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Latest Developments in Ukraine: August 5

Protesters attend a rally in support of Ukrainian soldiers from the Azov Regiment who were captured by Russia in May after the fall of Mariupol, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Aug. 4, 2022.

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

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

8:44 p.m.: Ukraine's southern front-line city of Mykolaiv will impose an unusually long curfew from late Friday to early Monday morning as authorities try to catch people collaborating with Russia, the region's governor said.

Mykolaiv, which has been shelled throughout Russia's invasion, which began on February 24, lies close to Russian-occupied parts of the strategically important region of Kherson where Ukraine plans to conduct a counteroffensive.

Vitaliy Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv region, told residents the curfew running from 11 p.m. (2000 GMT) Friday to 5 a.m. Monday did not mean the city was under threat or facing a looming attack.

"There's no sign of an encirclement. The city will be closed for the weekend. Please be understanding. We are also working on collaborators. Districts will undergo checks," Kim said on Telegram.

7:42 p.m.: Russia is imposing entry bans on 62 Canadian citizens including government officials in a retaliatory move, it said Friday, according to Agence France-Presse.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that the list included figures known for "their malicious activity in the fight against the 'Russian world' and our traditional values."

Moscow said the bans came in retaliation for Canada's sanctions against Russian figures including journalists and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, in June and July.

Russia also accused Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government of aiming to insult "not only the multinational and multi-confessional people of Russia, but also Orthodox believers around the world, including Canada."

6:26 p.m.: A European Union plan to cut gas use and help Germany wean itself off dependency on Russia will come into effect early next week, the bloc's presidency said Friday, according to Agence France-Presse

Last week, EU member states agreed to reduce their use of gas by 15% over the winter, with exceptions for some countries and despite opposition from Hungary.

Officials have since been working on the legal texts of the plan, which will be voluntary unless the member states agree to give the European Commission emergency powers.

The EU's rotating presidency, held by the Czech Republic, announced Friday the Council of the European Union, which represents member states, had formally adopted the plan.

A diplomatic source told AFP that the plan would come into effect on Tuesday.

5:18 p.m.: Russia and Ukraine on Friday accused each other of shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest of its kind in Europe, and laying the ground for a potential disaster.

Russia's defense ministry said it was only by luck that a radiation accident had been avoided after what it described as an artillery barrage.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Moscow was responsible and accused it of committing "an open, brazen crime, an act of terror."

The Russian defense ministry said the generating capacity of one unit had been reduced and power supply to another had been cut. In addition, the nearby city of Enerhodar had power and water supply problems, it said.

Enerhodar and the nearby nuclear plant were seized by invading Russian troops in early March and are still close to the frontline.

4:21 p.m.: The Biden administration's next security assistance package for Ukraine is expected to be $1 billion, one of the largest so far, and include munitions for long-range weapons and armored medical transport vehicles, three sources briefed on the matter told Reuters on Friday.

The package is expected to be announced as early as Monday and would add to about $8.8 billion in aid the United States has given Ukraine since Russia's invasion on Feb. 24.

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that President Joe Biden had not yet signed the next weapons package. They cautioned that weapons packages can change in value and content before they are signed.

However, if signed in its current form, it would be valued at $1 billion and include munitions for HIMARS, NASAMS surface-to-air missile system ammunition and as many as 50 M113 armored medical transports.

3:25 p.m.: Greece’s decision to limit air conditioning in public buildings as a result to Europe’s energy shortfall, it has turned fraught, raising questions of which parts of society should be asked to make sacrifices, and for what. Greeks are asking what they should be sacrificing for Ukraine after years of suffering under austerity that cut pensions and slashed government spending. And they question how much they should help energy challenges in Germany, which they blame for a decade of economic depression and suffering, The Washington Post reports.

3:00 p.m.: Relatives of prisoners of war captured by the Russians following the fall of Mariupol gathered in central Kyiv, Thursday, demanding information about their husbands, fathers and sons following a strike on a prison that killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in a separatist region of eastern Ukraine last week, The Associated Press reports.

One of those gathered was Eugenia Vasylieva who last saw her husband Valeriy Vasyliev in Mariupol on the night of Feb. 24, the day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Her 7-year-old daughter Zlata Vasylieva, holding a placard calling for her father's return.

Russia has claimed that Ukraine’s military used U.S.-supplied rocket launchers to strike the prison in Olevinka, a settlement controlled by the Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic.

Ukrainian officials say they are struggling to establish the truth surrounding an explosion in a prison that killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war captured by the Russians following the fall of Mariupol.

Ukraine’s human rights chief, Dmytro Lubinets, told The Associated Press he has tried to establish a direct link with his Russian counterpart in order to arrange a joint visit to the prison in Olenivka, a town in eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists.

2:00 p.m.: President Joe Biden said his administration was working hard to secure jailed U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner's release from Russia and was hopeful.

"I'm hopeful. We're working hard," he told reporters at the White House after Moscow said it was ready to discuss a prisoner swap.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that his country was ready to discuss a prisoner exchange offer from the United States involving basketball star Brittney Griner but warned that “loud statements” and public diplomacy from the Biden administration could sink hopes of any deal, the Washington Post reports.

“We are ready to discuss the issue,” Lavrov told reporters Friday, the day after a Russian court sentenced Griner to 9 1/2 years imprisonment. He said that the appropriate channel would be via a dialogue mechanism established by Washington and Moscow after President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Geneva last summer.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking after Lavrov’s comments, said that now that Russia has agreed “they are prepared to engage through channels we’ve established to do just that … we’ll be pursuing that.”

Blinken said that Griner’s sentence “further compounds the injustice that’s being done to her and her wrongful detention,” putting “a spotlight on our very significant concern with Russia’s legal system and the Russian government’s use of wrongful detentions to advance its own agenda, using individuals as political pawns. The same goes for Paul Whelan.”

Whelan, a security consultant, is serving a 16-year sentence of hard labor after convicted for spying in 2020. Whelan says he was framed.

Blinken and Lavrov spoke at separate news conferences in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where both were attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit. They did not speak with each other.

The administration has said that Griner and Whelan, 52, have been “wrongfully” detained. Griner, 31, was convicted in February of carrying less than a gram of cannabis oil into Russia in February. She pleaded guilty to what she said was an accidental oversight while packing to return to the Russian basketball team where she plays in the U.S. basketball offseason.

1:15 p.m.: The New York Times is hosting live, a discussion on Brittney Griner’s nine-year prison sentence after vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage. The panel discusses negotiations and a prisoner swap that could get her out.

1:10 p.m.: A 16-year-old Ukrainian boy spent 90 days in captivity by Russian soldiers in Zaporizhia Oblast. The Washington Post chronicles his suffering, witnessing the torture of Ukrainian soldiers and forced to clean the “torture room” awash with their blood. Vladyslav Buryak, son of one of the region’s highest-ranking Ukrainian officials – Oleh Buryak, was one of five minors held in the area. A total of 203 kids have been recorded missing in Ukraine as of the beginning of August. Most of them went missing in the war’s hotspots.

12:40 p.m.: Shelling hit a high-voltage power line on Friday at a Ukrainian nuclear power plant captured by Russia, but Ukrainian authorities said the plant still worked and no radioactive leak had been detected. Ukraine's state nuclear power company Energoatom blamed Russian shelling for the damage at the Zaporizhzhia power station, Europe's largest.

Earlier, the Russian-installed administration of the occupied Ukrainian city of Enerhodar said Ukrainian shells struck the lines at the plant, in the country's southeast.

12:35p.m.: Ukraine could start exporting wheat from this year's harvest from its seaports in September under a landmark deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, Ukraine’s first deputy minister of agriculture said on Friday. According to Reuters, Ukraine hopes in several months to increase shipments of grain through the route to between 3 million and 3.5 million tons per month from 1 million tons expected in August, the official, Taras Vysotskiy, said.

Such volumes will allow Ukraine to receive enough funds, so it does not have to reduce its sowing plans, the official said.

11:55 a.m.: The U.N. Children’s Fund released a short video on Twitter Friday, featuring the experiences of one boy affected by the war in Ukraine, and making an appeal for peace.

11:40 a.m.: Pope Francis met Friday with a top official of the Russian Orthodox Church ahead of an expected meeting next month in Kazakhstan with the Russian Orthodox leader, Patriarch Kirill, who has justified the war in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

The audience was the first between Francis and the new director of the Moscow Patriarchate’s foreign relations office, Metropolitan Anthony. He replaced the Vatican’s longtime liaison with the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion, who was transferred to Hungary after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Both the pope and Kirill have confirmed their presence in Kazakhstan to attend a government-organized interfaith meeting, the “Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions,” from Sept. 14-15. If they meet on the sidelines of the congress, it would be the second-ever encounter between a pope and a Russian patriarch, after a June encounter was canceled because of the diplomatic fallout over Russia’s invasion.

Kirill has justified the invasion of Ukraine on spiritual and ideological grounds, calling it a “metaphysical” battle with the West. He has blessed Russian soldiers going into battle and invoked the idea that Russians and Ukrainians are one people.

11:25 a.m.: Travelers heading from the United States to Europe this summer can also help transport relief supplies to Ukraine. VOA’s Khrystyna Shevchenko has the story.

With Group's Help, US Airline Passengers Deliver Aid to Ukraine
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11:15 a.m.: Kremlin-controlled natural gas producer Gazprom -- considered a “slush fund” because of its business ties to friends and close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin -- stands to lose hundreds of billions of dollars in European revenue over the long term, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Friday.

And that bleak outlook will have ripple effects on Gazprom’s efforts to compensate with a pivot to Asia by undermining its negotiating position with China, experts said.

In the short term, though, Gazprom can expect to enjoy a bonanza.

Even as its volumes to Europe tumble, the company will generate record export revenue this year -- and strong earnings over the next two to three years -- because prices for the fuel have surged amid a shortage triggered by what Brussels has called Kremlin “blackmail.”

But by mid-decade, as new supplies of natural gas flood the market and the EU further cuts Russian gas imports, Gazprom will face a sharp drop in revenue and profits at a time when the rest of the economy will be struggling under Western sanctions, analysts say.

10:50 a.m.:

10:30 a.m.: The Kremlin said Friday that it’s open to talking about a possible prisoner exchange involving American basketball star Brittney Griner but strongly warned Washington against publicizing the issue, The Associated Press reported.

Griner, a two-time U.S. Olympic champion and an eight-time all-star with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17 after police at Moscow’s airport said they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

A judge convicted the 31-year-old athlete Thursday of drug possession and smuggling, and sentenced her to nine years in prison. The politically charged case comes amid high tensions between Moscow and Washington over Russia’s military action in Ukraine.

In an extraordinary move, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke last week to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, urging him to accept a deal under which Griner and Paul Whelan, an American jailed in Russia on espionage charges, would go free.

Lavrov and Blinken were both in Cambodia on Friday for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Blinken did not even glance at his Russian counterpart as they took their seats at an East Asia Summit. Lavrov told reporters that Blinken didn’t try to contact him while they were attending the ASEAN meeting.

10:10 a.m.:

9:50 a.m.: The life of Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer jailed in the United States and linked to a possible swap for two U.S. citizens imprisoned by Moscow, sometimes reads like a far-fetched spy thriller, Reuters reported.

Variously dubbed “the merchant of death” and “the sanctions buster” for his ability to get around arms embargoes, Bout, 55, was one of the world’s most wanted men prior to his 2008 arrest on multiple charges related to arms trafficking.

For almost two decades, Bout became the world’s most notorious arms dealer, selling weaponry to rogue states, rebel groups and murderous warlords in Africa, Asia and South America.

On Friday, the United States and Russia said they were ready to discuss a prisoner swap, a day after basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison for bringing cannabis-infused vape cartridges into Russia.

Sources familiar with the situation told Reuters last month that Washington had offered to exchange Bout for Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who in 2020 was sentenced to 16 years in jail for spying.

9:35 a.m.:

9:20 a.m.: Russia's foreign ministry said on Friday that Moscow declared 14 Bulgarian diplomats persona non grata, Reuters reported.

Bulgaria earlier this summer expelled 70 Russian diplomatic staff over espionage concerns and set a cap on the size of Moscow's representation as relations between two countries that were once close allies fractured over Ukraine.

9:05 a.m.:

8:25 a.m.: Ukraine's southern frontline city of Mykolaiv will impose an unusually long curfew from late Friday to early Monday morning as authorities try to catch people collaborating with Russia, the region's governor said, according to Reuters.

Mykolaiv, which has been shelled throughout Russia's invasion which began on February 24, lies close to Russian-occupied parts of the strategically important region of Kherson where Ukraine plans to conduct a counteroffensive.

Vitaliy Kim, governor of the Mykoliav region, told residents the curfew running from 11 p.m. (2000 GMT) Friday to 5 a.m. Monday did not mean the city was under threat or facing a looming attack.

"There's no sign of an encirclement. The city will be closed for the weekend. Please be understanding. We are also working on collaborators. Districts will undergo checks," Kim said on Telegram.

8:10 a.m.: The U.N. Children’s Fund said Friday it has provided more than 85,000 families with cash assistance through its “Spilno” program, and it released a video interview on Twitter with one of the recipients.

7:55 a.m.: In Ukraine new battle lines are being drawn, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Mike Eckel reported in an analysis of the latest military maneuvers in the war this week.

The first thing to know: Long convoys of Russian military trucks, tanks, towed artillery, and other weapons are moving away from Ukraine’s Donbas region, headed southwest -- and in at least one case, headed northwest from the Russian-occupied port of Mariupol.

The second thing to know: Bridges, ammunition depots, and rail links are being targeted with growing frequency in Ukraine’s southern regions, hit by Ukrainian forces with powerful Western-supplied weapons.

The most important thing to know: Russia’s war on Ukraine is about to enter a new phase, if it hasn’t already, with the heaviest fighting shifting to a roughly 350-kilometer front line stretching southwest from near Zaporizhzhya to Kherson, paralleling the Dnieper River.

The fight for the city of Kherson alone “could prove decisive in determining the ultimate outcome of the war,” according to at least one account. “The south is key,” said Peter Zwack, a retired U.S. Army general who served as defense attache at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

7:40 a.m.:

7:05 a.m.: Russian and pro-Russian forces have taken full control of Pisky, a village on the outskirts of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, TASS news agency cited separatist forces as saying on Friday, according to Reuters.

They also said that fighting was taking place in the city of Bakhmut, north of Donetsk.

The Ukrainian military said on Thursday Russian forces had mounted at least two assaults on Pisky but had been repelled.

Moscow is seeking to control the largely Russian-speaking Donbas, comprised of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, where pro-Moscow separatists have seized territory.

6:55 a.m.:

6:45 a.m.: The administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Samantha Power, is dealing now with a global food crisis, brought on by local conflicts, the pandemic’s economic upheaval, and drought and the other extremes typical of climate change, according to The Associated Press, which published an interview with her Friday.

As the Biden administration spells out often, the problems have all been compounded by Russia invading Ukraine, deepening food shortages and raising prices everywhere.

“What we’re not going to do, any of us in the administration, is just allow the Russian Federation, which is still saying it’s not at war in Ukraine, to blame the latest spike in food and fertilizer prices on sanctions and on the United States,” Power told The Associated Press.

“For Mr. Lavrov to have traveled to Africa just after I did, there’s almost nothing tangible in the wake of that visit that the countries he visited have obtained from him, other than the misinformation and lies,” Power said.

Even African officials whose governments refused to join in formal U.N. condemnation earlier this year of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine tell of calling Russian leaders privately to urge Russia to let Ukraine’s grain out of the ports, she said.

6:20 a.m.: The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has published its most recent Food Price Index, and said Friday that food prices have dropped since hitting record highs earlier in the year in the wake of the war in Ukraine. “The decline was led by double-digit percentage drops in the cost of vegetable oils but also cereals, with the recent UN-brokered deal on Ukrainian grain exports a contributing factor,” the agency reported.

6:05 a.m.: African nations are free to buy grain from Russia but could face consequences if they trade in U.S.-sanctioned commodities such as Russian oil, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said, according to The Associated Press.

“Countries can buy Russian agricultural products, including fertilizer and wheat,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. But she added that “if a country decides to engage with Russia, where there are sanctions, then they are breaking those sanctions.”

“We caution countries not to break those sanctions because then ... they stand the chance of having actions taken against them,” she said.

Thomas-Greenfield spoke Thursday in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, after a meeting with President Yoweri Museveni, a U.S. ally who has not criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has expressed sympathy with Moscow.

Uganda is the U.S. official’s first stop on an African tour that will include visits to Ghana and Cape Verde. Her trip comes a week after the Africa visit of Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, who dismissed charges that his country’s invasion of Ukraine is solely responsible for a dangerous food crisis in countries ranging from Somalia to South Sudan.

5:45 a.m.:

5:32 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blasted Amnesty International in his daily address for an Amnesty report released Thursday that said “Ukrainian forces have put civilians in harm’s way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals, as they repelled the Russian invasion that began in February.”

Zelenskyy said the report “unfortunately tries to amnesty the terrorist state and shift the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim.” He said, “There cannot be, even hypothetically, any condition under which any Russian attack on Ukraine becomes justified. Aggression against our state is unprovoked, invasive and openly terroristic.”

4:55 a.m: Moscow and Washington appeared ready to discuss a possible prisoner exchange after U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner was found guilty of drug smuggling and sentenced to nine years in prison, which U.S President Joe Biden called "unacceptable," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

4:34 a.m.: In its latest intelligence update, the U.K. defense ministry said that Russia’s intentions regarding the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which it's occupied for five months, remain unclear. It said Russia's actions at the plant have likely undermined the security and safety of the plant’s normal operations.

Russian troops are probably using the area around the plant to rest their forces, the update said, and using the nuclear power plant's protected status to guard their gear and people from overnight Ukrainian attacks.

3:39 a.m.: Russia’s invasion has affected several aspects of life in Ukraine. VOA’s Maxim Moskalkov reports on the effect the war has had on the adoption of children.

2:33 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest assessment of the Ukraine conflict that Ukrainian forces conducted a series of localized counterattacks between Izyum and Slovyansk and regained positions in a number of settlements.

Russian forces continued ground attacks northeast and south of Bakhmut, conducted a limited ground attack southwest of Donetsk City and continued to transfer equipment and personnel to northeastern Kherson and western Zaporizhia Oblasts.

1:32 a.m.: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appointed a senior official from a Ukrainian telecommunications institute as governor of the mostly Russian-occupied southern region of Kherson on Thursday, Reuters reported his office as saying.

The new governor, Yaroslav Yanushevych, for the last six years had been an adviser to the head of Ukraine's state radio frequencies institute. His experience there, the president's office said, "would be useful in the performance of the tasks set before him as head of the important region."

Ukraine has vowed to mount a major counteroffensive against Russia in Kherson.

12:02 a.m.:

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