupting from the base. Reuters was unable to immediately verify the video was genuine.

Russia on Tuesday blamed saboteurs for orchestrating a series of explosions at an ammunition depot in Russian-annexed Crimea, further to the south. Last week blasts ripped through a Crimean air base, which Moscow at the time said was caused by an accident.

1:09 a.m.: After early-morning blasts awoke residents of Druzhkivka, a city in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk, they found smashed rooftops and massive craters surrounding them. But as they began clearing rubble on Aug. 17, sharing their stories with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Serhiy Horbatenko, they rejected the notion of moving somewhere away from the front line.

"Where should we evacuate to?" asked one woman. "Who needs us and where?"

12:02 a.m.: Jailed Russian journalist Yelena Shukayeva, who contributes to RFE/RL's Russian Service and several other independent media outlets, has started a hunger strike to protest a 14-day jail sentence handed to her in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on Aug. 17 for reposting jailed opposition politician Alexey Navalny's investigative materials online, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The OVD-Info human rights group said Thursday that Shukayeva revealed that her hunger strike is "a protest against police arbitrariness, the distortion of common sense, and the pandering of judges to any fantasies the police have."

Shukayeva was sentenced to 14 days in jail after a court in Yekaterinburg found her guilty of propagating and publicly displaying symbols of an extremist organization.

Some information in this report came from Reuters.

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