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'It's just hell': Ukraine says Russia has the upper hand in Donbas; U.S. approves Sweden and Finland to NATO

This was CNBC's live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine on August 3, 2022. See here for the latest updates. 

Russian forces continue hitting civilian targets in Ukraine
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Russian forces continue hitting civilian targets in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described the situation in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine as hellish, adding that Russia still has the upper hand in the region. Kyiv ordered the mandatory evacuation of Donetsk, a part of the Donbas, last weekend amid severe fighting there.

The first shipment of grain exports from Ukraine in months safely reached an anchorage in Turkish waters Tuesday night. The shipment will be inspected there Wednesday before carrying on its journey to Tripoli in Lebanon. The Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni departed Odesa on Monday, and Zelenskyy called the shipment a "positive signal."

The United States slapped more sanctions on Russian oligarchs on Tuesday, as the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to ratify Sweden and Finland's membership in the NATO military alliance.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke of fears over a nuclear accident in Ukraine. He told reporters late Monday that there are "credible reports" that Russia "is using this plant as the equivalent of a human shield, but a nuclear shield in the sense that it's firing on Ukrainians from around the plant."

Zelenskyy says he wants to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen during a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on July 4, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Zelenskyy is seeking an opportunity for direct talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help end Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine, the South China Morning Post reported.
Alexey Furman | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants to speak directly with Xi Jinping in hopes China's president could use the country's influence to end Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Zelenskyy said Ukraine has pursued talks with China since the beginning of the war. He told the newspaper that Russia would feel much more economically isolated without the Chinese market and could use that to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the war.

China has repeatedly said it supports a "peaceful resolution" to the situation in Ukraine, but has so far refused to call Russia's war an "invasion."

— Natalie Tham

Biden praises Senate vote bringing Finland and Sweden into the NATO alliance

US President Joe Biden, Swedens Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finlands President Sauli Niinistö arrive to speak in the Rose Garden following a meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 19, 2022.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden hailed the Senate vote to add Finland and Sweden to the NATO alliance.

"Finland and Sweden joining the alliance will further strengthen NATO's collective security and deepen the transatlantic partnership," Biden wrote in an evening statement.

In May, both nations began the formal process of applying to NATO. Biden welcomed leaders from both countries to the White House and pledged to work with the Senate — which has to sign off on U.S. approval of NATO bids — and the other 29 members of the world's most powerful military alliance to swiftly bring Sweden and Finland into the group.

"I look forward to signing the accession protocols and welcoming Sweden and Finland, two strong democracies with highly capable militaries, into the greatest defensive alliance in history," Biden added.

— Amanda Macias

U.S. Senate approves Finland and Sweden's membership to NATO

Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde and Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto attend a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, after signing their countries' accession protocols at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 5, 2022.
Yves Herman | Reuters

The U.S. Senate voted 95 to 1 to ratify Finland and Sweden's entrance to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, calling expansion of the Western defensive bloc a "slam-dunk" for U.S. national security and a day of reckoning for Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.

Senators invited the ambassadors of the two Nordic nations to witness the debate and the vote, a crucial step in opening a new era for the now 30-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its 73-year-old pact of mutual defense among the United States and democratic allies in Europe.

President Joe Biden has sought quick entry for the two previously non-militarily aligned northern European nations. Their candidacies have won ratification from more than half of the NATO member nations in the roughly three months since the two applied, a purposely rapid pace meant to send a message to Russia over its six-month-old war against Ukraine's West-looking government.

"It sends a warning shot to tyrants around the world who believe free democracies are just up for grabs," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in the Senate debate ahead of the vote.

"Russia's unprovoked invasion has changed the way we think about world security," she added.

— Associated Press

Ukraine nuclear plant is 'out of control,' UN nuclear chief says

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi attends a joint news conference after talks in Tokyo, Japan May 19, 2022.
Issei Kato | Reuters

The U.N. nuclear chief warned that Europe's largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine "is completely out of control" and issued an urgent plea to Russia and Ukraine to quickly allow experts to visit the sprawling complex to stabilize the situation and avoid a nuclear accident.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press that the situation is getting more perilous every day at the Zaporizhzhia plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar, which Russian troops seized in early March, soon after their Feb. 24. invasion of Ukraine.

"Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated" at the plant, he said. "What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely grave and dangerous."

Grossi cited many violations of the plant's safety, adding that it is "in a place where active war is ongoing," near Russian-controlled territory.

— Associated Press

Zelenskyy says 'global security architecture' is not working, cites tensions in the Balkans and Taiwan

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a working session of G7 leaders via video link, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine June 27, 2022.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the "global security architecture" is not working, and referenced tensions in the Balkans, Taiwan and in the Caucasus.

"If it worked, there wouldn't be all these conflicts," Zelenskyy said in his nightly address on the Telegram messaging app.

"And this is actually something that Ukraine has been paying attention to not only 161 days after the start of a full-scale war, but for years. Ever since Russia completely ignored international law, the interests of humanity as such," he added.

— Amanda Macias

Russian flags fly in the Russian-controlled city of Melitopol in southeastern Ukraine

Russian flags fly and pro-Russian slogans appear on billboards in the Russian-controlled city of Melitopol in southeastern Ukraine.

Women walk along a street past a billboard displaying pro-Russian slogans in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the Russian-controlled city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine August 3, 2022. A billboard reads: "We are the one people. We are together with Russia."
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters
A view shows banners displaying pro-Russian slogans on a hotel building in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the Russian-controlled city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine August 3, 2022. Banners read: "We are the one people. We are together with Russia."
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters
A flag flies in a square in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the Russian-controlled city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine August 3, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

- Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

U.S. Senate to vote on Finland and Sweden bids to join NATO alliance

Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde and Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto attend a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, after signing their countries' accession protocols at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 5, 2022.
Yves Herman | Reuters

The U.S. Senate will vote on a resolution to approve Finland and Sweden's applications to join the NATO alliance.

The Senate will begin voting at 4:30 p.m. ET.

In May, both nations began the formal process of applying to NATO. President Joe Biden welcomed leaders from both countries to the White House and pledged to work with the Senate — which has to sign off on U.S. approval of NATO bids — and the other 29 members of the world's most powerful military alliance to swiftly bring Sweden and Finland into the group.

The vote to include Sweden and Finland in NATO is expected to pass easily. However, the resolution of ratification requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate.

After the resolution passes, the chamber will send the measure to Biden.

— Amanda Macias

Biden speaks with national security team about additional weapons for Ukraine

U.S. President Joe Biden tweeted a photo of a call with his national security team in which they discussed ways to help Ukraine fight off Russia's invasion.

"This morning, I held a secure phone call with my national security team. We discussed a wide range of priorities, including the United States' support of a free and open Indo-Pacific and our continued support for Ukraine in response to Putin's war," Biden wrote in a tweet.

Earlier this week, Biden approved the 17th military package for Ukraine, bringing U.S. commitment to $8.8 billion since Russia invaded Ukraine.

— Amanda Macias