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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Oct. 12

Locals receive food and everyday necessities given by Ukrainian volunteers in Izium, Ukraine, Oct. 12, 2022. Residents in Izium have been living with no gas, electricity or running water supply since beginning of September.
Locals receive food and everyday necessities given by Ukrainian volunteers in Izium, Ukraine, Oct. 12, 2022. Residents in Izium have been living with no gas, electricity or running water supply since beginning of September.

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

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

10 p.m.: Russia said it had protested to the Japanese embassy on Wednesday over joint Japan-U.S. military exercises this week in which it said HIMARS rocket systems were fired close to Russia's borders.

"We consider the military exercises that took place as a challenge to ensuring the security of the Far Eastern region of our country and insist on the immediate cessation of such actions," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The Japanese side was also warned about the inevitability of adequate response measures in order to block military threats to Russia," it added, without elaborating.

HIMARS are the same rocket systems that the United States has supplied to Ukraine, which Kyiv has put to effective use in attacking Russian command nodes and supply lines.

9:02 p.m.:

8:33 p.m.: Ukraine’s prime minister is urging citizens to prepare for the upcoming winter as Russia plans to use “cold as its weapon,” The Associated Press reported.

Denys Shmyhal said on Wednesday that citizens should keep essentials such as warm clothes, candles, flashlights and batteries ready. He says though the power system is currently operating normally, Ukraine aims to reduce electricity consumption in the evening across the country by 25%.

Shmyhal asked Ukrainians, and especially business owners, to reduce consumption of electricity in the evening. He also explained that temporary power outages are necessary to avoid overloading some energy networks.

8 p.m.: Moscow expects Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to formally offer to mediate negotiations between Russia and Ukraine during his meeting on October 13 with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Kazakhstan, a Kremlin aide has said.

7:09 p.m.: Germany said on Wednesday it was receiving less oil but still had adequate supplies, after Poland found a leak in the Druzhba pipeline that delivers crude from Russia to Europe that Warsaw said showed no sign of being caused by sabotage.

The discovery of the leak in the main route carrying oil to Germany, which operator PERN said it found on Tuesday evening, comes as Europe is on high alert over its energy security in the aftermath of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine which has cut supplies of gas.

"After removing most of the contaminants from the area near the crude oil pipeline that was damaged yesterday, PERN's technical services have located the site of the leak," Polish pipeline operator PERN said in a statement.

"The first findings and the method of pipeline deformation show that at the moment there are no signs of interference by third parties."

PERN added that it was working to find out what caused the leak and to repair the pipeline.

6:22 p.m.: The EU has agreed on the contours of a mission to train 15,000 Ukrainian armed forces personnel in several member countries, diplomats said Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported.

A working document on the subject seen by AFP said the EU Military Assistance Mission (EUMAM) "would have to train large numbers of UAF (Ukrainian armed forces) personnel in a variety of military functions."

Two diplomats said EUMAM should initially train 15,000 Ukrainian armed forces personnel.

5:57 p.m.: Ukraine is expected to battle through harsh winter conditions to try to recapture more territory from Russia, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday as allies announced delivery of new air defenses and committed more aid in the wake of Russian missile strikes, The Associated Press reported.

Military analysts are watching to see whether fighting subsides during Ukraine's tough winter, potentially giving an opportunity for troops on both sides of the conflict to reset after months of brutal fighting since Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

"I expect that Ukraine will continue to do everything it can throughout the winter, to regain its territory and to be effective on the battlefield," Austin told a news conference.

"And we're going to do everything we can to make sure that they have what's required to be effective."

5 p.m.: Ukraine will need an estimated $3 billion to $4 billion in external financing help per month next year to keep its economy running as Russia's war drags on, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Georgieva said Ukraine's international partners have committed $35 billion in grant and loan financing for Ukraine in 2022, enough to close its financing gap for this year, but its financing needs would remain "very large" in 2023.

4:31 p.m.: Ukraine’s prime minister is urging Ukrainians to prepare for the upcoming winter, saying Russia plans to use “cold as its weapon,” The Associated Press reported.

Denys Shmyhal said on Wednesday that citizens should keep essentials such as warm clothes, candles, flashlights and batteries ready. He says though the power system is currently operating normally, Ukraine aims to reduce electricity consumption in the evening across the country by 25%.

Shmyhal asked Ukrainians, and especially business owners, to reduce consumption of electricity in the evening. He also explained that temporary power outages are necessary to avoid overloading some energy networks.

Repairs are still in progress after numerous Russian attacks this week on energy infrastructure, he said.

3:55 p.m.: Rashid is among the hundreds of thousands of Tajik nationals who have obtained dual Russian citizenship in recent years, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Wednesday.

Like many conscript-age dual citizens, he faces a dilemma after Russia announced a military mobilization amid Moscow's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Rashid can either stay in Russia and risk being sent to fight in Ukraine or go back to his native Tajikistan where he faces grinding poverty.

"We have a relatively comfortable life here," said Rashid, who only gave his first name. "If I go back to Tajikistan, I'd have to live with my parents and sell mobile phones again. But I'm afraid of being sent to war, honestly. I don't know what to do."

Rashid has lived with his wife and newborn son in Kazan, the capital of Russia's Republic of Tatarstan, since 2019. Two years earlier, he graduated from the Kazan Federal University with a decree in information technology and obtained a Russian passport.

Like many other Tajiks, Rashid says he has had to deal with widespread racism and corruption in Russia. But he insists that "life in Russia is much better than Tajikistan."

3:15 p.m.: With nearly 100 grain-laden ships reaching towards the horizon off Istanbul, the U.N. official overseeing exports from Ukraine is asking Russia and other parties to end "full-blown" inspections of outgoing vessels to ease the backlog, Reuters reported.

Ukraine has exported more than 6.8 million metric tons of grain and other foodstuffs, about a third of its storage, since a sea corridor from the war-torn country opened in July.

The U.N. says the safe passage deal signed by Moscow and Kyiv eased a global food crisis. But as more shippers have joined, the handful of teams inspecting cargo and crew transiting Turkish waters started to fall behind, leaving scores of tankers anchored in the Marmara Sea.

Amir Abdulla, U.N. Coordinator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative, said he had proposed quicker, targeted checks of ships arriving from Ukrainian ports.

2:30 p.m.:

2:15 p.m.: Ukraine’s state nuclear operator has warned that power outages and other emergency situations at the Russia-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant could happen again any time, The Associated Press reported.

“Russia has seized the plant and is not taking any steps to de-escalate, on the contrary, it is shelling important infrastructure daily,” the company’s press service told The Associated Press.

The plant was without external power on Wednesday in the second such incident in five days, raising fears of potential leaks because critical safety systems need electricity to operate. The only operating power line, one of eight, was damaged by the Russian shelling of an electrical substation near the city of Marhanets across the Dnieper River from the plant. The power was later restored after the plant operated on generators for the past 24 hours, Energoatom said.

The press office insisted that the generators can last for no more than eight hours. They said Kyiv has sent fuel for the generators but that the Russians refused to let it through.

There was no immediate reaction from the Russian forces in the area.

Energoatom also said Kyiv continues to control access to the key units of the plant and “communication with the station has not been lost.” There are plans to restart this week at least one of six plant reactors that were shut down on Sept. 11, it said, offering no other details.

2:00 p.m.:

1:40 p.m.: The Czech Republic will turn away Russian tourists holding Schengen-zone visas issued by any country from October 25, Reuters reported, quoting the foreign minister Wednesday.

It has joined other European Union member states in tightening entry rules.

EU countries had balked at enacting a visa ban for Russians at the end of August when the bloc agreed to put a tougher process in place. Since then, countries bordering Russia, like the Baltic states, along with Finland and Poland, have barred Russian tourists.

The Czech Republic had immediately stopped visas for Russians, except on humanitarian grounds, after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in February. But it had been allowing in visitors at airports who had visas issued by other countries in the EU's Schengen travel zone.

1:05 p.m.:

12:45 p.m.: At NATO headquarters in Brussels, U.S. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Ukraine wants its Western partners to provide it with a complete air defense system to defend against Russian warplanes and missiles, The Associated Press reported.

“What Ukraine is asking for, and what we think can be provided, is an integrated air missile defense system. So that doesn’t control all the airspace over Ukraine, but they’re designed to control priority targets that Ukraine needs to protect,” Milley told reporters.

It would involve short-, medium- and long-range systems capable of firing projectiles at all altitudes, he said after a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group, a gathering of about 50 nations that meets regularly to assess Ukraine’s needs and drum up equipment.

“It’s a mix of all these that deny the airspace to Russian aircraft” and missiles, Milley said. “They’re trying to create a defensive system.”

12:25 p.m.:

12:10 p.m.: A U.S. firm supplied networking technology to a manufacturer of Russian missiles, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, American companies have been prohibited from dealing with MMZ Avangard, a state-owned firm that makes missiles for one of Russia's most sophisticated weapons, the S-400 air-defense system.

In a measure of Western concern about the S-400, the United States ejected Turkey, a NATO member, from a joint fighter jet program in 2019 after Ankara took delivery of the Russian system.

But even as the United States was taking actions to blunt MMZ Avangard's business, a publicly traded American technology company, Extreme Networks (EXTR.O), was providing MMZ Avangard with computer networking equipment for its office IT systems, according to emails and other business records seen by Reuters, as well as interviews with people familiar with the matter.

In a statement to Reuters, Extreme said that based on information provided by the news agency it believed equipment "may have" been sold to MMZ Avangard using a surrogate buyer. Extreme said the equipment was sold without its knowledge. It added, without providing evidence, that an intermediary in Russia was "complicit" in supplying its products via a front company to "bad actors." Extreme said it is reporting its findings of these potential sales to U.S. authorities.

11:55 a.m.:

11:40 a.m.: Ukraine's recent military victories against the Russian invaders have been "extraordinary" and influenced the course of the war despite the "malice and cruelty" of Moscow's latest missile strikes, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has told a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels Wednesday.

Austin was speaking to the Ukraine Contact Group, a gathering of the more than 50 countries on the sidelines of a NATO defense ministers meeting on October 12 to discuss bolstering Ukraine's air defenses amid continuing Russian missile attacks across the country, including the capital, Kyiv, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Austin said Russia's actions had further united the international community to support Ukraine's military efforts to defend itself.

11:20 a.m.: The Kremlin says there are no plans for Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden during a Group of 20 summit in Indonesia next month, The Associated Press reported.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday said that “neither the Russian, nor American side put forward any initiatives about organizing bilateral contacts” during the summit in Bali.

Asked about Biden’s comments in an interview with CNN in which he warned that the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine would lead to a “horrible outcome,” Peskov said the remarks were part of “harmful and provocative” Western nuclear rhetoric.

Putin has said he wouldn’t hesitate to use “all means available” to protect Russian territory in a clear reference to Russian nuclear arsenals, a statement that was broadly seen as an attempt to force Ukraine to halt its offensive to reclaim control of the four regions that were illegally absorbed by Russia.

Russian officials then sought to turn the tables on the West, rejecting what they described as false claims by the U.S. and its allies alleging Moscow’s intention to use nuclear weapons.

11:05 a.m.:

10:45 a.m.: Russia has depleted a significant proportion of its precision-guided ammunition in its invasion of Ukraine and its industry cannot produce all kinds of ammunition and weapon systems due to Western sanctions, a senior NATO official said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

The official said he did not know how long it would take for Russia to mobilize the 300,000 troops Moscow is aiming for, and suggested it could take a few months.

10:25 a.m.: Ukraine’s presidential office says Russian shelling in the past 24 hours has affected eight regions in the southeast, while strikes on central and western areas have eased for the moment, The Associated Press reported.

Russian forces used drones, heavy artillery and missiles, according to the presidential office’s Wednesday morning update.

In this handout photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, Oct. 11, 2022, a Russian warship launches a cruise missile at a target in Ukraine.
In this handout photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, Oct. 11, 2022, a Russian warship launches a cruise missile at a target in Ukraine.

Three people have been rescued alive from the rubble in Zaporizhzhia after over a dozen missiles rained on the city, the report said. A six-year-old girl and two more people were wounded in the shelling of Nikopol, where the attacks damaged some three dozen residential buildings, private houses, kindergartens, a school, two plants and several shops, the report added.

Ukrainian forces say they shot down nine Iranian Shahed-136 drones and destroyed eight Kalibr cruise missiles near Mykolaiv, leaving the southern city without power.

“Russian shelling intensifies and subsides, but doesn’t stop, not for a day the city lives in tension, and the Russians’ main goal appears to be keeping us in fear,” Mykolaiv regional governor Vitali Kim said.

10:10 a.m.: CNN reported Wednesday on a dispute between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and American political scientist Ian Bremmer over whether Musk spoke to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin about the war in Ukraine, and about Musk’s proposed “peace plan” that would give Putin a lot of what he wants.

10:00 a.m.: Ukrainian officials and military analysts say Kyiv’s counteroffensive in the occupied regions in the south and east of the country has slowed down significantly despite Ukraine retaking five towns and villages in the Kherson area, The Associated Press reported.

Russian troops have been re-enforcing the front lines and regrouping following Ukrainian successes, which has forced the Ukrainian forces to ease their advances.

Regional administrator in the eastern Luhansk region says Russian forces there have been building a multi-layered defense line and mining the front line’s first section.

Serhiy Haidai says people in the Luhansk region are moving from the Russia-occupied cities to villages, where they have been settling down in empty houses to “spend the winter in warm.”

Luhansk is among the four region that Russia unlawfully annexed following referendums dismissed as sham by both Ukraine and the West.

“In the south, the Ukrainian army is slowing down the pace of the counteroffensive, because the Russians managed to regroup and put forward paratrooper units, and unexpected issues arose,” Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov told The Associated Press.

9:45 a.m.:

9:30 a.m.: The German economy will contract 0.4 percent next year and inflation will hit seven percent, Agence France-Presse reported.

The German government forecast came Wednesday as Europe's top economy battles soaring energy prices following Russia's gas shutdown.

"We are currently experiencing a serious energy crisis, which threatens to become an economic and social crisis," warned Economy Minister Robert Habeck, as he unveiled the official autumn economic forecasts.

9:15 a.m.:

9:05 a.m.: A Belarus opposition leader says Russia is now de facto occupying her country by deploying its troops there and using authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko as its puppet, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya urged more support from EU leaders during a two-day visit to European Union headquarters in Brussels. She says “we face an enemy who denies the very existence of our country as a free and independent nation.”

The exiled opposition leader fears that Lukashenko could force the Belarus army to join Russian forces in Moscow’s war against Ukraine. Russia has already used Belarus as a staging ground to send troops and missiles into Ukraine earlier in the war.

Tsikhanouskaya adds the situation has become “dramatic” in Belarus, which has become totally subservient to the wishes of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin and Lukasenko, she says, have “tried to increase and legalize the constant deployment of Russian troops on Belarus territory.”

“It’s an occupation,” adds Tsikhanouskaya. “Our position is clear, Belarus must officially withdraw from participation in Russian war, and the Russian soldiers must leave Belarus unconditionally.”

Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania after Lukashenko claimed victory in disputed August 2020 elections that many thought she won.

8:55 a.m.:

8:45 a.m.: The external power supply to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) in Ukraine has been restored after an outage that forced it to switch to diesel generators, U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi said on Wednesday.

"I've been informed by our team on site that external power to #Zaporizhzhya NPP is restored," Grossi said on Twitter. "#ZNPP's operator says this morning's outage was caused by shelling damage to a far off sub-station, highlighting how precarious the situation is."

8:20 a.m.:

8:10 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Moscow is ready to resume gas supplies to Europe via a link of the Germany-bound Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea, The Associated Press reported.

Speaking at a Moscow energy forum, Putin again charged that the U.S. was likely behind the explosions that ripped through both links of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline and one of the two links of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, causing a massive gas leak and taking them out of service.

The U.S. has previously rejected similar allegations by Putin. Several European governments said the undersea explosions that ripped through both Nord Stream pipelines were likely caused by sabotage but stopped short of assigning blame.

While Russia is still pumping gas to Europe via Ukraine, the explosions on the Baltic pipelines have exacerbated acute energy shortages faced by Europe before the winter season.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has never brought natural gas to Europe because Germany prevented the flows from ever starting just before Russia launched military action in Ukraine on February 24.

Before the explosions, Russia had cut off the parallel Nord Stream 1 pipeline at the center of an energy standoff with Europe. Russia has blamed technical problems for the stoppage, but European leaders call it an attempt to divide them over their support for Ukraine.

7:55 a.m.:

7:40 a.m.: A drop in pressure was detected in main line No. 2 of the Druzhba oil pipeline, Joerg Steinbach, the economy minister of the German state of Brandenburg told news agency DPA after the operator of the pipeline in Poland reported a leak on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

"The cause of the leak is currently being investigated, we don't have more details yet ourselves," DPA cited him as saying.

He also said he was looking at the question of the possible impact on the oil refinery in Schwedt, which supplies 90% of Berlin's fuel.

7:20 a.m.:

7:10 a.m.: The Kremlin on Wednesday said that comments yesterday by NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg could be considered confirmation that NATO is fighting on Ukraine's side in Kyiv's conflict with Russia.

On Tuesday, Stoltenberg said that a Russian victory in Ukraine would be "a defeat for us all."

The Kremlin also said that the rhetoric from Western leaders on the potential use of nuclear weapons was harmful and provocative.

"We express our daily regret that Western heads of state engage in nuclear rhetoric every day," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that such a practice was "provocative."

Peskov said there had been no attempt from either side to discuss a possible meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden.

6:50 a.m.: Romantic gestures take many forms ... well on Wednesday Ukraine's defense ministry posted a video on social media aimed at giving France a gentle nudge to show its love through weapons supplies after repeated criticism that Paris has not been doing enough, according to Reuters.

The 41-second clip on twitter comes hours after a French security cabinet meeting held by President Emmanuel Macron decided that France had taken new decisions to "support Ukraine militarily" after speaking to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

France has delivered Caesar howitzers, portable air defense systems and heavy armored vehicles primarily. However, a wave of attacks on Ukrainian cities has raised the stakes, with Kyiv demanding its partners provide more supplies, including air defense systems — something Paris has been unwilling to do so far.

Wednesday's clip made clear to France that Ukraine wanted more than just words and promises. "Romantic gestures take many forms," images on the Ukrainian video read as the classic "Je t'aime moi non plus" (I love you ... me neither), the suggestive and once-censored song that Serge Gainsbourg recorded with then-lover Jane Birkin, played in the background.

France's defense ministry announced on Tuesday that it was boosting its support on NATO's eastern flak by sending more tanks to Romania, Rafale fighter jets to Lithuania and infantry to Estonia. It said nothing about Ukraine.

Macron is due to be interviewed on national television Wednesday evening, during which diplomatic sources have said he may outline details of his proposed new support.

France does have the SAMP/T (Mamba) surface-to-air defense system, although quite how many it could provide is unclear. It deployed one such system to Romania in May.

"We have not had any answers from France to our requests on this," Vadym Omelchenko, Ukraine's ambassador to France, told reporters on Monday.

6:30 a.m.: Ukraine's defense minister is set to brief the latest meeting of the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels on Wednesday, with NATO defense ministers also meeting there to discuss how to support Ukraine in its battle against a Russian invasion.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Wednesday that the talks would be about how to "ramp up support for Ukraine" and that top priority was "more air defense for Ukraine."

Stoltenberg said the meeting comes at a "pivotal moment for our security" with the last few weeks bringing "the most serious escalation of the war since the invasion in February."

He said NATO allies send the message that they are ready to support Ukraine "for as long as it takes."

6 a.m.: Ukraine said Wednesday it had retaken five more settlements in the southern region of Kherson as Kyiv continues its counteroffensive despite mass Russian missile strikes that hit the country in the past days, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Ukrainian armed forces have liberated five more settlements in Beryslav district (of Kherson region): Novovasylivka, Novogrygorivka, Nova Kamyanka, Tryfonivka, Chervone," the presidency said in its daily report.

"The enemy continues shelling the positions of our units to deter the counteroffensive along the entire contact line," the presidency said.

The Ukrainian army announced its counteroffensive in the south in late August.

After regaining almost full control of the northeastern region of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian forces recently claimed more gains on the eastern and southern fronts.

On Thursday, Ukraine said it had recaptured over 400 square kilometers (155 square miles) in Kherson in less than a week, after Moscow claimed to have annexed the region.

Kherson is one of the four regions in Ukraine that Moscow recently claimed to have annexed.

5:30 a.m.: Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned Russia's "relentless bombings" of Ukrainian cities, saying the attacks had unleashed a "hurricane of violence" on residents.

Speaking to thousands of people at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, he also appealed to "those who have the fate of the war in their hands" to stop, Reuters reported.

At least 26 people have been killed across Ukraine during Russia's biggest aerial offensive since the start of its invasion in February.

"My heart is always with the Ukrainian people, especially the residents of the places that have been hit by relentless bombings," Francis said.

"May (God's) spirit transform the hearts of those who have the fate of the war in their hands, so that the hurricane of violence stops and peaceful coexistence in justice can be rebuilt."

In Amsterdam, prosecutors for International Mobile Justice teams are investigating as possible war crimes the ongoing Russian missile strikes on Kyiv and other cities.

Monday's attacks killed 19 people, wounded more than 100 and knocked out power across the country, Ukrainian officials said. More strikes on Tuesday killed seven people in the southeastern town of Zaporizhzhia and left part of the western city of Lviv without power.

Russia denies targeting civilians in its military operation in Ukraine, and has accused the West of escalating and prolonging the conflict by supporting Kyiv.

Francis directly called on Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time 10 days ago to stop the "spiral of violence and death", saying the crisis was risking uncontrollable global consequences.

5 a.m.: A safety zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Russian-controlled Ukraine is not possible until the front moves forward by at least 100 kilometers (62 miles), Reuters reported on Wednesday citing a state media RIA’s report, which quoted a Russian-installed leader of the region.

"I can tell you that negotiating while the front line is 100 kilometers away from the station ... I think that's extremely unsafe," Yevgeny Balitsky told state television.

He also warned that it is not possible to shut down the plant, despite fears shelling could further compromise its safety. "It's not a toy, you can't just turn it on and off like a switch. There's overclocking, there's cooling and so-forth," Balitsky said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has been pushing for a demilitarized security zone around the plant, Europe's largest, which remains close to the frontline between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Both Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling the plant and the facilities around it, risking a nuclear accident.

The plant was recently forced to use emergency diesel generators after a power line supplying the plant was cut again, U.N. atomic watchdog chief Rafael Grossi said on Wednesday.

4:30 a.m.: A senior Ukrainian official dismissed as "nonsense" on Wednesday Russia's investigation into an explosion last weekend that badly damaged a bridge linking the Russian mainland to the Crimea peninsula that Moscow has annexed, Reuters reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed Ukraine's security forces for the explosion and earlier on Wednesday Russia's Federal Security Service, or the FSB, said it had detained five Russians and three citizens of Ukraine and Armenia over the blast.

"The whole activity of the FSB and Investigative Committee is nonsense," Ukraine's public broadcaster Suspilne cited interior minister spokesman Andriy Yusov as saying when asked about Moscow's allegations on the Crimea Bridge blast.

Yusov described the FSB and Investigative Committee as "fake structures that serve the Putin regime, so we will definitely not comment on their next statements."

4 a.m.: Prosecutors for International Mobile Justice teams are investigating as possible war crimes the ongoing Russian missile strikes in Kyiv and cities across Ukraine that have so far killed at least 26 people, an official told Reuters on Wednesday.

Monday's attacks killed 19 people, wounded more than 100 and knocked out power across the country in Moscow's biggest aerial offensive since the start of its invasion on February 24.

Another series of strikes yesterday killed seven people in the southeastern town of Zaporizhzhia and left part of the western city of Lviv without power.

War crimes investigators visited sites in the capital and examined damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure, said British attorney Nigel Povoas, lead prosecutor for the International Mobile Justice teams, which is assisting Ukrainian investigations.

"We visited all the sites in Kyiv yesterday," Povoas told Reuters.

"Even the claimed widespread attacks on energy and communications infrastructure appear to have minimal impact on military operations and maximum impact on the health, suffering and spread of terror within the civilian population with winter approaching."

Russia denies targeting civilians in its military operation in Ukraine.

3:45 a.m.: The recently restored power line supplying the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine has been cut again, forcing the plant to switch to emergency diesel generators, the U.N. atomic watchdog chief Rafael Grossi said on Wednesday.

"Our team at #Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant informed me this morning that the plant has lost all of its external power for the 2nd time in five days," Grossi said on Twitter, renewing his call for a protection zone around the plant to prevent shelling near the facility.

3:30 a.m.: Poland's PKN Orlen said on Wednesday that oil supplies to its Plock refinery were not interrupted as a result of a leak detected in the Druzhba pipeline, Reuters reported.

Polish operator PERN has detected a leak in one of the pipelines in the Druzhba system that carries oil from Russia to Europe, it said on Wednesday. Poland said it was probably caused by an accident, although the event may still stoke concerns about the security of Europe's energy supplies.

The discovery of the leak in the main route carrying oil to Germany, which operator PERN said it found on Tuesday evening, comes as Europe faces a severe energy crisis in the aftermath of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine which has cut supplies of gas in a continuing stand-off.

"Here we can talk about accidental damage," Poland's top official in charge of energy infrastructure Mateusz Berger told Reuters by telephone. He said there were no grounds to believe the leak was caused by sabotage.

PERN said in a statement that at this point the exact causes of the leak were unknown. It was detected in a section of the pipe around 70 kilometers from the central Polish city of Plock.

A PERN spokesperson declined to give further details.

The Druzhba oil pipeline, whose name means "friendship" in Russian, is one of the world's largest, supplying Russian oil to much of central Europe including Germany, Poland, Belarus, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Austria.

3:15 a.m.: Russia's Gazprom said on Wednesday it will ship 42.4 million cubic meters of natural gas to Europe via Ukraine on Wednesday, a volume in line with recent days, Reuters reported.

3 a.m.: Ukraine has received the first Iris-T defense system from Germany, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov has said, according to Agence France-Presse.

"IRIS-Ts from (Germany) are already here. (American) NASAMS are coming. This is only the beginning. And we need more," Reznikov tweeted late on Tuesday. "There is a moral imperative to protect the sky over (Ukraine) in order to save our people."

Germany had promised delivery of the first Iris-T missile shield "in the coming days" after Russia unleashed deadly attacks across Ukraine on Monday, killing at least 19 people and wounding more than 100, according to Ukrainian authorities.

The Ukrainian defense ministry said Monday that Russia had fired 83 missiles at Ukraine, of which its air defenses shot down 52, among which were 43 cruise missiles.

2:30 a.m.: Desperate to avoid military call-up to fight in Ukraine, more than 20 Russians have sailed in yachts from North Pacific ports to South Korea, but most have been refused entry, according to a media report.

There has been an exodus of conscription-age men from Russia since President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization on September 21, but most fled by road, rail and air to Europe, and neighboring former Soviet Union countries, like Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

On Tuesday, South Korean broadcaster KBS reported that at least 21 Russians had arrived aboard yachts at ports in the south of the country, but only two had been granted entry, while others were refused as authorities deemed their purpose "ambiguous."

A yacht with five Russian men aboard departed on Tuesday from the South Korean island of Ulleung, having arrived there on September 30 after sailing from the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, a coast guard official told Reuters on Wednesday.

The official said the yacht was "taking cover from bad weather" and the people aboard had received food and other aid, but he declined to specify why they were not granted entry, referring immigration-related queries to the justice ministry.

KBS reported that three yachts had docked in the southeastern port city of Pohang over the past several days, mostly carrying Russian men in their 20-30s. One of the yachts had nine Russian men and one woman aboard, while a smaller vessel had four men aboard, it said.

An official at Pohang's coast guard declined to comment when contacted by Reuters. A justice ministry official said he did not have details about the yacht cases, but Russians are in general allowed to enter the country without a visa as long as they obtain prior approval via South Korea's electronic travel authorization system.

2:15 a.m.: Russia's Federal Security Service, or the FSB, said on Wednesday that it had detained five Russians and three citizens of Ukraine and Armenia over the explosion that damaged the Crimea Bridge last Saturday, Reuters reported citing Russia’s Interfax.

The FSB said the explosion was organized by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, and its director Kyrylo Budanov.

Ukraine has not officially confirmed its involvement in the blast, but some Ukrainian officials have celebrated the damage.

The explosion on the twelve-mile-long bridge destroyed one section of the road bridge, temporarily halting road traffic. It also destroyed several fuel tankers on a train heading towards the annexed peninsula from neighboring southern Russia.

The bridge, a prestige project personally opened by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018, had become logistically vital to his military campaign, with supplies to Russian troops fighting in south Ukraine channeled through it.

Russian forces launched mass missile strikes against Ukrainian cities, including power supplies. At a televised meeting of Russia's Security Council on Monday, Putin said the strikes were a retaliation for the Crimea bridge blast, which he said had been organized by Ukraine's secret services.

Agence France-Presse also reported saying that eight suspects have been detained over the bridge explosion.

2 a.m.:

1:30 a.m.: The European Union's energy commissioner hailed a "long-term strategic partnership" with Algeria as the bloc turns to Africa's biggest gas exporter to fill a gap left by Russian supplies, Agence France-Presse reported.

Kadri Simson made the remarks Tuesday and is the latest in a string of top European officials to visit Algeria in search of more natural gas since Russia cut supplies to Europe in suspected retaliation against Western sanctions after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Algeria has helped Europe diversify its energy supplies by pumping more gas to Italy, which in July signed a deal to import billions more cubic meters via an undersea pipeline from the North African coast.

Algerian Prime Minister Aimene Benabderrahmane said state hydrocarbons firm Sonatrach had put in place an "accelerated program" to bump up output.

1:15 a.m.: Five blasts were heard in the city of Kherson early on Wednesday, Reuters reported citing Russian media, adding that according to unofficial information air defense systems were launched.

Kherson, the administrative center of the broader Kherson region, was one of the first cities to fall to Russian forces after they launched their invasion in Ukraine in February.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ivan Fedorov, the exiled mayor of Russian-controlled Melitopol in the south of the Zaporizhzhia region, said on the Telegram messaging app that there was a powerful explosion in the city.

RIA reported, citing local Russia-installed police, that a device exploded near the city's central market. There were no casualties, RIA reported.

Reuters was not able to immediately verify the reports.

1 a.m.: Spain's Cabinet approved a new energy-saving plan that aims to cut the country's natural gas consumption by up to 13.5% by March, Agence France-Presse reported, as part of Europe's efforts to reduce its dependence on Russian supplies.

The plan announced Tuesday includes new tax breaks on renewable energy and financial incentives to encourage more households to use solar panels and install smart meters, the energy ministry said in a statement.

It also includes measures to increase by 18% Spain's ability to send gas by pipeline to France across the Pyrenees mountain range, and an expansion in loading capacity for boats carrying gas to other EU countries, among them Italy.

The EU has asked member states to cut gas use from August to March by up to 15%, although for some countries less exposed to Russian energy dependence the figure is lower.

12:30 a.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden told CNN during an interview broadcast on Tuesday that he did not think Russian President Vladimir Putin would use a tactical nuclear weapon in the war with Ukraine.

Biden, asked by CNN anchor Jake Tapper how realistic he believed it would be for Putin to use a tactical nuclear weapon, responded: "Well, I don’t think he will."

12:15 a.m.: Leaders of the Group of Seven wealthiest nations say they will support Ukraine for “as long as it takes” following Russia’s major missile strikes earlier this week. Western allies are expected to decide soon whether to approve Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s request for more modern and effective air defense systems. VOA's White House bureau chief Patsy Widakuswara has the latest.

Allies to Decide on Air Defense Systems for Ukraine
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12:05 a.m.: Ukraine’s defense minister is set to brief the latest meeting of the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels on Wednesday, with NATO defense ministers also meeting there to discuss how to support Ukraine in its battle against a Russian invasion.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Tuesday that the talks will provide an opportunity for Ukraine to present a list of what it needs and see how that matches up with what partner countries can provide.

Stoltenberg said the talks would be about both what types of aid to send to Ukraine and ensuring prompt delivery along with training.

Leaders of the Group of Seven major industrial nations, meeting Tuesday in a crisis video conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, pledged Tuesday they “will stand firmly with Ukraine for as long as it takes” after Russia continued its barrage of missile attacks on Ukrainian cities.

The G-7 leaders said in a statement after the virtual meeting that they had reassured Zelenskyy they are “undeterred and steadfast in our commitment to providing the support Ukraine needs to uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity.” They said Moscow’s “indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilian populations constitute a war crime.”

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