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Latest Developments in Ukraine: August 9

Ukrainian servicemen carry a coffin with the body of their brother-in-arms Vitalii Petiushko, who was recently killed in a fight with Russian troops, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, during a funeral ceremony in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, on August 8, 2022.

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

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

11:20 p.m.: U.S. federal authorities are investigating the investment advisory firm Concord Management, which oversaw hedge fund investments worth billions of dollars for Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The investigation, being conducted by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is partly focused on how Abramovich's associates used several offshore shell companies to invest $8 billion in hedge funds and private equity firms, the report added, citing people close to the firm.

The authorities are seeking information about the flow of money to and from more than a dozen shell companies based in havens like the British Virgin Islands and the Isle of Jersey, the NYT report said.

10:55 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has tried but not yet been able to secure a direct line with China's Xi Jinping since Russia invaded his country in February, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports.

"I would like to talk directly. I had one conversation with Xi Jinping [a] year ago," Zelenskyy told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post on August 4.

China has proven to be Russia's most important partner since its invasion of Ukraine.

Despite this, Zelenskyy said he still believes that China could use its clout with Russia to push for a negotiated end to the war. "It's a very powerful state. It's a powerful economy.... So [it] can politically, economically influence Russia," he said. "And China is [also a] permanent member of the UN Security Council."

9:45 p.m.:

8:44 p.m.: The leaders of Estonia and Finland want fellow European countries to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens, saying they should not be able to take vacations in Europe while the Russian government carries out a war in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas wrote Tuesday on Twitter that "visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right" and that it is "time to end tourism from Russia now."

A day earlier, her counterpart in Finland, Sanna Marin, told Finnish broadcaster YLE that "it is not right that while Russia is waging an aggressive, brutal war of aggression in Europe, Russians can live a normal life, travel in Europe, be tourists."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy went further in a Washington Post interview Monday, saying all Western countries should ban Russian tourists.

8 p.m.: Germany's network regulator, which would be in charge of gas rationing in the event of a supply emergency, has received scores of exemption requests from across industries, reflecting fears of potential production cuts and subsequent losses, Reuters reported.

Germany is at phase two of a three-stage emergency plan following a reduction in gas flows from Russia, its main supplier, a major problem for industry, which accounts for a quarter of the country's gas demand.

While industry and regulators are trying to work out a plan for what happens at phase three — when rationing kicks in — individual sectors have started to ask for leniency and some companies have begun changing work practices to reduce energy use.

7:20 p.m.: Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a frequent emissary in hostage negotiations, said Tuesday he was hopeful about the chances of a two-for-two prisoner swap that could result in Russia's release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and another jailed American, Paul Whelan.

In cases like this, Richardson said in an interview with The Associated Press, "it's proportional — two-for two."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the unusual step of revealing publicly last month that the U.S. in June made a "substantial proposal" to get Griner and Whelan home. He did not elaborate, but the AP and other news organizations have reported that the U.S. has offered to free Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. and once earned the nickname the "Merchant of Death."

Russia made a counteroffer that the U.S. did not regard as serious, the White House has said.

6:33 p.m.:

5:30 p.m.: The Joint Coordination Center on Tuesday authorized the movement of two vessels, pending inspections, through the maritime humanitarian corridor under the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

The vessels MV Petrel S and MV Brave Commander will be inspected Wednesday at Marmara Sea and if cleared, they will depart to Chornomorsk and Yuzhny respectively.

Also Wednesday, the joint inspection teams at Marmara Sea will conduct inspections onboard outbound ships MV Mustafa Naciti, MV Sacura and MV Arizona.

On Tuesday, the joint teams conducted inspections onboard outbound ships MV Riva Wind, MV Glory and MV Star Helena, and they are all cleared to sail.

The JCC will monitor closely the passage of those vessels through the humanitarian maritime corridor.

4:25 p.m.: Ukrainian soldiers say there's a "big difference" when using the Bureviy multiple-launch rocket system, a modernized version of the Soviet-era Uragan system. The Bureviy system now sits on a Czech-built Tatra truck, which Ukrainian soldiers say provides greater mobility and off-road capabilities. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

3:15 p.m.: Reuters on Tuesday reported on the obstacles left to overcome before the Ukraine grain deal eases the global food crisis.

Two more grain-carrying ships left Ukraine's Chornomorsk port on Tuesday as part of a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to unblock the country's ports.

The agreement, which has created a protected corridor, was designed to alleviate global food shortages, with Ukraine's customers including some of the world's poorest countries, such as Eritrea in Africa.

So far, however, the bulk of exports has been corn, which is generally used for animal feed or to produce biofuel ethanol. Here’s a look at some of the issues.

2:30 p.m.: In what he calls his humanitarian voyage, American Neale Bayly has been riding his motorcycle around Ukraine — not only to see the sights, but also to bring attention to its war against Russia, and raise funds for the children he meets along the way. VOA’s Omelyan Oshchudlyak has the story.

American Motorcyclist Rides Deep Into Russia-Ukraine War's Heart of Darkness
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2:15 p.m.: A U.S. State Department official said Tuesday that the United States will provide $89 million to help Ukraine clear Russian landmines, improvised explosive devices and booby traps, VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin reported.

The $89 million U.S. aid package will go to train teams of two to 12 people to help with mine clearing operations on land only — not at sea — and to provide necessary equipment including protective gear, metal detectors, earth movers, and other items. The funding will support approximately 100 teams to take on what the official described as a "massive amount" of mines and other explosive devices littering an estimated 160,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian land.

The State Department official said the need for de-mining is urgent. "This is a challenge that #Ukraine will face for decades," the official said.

2:00 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden is due on Tuesday to sign documents endorsing Finland and Sweden's accession to NATO, the most significant expansion of the military alliance since the 1990s as it responds to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The U.S. Senate backed the expansion by an overwhelming 95-1 last week, a rare display of bipartisan unity in a bitterly divided Washington. Both Democratic and Republican Senators strongly approved membership for the two Nordic countries, describing them as important allies whose modern militaries already worked closely with NATO.

1:45 p.m.:

1:30 p.m.: Several countries in Europe dependent on Russian energy suffered another blow with confirmation Tuesday that oil shipments have stopped through a critical pipeline, The Associated Press reported.

Russian state pipeline operator Transneft said it halted shipments through the southern branch of the Druzhba oil pipeline, which flows through Ukraine to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

Transneft cited complications due to European Union sanctions for its action on August 4, saying its payment to the company’s Ukrainian counterpart was refused. The northern leg of the Druzhba pipeline, which runs through Belarus to Poland and Germany, was unaffected, Transneft reported.

EU leaders agreed in May to embargo most Russian oil imports by the end of the year as part of the bloc’s sanctions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine. The embargo covers Russian oil brought in by sea but allowed temporary Druzhba pipeline shipments to Hungary and certain other landlocked countries in central Europe.

Slovakia’s oil pipeline network operator, Transpetrol, and the refining company Slovnaft confirmed that Druzhba shipments to the nation had stopped. Slovakia receives almost all its oil through the Druzhba pipeline. Slovnaft, which is owned by Hungary’s MOL energy group, said its production has not been affected.

1:15 p.m.:

1:05 p.m.: The Kyiv Independent reported that Ukraine’s government is planning to give additional aid to 10,000 Ukrainians from occupied territories and war zones.

“The Ministry of Social Policy said that it will provide a payment of Hr 2,220 ($60) per person once in three months due to the aid from the French humanitarian nonprofit ACTED,” the news organization said.

12:55 p.m.: Over the past few months, a small team of dedicated volunteers have managed to evacuate more than 600 bedridden people from areas of heavy fighting in war-torn eastern regions of Ukraine. VOA’s Omelyan Oshchudlyak has the story.

Volunteer Group Helps Bedridden People Evacuate From Eastern Ukraine
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12:40 p.m.:

12:25 p.m.: One person was killed by a blast at a military airbase at Saky in the Russian-controlled Crimean peninsula on Tuesday, the Russian head of Crimea's administration, Sergei Aksyonov, said on social media, according to Reuters.

The Moscow defense ministry said earlier that the explosion had been a detonation of aviation ammunition, not the result of any attack. read more

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

12:15 p.m.:

12:05 p.m.: Belarus' air force is holding exercises on its territory and at a military training base in Russia, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

According to the ministry, the drills involve live fire and are to be held in two phases: the first from August 9 to August 11 in Belarus, while the second one on August 22-25 will take place at Russia's Ashuluk military training base located in Russia's southwest near the border with Kazakhstan.

Belarus' authoritarian ruler, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, has openly supported Russia's ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine that was launched in late February.

Although Belarusian troops have not taken part in the invasion, Belarusian authorities allowed Russia's military to use the country's territory to enter Ukraine and shell Ukrainian towns and cities from Belarus.

11:50 a.m.: The President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nauseda, spoke with VOA’s Eastern Europe bureau chief Myroslava Gongadze, offering his views on democracy, the world order, and Russia’s potential expansionist plans.

11:35 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli President Isaac Herzog discussed the strained relations between their countries and the situation of the Jewish Agency in Russia in a phone call on Tuesday, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The Russian Justice Ministry has moved to disband the agency's Russian arm, which promotes emigration to Israel, despite protests from Israel.

Russia accuses the organization of violating the country's laws and, according to media reports, unlawfully collecting personal data from Russian citizens.

Some Israelis have seen this as retribution for Israel's criticism of Russia's military campaign in Ukraine.

The case against the Jewish Agency is due to be heard on August 19.

11:20 a.m.: The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Tuesday said on Twitter that it is distributing assistance to a conflict-hit part of Ukraine – including supplies for the coming cold season.

11:05 a.m.: Moscow-imposed authorities in Ukraine's Crimea say explosions hit a military airport near the village of Novofedorivka on Tuesday, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that the detonation of aviation ammunition caused the explosions. "The explosion caused no casualties. No aircraft was damaged," the statement said, without clarifying who or what triggered the detonation.

The Russia-appointed head of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov wrote on Telegram earlier that he was on his way to the Novofedorivka to ascertain what the situation was. Aksyonov's advisor Oleg Kryuchkov then urged calm, telling the Black Sea peninsula's residents to wait for the authorities' final conclusions and statements.

Hours earlier, videos appeared on social media purporting to depict the blasts. Last week, five Russian Navy staff members were wounded by an explosion after a presumed drone flew into the courtyard of Russia's Black Sea fleet in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol.

Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 and launched its ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

10:55 a.m.:

10:35 a.m.: Three local witnesses told Reuters they had heard loud explosions and seen black smoke rising from the direction of a Russian military airbase at Novofedorivka on the annexed Crimean peninsula on Tuesday.

Videos purportedly captured at the scene, some of them posted on social media and shot from nearby tourist beaches, showed a plume of smoke. The videos could not immediately be verified.

At least 12 explosions of varying intensity were heard in the course of a minute around 15:30 p.m. local time (1230 GMT), two witnesses said. Three were particularly loud, triggering sparks and smoke.

Around 30 minutes later, one more blast, described by witnesses as the loudest of all, triggered two more plumes of smoke and dust. In the nearby town of Saky, sirens blared.

The Russian governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said in a post on his Telegram channel that he had gone to the area and that the "circumstances are being clarified".

Crimea has so far been spared the intense bombardment and artillery combat that have taken place in other areas of eastern and southern Ukraine since Feb. 24, when President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian armed forces into Ukraine - including some based in the peninsula.

10:10 a.m.: The Kyiv Independent on Tuesday quoted local media reports of explosions at a military airbase in Russian-occupied Crimea. “Local residents told Ukrainska Pravda that explosions were heard from the airfield in Novofedorivka,” it said. “The media outlet reported that Russian proxies had already confirmed explosions in the settlement,” it added.

9:45 a.m.: Russia has informed the United States of a freeze on U.S. inspections of its nuclear weapons under the New START arms control treaty, claiming Western sanctions have hampered similar inspections of U.S. facilities by Russian monitors, Radio Free Europe/Radi Liberty reported..

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the sanctions on Russian flights imposed by the United States and its allies over Russia's invasion of Ukraine along with visa restrictions and other obstacles have effectively made it impossible for Russian military experts to visit U.S. nuclear weapons sites.

It said the conditions "create unilateral advantages for the United States and effectively deprive the Russian Federation of the right to conduct inspections on American territory."

The United States had no immediate response to the move.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the freeze is temporary and allowed under the pact "in exceptional cases." It noted that Russia "highly values" the New START treaty and said it remains "fully committed" to complying with all its provisions.

9:25 a.m.:

9:10 a.m.: Russian airlines, including state-controlled Aeroflot, are stripping jetliners to secure spare parts they can no longer buy abroad because of Western sanctions, four industry sources told Reuters.

The steps are in line with advice Russia's government provided in June for airlines to use some aircraft for parts to ensure the remainder of foreign-built planes can continue flying at least through 2025.

Sanctions imposed on Russia after it sent its troops into Ukraine in late February have prevented its airlines from obtaining spare parts or undergoing maintenance in the West.

Aviation experts have said that Russian airlines would be likely to start taking parts from their planes to keep them airworthy, but these are the first detailed examples.

Equipment was being taken from a couple of Aeroflot's Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s, as the carrier needs more spare parts from those models for its other Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s, the source said.

8:55 a.m.: The U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) said Tuesday on Twitter that it is partnering with donors and others to provide psycho social support to survivors of gender-based violence across Ukraine.

8:30 a.m.: The Moscow-appointed deputy mayor of the occupied Ukrainian city of Nova Kakhovka, Vitaliy Efymenko, has been detained on criminal charges, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Tuesday.

Russia-imposed authorities in the city in Ukraine's southeastern region of Kherson said on August 8 that they confiscated illegal weapons and tens of millions of rubles from Efymenko, who is also a local businessman.

According to the so-called Temporary Directorate of the Russian Interior Ministry in the region, Efymenko is suspected of being a member of a gang that conducted at least two attacks against two local businessmen in recent weeks.

After Russia occupied the Kherson region in the first days of its ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine launched in late February, he was appointed by occupying forces as Nova Kakhovka's first deputy mayor.

Last week, Efymenko survived an apparent car-bomb assassination attempt. Ukrainian media reports cited sources at the time as saying that Efymenko was a criminal kingpin.

8:15 a.m.:

8:00 a.m.: The Kremlin on Tuesday dismissed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's call for a Western travel ban on all Russians as irrational, saying that Europe would ultimately have to decide if it wanted to pay the bills for Zelenskyy's "whims," Reuters reported.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Zelenskyy called on Western leaders to stop allowing Russians to travel to their countries as punishment for President Vladimir Putin's decision to send troops into Ukraine.

Zelenskyy was quoted by the Post as saying that Russians should be forced to "live in their own world until they change their philosophy."

7:50 a.m.:

7:35 a.m.: Russia unleashed ground forces, air strikes and artillery as it pressed ahead with a grinding offensive designed to complete its capture of eastern Ukraine, but Kyiv said its troops were putting up fierce resistance and holding the line, Reuters reported.

Heavy fighting was reported on Tuesday in frontline towns near the eastern city of Donetsk, where Ukrainian officials said Russian troops were launching waves of attacks as they tried to seize control of the industrialized Donbas region.

The Ukrainian military said it had repelled ground assaults in the direction of the cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka and had wiped out Russian reconnaissance units, including near Bakhmut.

Russia gave a different assessment. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov claimed his forces had captured a factory on the edge of the eastern town of Soledar, other Russian-backed forces said they were in the process of "clearing out" the heavily fortified village of Pisky, and Russian media reported that a group of mercenaries from the Wagner Group had dug in near the city of Bakhmut.

Some of the places Russia is targeting like Pisky are heavily fortified settlements crisscrossed with tunnels and trenches where Ukrainian forces have long been dug in.

7:20 a.m.:

7:05 a.m.: Reuters reported that Russia suspended oil exports via the southern leg of the Druzhba pipeline from early August due to issues relating to transit fees, two sources familiar with the operations said on Tuesday.

According to the sources, the payment from Russia's pipeline monopoly Transneft to Ukraine’s pipeline operator Ukrtransnafta did not go through.

Transneft confirmed the suspension of oil flows from Russia via the southern leg of the Druzhba pipeline, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

6:55 a.m.: The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday said on Twitter that it is working with partners to operate mobile teams to reach displaced families across Ukraine to provide assistance.

6:40 a.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has presented a new U.S. strategy for sub-Saharan Africa during his visit to South Africa this week. Blinken’s visit to Africa is seen as part of a competition between Russia and Western powers for support from African countries over the war in Ukraine. His trip to Africa follows recent tours by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Blinken emphasized Africa’s growing importance on the world stage, saying “Our strategy is rooted in the recognition that sub-Saharan Africa is a major geopolitical force, one that shaped our past, is shaping our present, and will shape our future.”

In a nod to the pressure African nations have felt recently to pick a side in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Blinken said, “The United States will not dictate Africa’s choices. Neither should anyone else. The right to make these choices belongs to Africans, and Africans alone.”

“At the same time, the United States and the world will look to African nations to defend the rules of the international system that they’ve done so much to shape,” he added. “These include the right of every country to have its independence, its sovereignty, is territorial integrity respected, a principle at stake now in Ukraine.”

The U.S. Secretary of State said supporting democracy in Africa is a priority, citing a study by the Africa-based polling organization Afrobarometer which found that “the overwhelming majority of people across Africa prefer democracy to any other form of government.” He said that countries with weak democracies are vulnerable to extremism and foreign interference, including involvement by “the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group, which exploits instability to pillage resources and commit abuses with impunity, as we’ve seen in Mali and the Central African Republic.”

Blinken noted that Africans have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that 55 million have been forced into poverty, reversing progress that had been made on the continent. “The economic pain has been deepened by Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine,” he said. “Even before (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin launched his full invasion, 193 million people worldwide were in need of humanitarian food assistance. The World Bank believes that Russia’s invasion could add another 40 million people to this unprecedented number. Most are in Africa,” he added.

The Secretary of State expressed a U.S. commitment to help African countries “in this unprecedented crisis” saying that “Our initiative called Feed the Future will invest $11 billion over five years in 20 partner countries, 16 of which are in Africa.” He also said another initiative “is turbo-charging investment and innovation in climate smart agriculture.”

6:30 a.m.: The European Union on Tuesday tweeted a statement by EU Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson, saying that “the deployment of Russian military personnel and weaponry at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility is an open violation of all internationally agreed safety, security and safeguards provisions.” She called on the Russian military to “withdraw from the site without delay so that the Ukrainian operator can operate the plant safely and as an integral part of Ukraine's energy system and electricity grid” in accordance with international conventions and IAEA safety standards.

6:15 a.m.: More than 10.5 million people have crossed border from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on February 24, Reuters reported, citing the United Nations Refugee agency UNHCR’s website on Tuesday.

4:55 a.m.: The Associated Press has reported that a Russian rocket has launched an Iranian satellite into orbit.

The Soyuz rocket lifted off at 8:52 a.m. Moscow time (1:52 a.m. EDT) Tuesday from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

Iran has said the satellite will be used for environmental monitoring and that no other country will have access to information it gathers. There have been allegations Russia might use it to do surveillance on Ukraine.

3:30 a.m.: Germany’s economy will lose more than $265 billion (260 billion euros) in added value by 2030 due to the Ukraine war and high energy prices, spelling negative effects for the labor market, Reuters reported citing a study by the Institute for Employment Research, or the IAB.

In comparison with expectations for a peaceful Europe, Germany’s price-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP) will be 1.7% lower next year and there will be about 240,000 fewer people in employment, said the study published on Tuesday.

The employment level is expected to stay at around this level until 2026, when expansive measures will gradually begin to outweigh the negative effects and lead to a plus of about 60,000 gainfully employed in 2030.

One of the big losers will be the hospitality industry, which was already hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and is likely to feel the pinch of consumers' waning purchasing power.

Energy-intensive sectors, such as the chemical industry and metal production, are also especially likely to be affected.

If energy prices, which have so far shot up by 160%, were to double again, Germany’s 2023 economic output would be almost 4% lower than it would have been without the war, according to the study. Under these assumptions, 660,000 fewer people would be employed after three years and still 60,000 fewer in 2030, it said.

2:45 a.m. The Kyiv Independent reports that Russia shelled the Ukrainian city of Nikopol with multiple rocket launchers Tuesday morning, according to Yevhen Yevtushenko, the head of Nikopol’s district military administration. No information about casualties.

2 a.m.: Russia continued to focus on reinforcing its defenses in southern Ukraine over the weekend, while also maintaining attacks on Kyiv’s positions in the Donetsk region in the east, Britain said on Monday.

Bakhmut has been Moscow’s most successful axis in eastern Ukraine's Donbas over the last 30 days, although, Russia has only managed to advance about 10 km (6 miles) in the region, the British defense ministry said in a regular intelligence update.

“In other Donbas sectors where Russia was attempting to break through, its forces have not gained more than 3 km during this 30 day period; almost certainly significantly less than planned,” the update said.

1:55 a.m.: The World Bank said it was mobilizing a $4.5 billion grant for Ukraine provided by the United States that will help Kyiv meet urgent needs created by Russia's invasion, including health care, pensions and social payments, Reuters reported.

The grant, arranged by the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Agency for International Development and administered through the World Bank, was first reported by Reuters.

12:05 a.m.: VOA U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer reports that the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) has authorized the departure of two vessels carrying a total of 70,020 metric tons of foodstuffs through the maritime humanitarian corridor under the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

The vessels authorized to move on Tuesday, August 9, are:

1) MV OCEAN LION from the port of Chornomorsk with a cargo of 64,720 metric tons of corn with a destination of Incheon, Republic of Korea.

2) MV RAHMI YAGCI from the port of Chornomorsk with a cargo of 5,300 metric tons of sunflower meal with a destination of Istanbul, Turkey.

Timings may be affected based on readiness, weather conditions or other unexpected circumstances, the JCC reported.

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