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Russia issues stark warning over the nuclear power plant it's occupying; Kyiv urges inspection of damaged facility

This has been CNBC's live blog covering updates on the war in Ukraine. [Follow the latest updates here.]

Shelling near Ukrainian nuclear plant causes serious concerns
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Shelling near Ukrainian nuclear plant causes serious concerns

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday night that Ukrainian diplomats and nuclear scientists are in "constant touch" with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and working to get a team of inspectors into the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The plant has been occupied by Russian troops since the start of the war in Ukraine but there have been increasing fears that a nuclear catastrophe could take place as shelling has intensified around the plant, which Ukraine says has been used by Russia to store ammunition and military equipment. Russia has accused Ukraine of shelling the plant.

There are heightened fears that a catastrophe could occur at the plant, which is Europe's largest of its kind. Yesterday, Ukraine's Emergency Ministry conducted a nuclear catastrophe exercise in Zaporizhzhia in case of an accident.

A Ukrainian Emergency Ministry rescuer attends an exercise in the city of Zaporizhzhia on Aug. 17, 2022, in case of a nuclear accident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant located near the city.
Dimitar Dilkoff | Afp | Getty Images

In other news, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is in Lviv in Ukraine on Thursday to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Zelenskyy.

The three are expected to discuss the ongoing Black Sea Initiative to export grains from Ukraine. Guterres will also meet with Zelenskyy to discuss the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

State Department condemns 'Russia's reckless disregard for nuclear safety'

U.S. State Department Spokesman Ned Price faces reporters during a news briefing at the State Department in Washington, March 1, 2021.
Tom Brenner | Reuters

The U.S. reiterated concerns regarding Russia's military takeover and continued control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

"The International Atomic Energy Agency must be given access to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as soon as possible and in a manner that respects Ukraine's full sovereignty to help ensure the safety and security of the plant and monitoring of its nuclear material," State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a daily press briefing.

"The United States condemns in the strongest terms Russia's reckless disregard for nuclear safety and security," Price said, adding that Washington and its allies "call on Russia to cease all military operations at or near Ukraine's nuclear facilities."

Price also urged Russia to allow IAEA inspectors access to the nuclear power plant facility.

Russian forces took control of Europe's largest nuclear power plant shortly after a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

— Amanda Macias

'Any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide,' U.N. Secretary General says

A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Energodar on May 1, 2022. Europe's largest nuclear power station has become a fighting ground for the conflict, with both sides blaming each other for attacks on and around the complex.
Andrey Borodulin | Afp | Getty Images

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant should be demilitarized immediately.

Guterres, speaking alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said "any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide."

"Military equipment and personnel should be withdrawn from the plant. Further deployment of forces or equipment to the site must be avoided," he added.

Guterres urged all parties to approve the International Atomic Energy Agency, a nuclear watchdog, to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

— Amanda Macias

Russia allegedly tells nuclear power plant workers to not go to work tomorrow amid concerns of a planned incident

A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine August 4, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine's military, told NBC News that new intelligence indicates the Kremlin has informed its forces at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to leave tomorrow, a revelation that comes amid speculation that Russia is planning an incident at the facility.

Earlier today, Russia's military accused Ukraine of planning a "provocation" at the plant on Friday.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of laying the groundwork to create an incident at the facility in order to blame Ukraine for the mishap.

Read more from NBC News here.

— Amanda Macias

Death toll rises in Kharkiv following Russian strikes

Firefighters extinguish a fire at the site of a destroyed hostel as a result of a missile strike in the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv late on August 17, 2022, amid Russia's military invasion of Ukraine. 
Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine's state emergency service said the death toll has risen in Kharkiv after Russian strikes targeted residential buildings.

The service said on its Facebook page that 12 civilians have died and another 20 people have been wounded.

The Kremlin has previously said that it does not target civilian infrastructure.

— Amanda Macias

'We do not want to experience a new Chornobyl case,' Turkish president says

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (R) at Potocki Palace in Lviv, Ukraine on August 18, 2022.
Turkish Presidency | Murat Cetinmuhurdar | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed mounting concern over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant situation.

"We do not want to experience a new Chornobyl case," Erdogan said during a joint press conference with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Lviv.

Erdogan's visit to Ukraine, his first since the Kremlin's war broke out, comes amid speculation that Russian forces are planning an attack at the facility.

— Amanda Macias

Turkey's Erdogan meets with Zelenskyy in Ukraine for the first time since war broke out

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (R) in Lviv, Ukraine on August 18, 2022.
Turkish Presidency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Lviv, Ukraine. The meeting in Ukraine was Erdogan's first since Russia's war began nearly six months ago.

The two will also meet with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and discuss the humanitarian sea corridor deal known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Guterres will also meet separately with Zelenskyy to discuss the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and arrangements for the IAEA, a nuclear watchdog to visit the facility.

— Amanda Macias

Russia says it has deployed hypersonic missiles to Kaliningrad

A MiG-31K fighter jet with a Kinzhal hypersonic missile flies over Moscow's Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in 2018.
Sefa Karacan | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russia's Ministry of Defense said that it deployed three MiG-31i fighter jets armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles to an airfield in Kaliningrad.

Kaliningrad is a small Russian exclave located on the Baltic Sea and sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.

"MiG-31i with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles will be on round-the-clock combat duty at Chkalovsk airfield," Russia's military wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

The Kinzhal is a hypersonic weapon that travels at Mach 5 or higher, which is at least five times faster than the speed of sound. This means that a hypersonic weapon can travel about one mile per second.

— Amanda Macias

Blinken speaks with Ukrainian counterpart on weapons and Zaporizhzhya

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about US policy towards China during an event hosted by the Asia Society Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington, DC, on May 26, 2022.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on continued U.S. support for Ukraine's defense needs.

Blinken updated Kuleba on U.S. deliveries of security assistance and condemned Russia's actions at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to a State Department readout of the call.

"Additionally, the secretary reaffirmed the United States will continue to call for an end to all military operations at or near Ukraine's nuclear facilities, the return of full control of these facilities to Ukraine and Moscow to end its war of choice against its sovereign neighbor," the readout said.

The two also discussed Ukraine's upcoming Independence Day on Aug. 24. 

— Amanda Macias

At least four people were killed by early-morning Russian bombardments of Kharkiv

Editor's note: Graphic content. This post contains images of dead bodies after Russian missile strikes in Kharkiv.

Firefighters search through the rubble of a building destroyed by Russian missile strike in the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

At least four people were killed and more than a dozen others injured by early-morning Russian bombardments on the northeast Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, the governor said.

Firefighters intervene in the rubble of the Culture Palace destroyed by Russian missile strike in the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, on August 18, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 
Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images
Firefighters extinguish a fire at the site of a destroyed hostel as a result of a missile strike in the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv late on August 17, 2022, amid Russia's military invasion of Ukraine. 
Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images
Rescue workers carry the body of a victim following a missile strike in the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv late on August 17, 2022, amid Russia's military invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK / AFP) (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)
Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images
This picture taken on August 17, 2022, shows bodies of victims lay on the ground following a missile strike on a hostel in the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, amid Russia's military invasion of Ukraine. 
Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images
Rescue workers inspect the site of a destroyed hostel as a result of a missile strike in the second-largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Aug. 17, 2022.
Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images

— Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S. calls for more weapons and Russian removal from Zaporizhzhia

Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova speaks about the war in Ukraine during a press event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, March 15, 2022.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine's Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova asked allies to continue sending weapons, humanitarian support and financial aid as Russia's war heads into its sixth month.

"I know it's a lot to ask, but the enemy is much bigger and brutal," Markarova told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.

Markarova also called on the United States as well as other Western governments to force Russian troops from their positions in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

"It's not just a problem for Ukraine but for the whole world," Markarova said, referencing a potential accident at Europe's largest nuclear power plant.

— Amanda Macias

Russia says it may shut down nuclear power plant, warns of effects of potential accident

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine August 4, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Russia's Ministry of Defense said on Thursday that it may shut down the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant if Ukrainian forces continue, as it claims, shelling the facility.

Ukraine denies shelling the facility and instead blames Russia for endangering the nuclear power plant, saying it is storing ammunition and military equipment there.

Ukraine and the international community have warned of the potential for a catastrophic accident at the plant. On Wednesday, Ukraine's Emergency Ministry conducted a nuclear catastrophe exercise in Zaporizhzhia in case of an accident.

Igor Kirillov, the head of Russia's radioactive, chemical and biological defense forces, said Thursday the plant's backup support systems had been damaged as a result of shelling, Reuters reported.

He also said that in the event of an accident at the plant, radioactive material would cover Germany, Poland and Slovakia.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is visiting Ukraine today and the status and fate of the nuclear power plant are on the agenda.

Russia's Ministry of Defense claimed separately on Telegram today that Kyiv was planning a "provocation" at the power plant during Guterres' visit to Ukraine, "as a result of which the Russian Federation will be blamed for creating a man-made disaster at the power plant."

Russia's Defense Ministry claimed that "in order to prepare for the provocation" it was deploying radiation observation posts near Zaporizhzhia and organizing training exercises for a number of military units in the region "on measures to be taken in conditions of radioactive contamination of the area." 

Russia presented no evidence for its claim and has often been accused of "false flag" operations.

The possibility of an accident at Europe's largest nuclear power plant is a terrifying prospect for Ukraine, a country that still lives with the scars of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russians move planes, helicopters in Crimea following blasts, Ukraine says

Ukraine's Ministry of Defense has said Russian forces are moving their planes and helicopters "deep" into Crimea, and back to Russia, following several attacks in recent weeks on Russian bases on the peninsula.

"The occupiers are carrying out measures to partially transfer aviation equipment from forward-based airfields in Crimea to reserve airfields and airfields permanently based on the territory of the Russian Federation," the intelligence directorate within the defense ministry claimed Wednesday.

The ministry said that, among the aircraft being moved, were SU-34 fighter bombers and KA-27 helicopters like the one below.

A Russian Helix KA-27 helicopter flies near the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf while conducting operations in the Gulf of Aden, in this U.S. Navy picture taken Feb. 9, 2009.
US Navy | MC2 Jason R. Zalasky | Reuters

"Such activity was noted after a series of explosions at the military infrastructure facilities of the temporarily-occupied Crimean peninsula," the ministry noted including blasts at the Saky airfield on Aug. 9 and Gvardiyske airfields on Tuesday.

CNBC was unable to immediately verify the report. On Tuesday, a fire caused a Russian ammo depot to explode in northern Crimea and damaged a nearby railway and electricity sub-station. Ukraine has not openly admitted or denied carrying out an attack on the base.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine working to get IAEA mission into occupied nuclear power plant

A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, on Aug. 4, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday night that Ukrainian diplomats, its nuclear scientists and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are "in constant touch" and working to get a team of inspectors into the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The plant has been occupied by Russian troops since the start of the war in Ukraine but there have been increasing fears that a nuclear catastrophe could take place as shelling has intensified around the plant, which Ukraine says has been used by Russia to store ammunition and military equipment.

Russia, for its part, has accused Ukraine of shelling the plant and has sought to cast Kyiv as an irresponsible actor in the nuclear energy sector.

On Telegram, Zelenskyy said last night that "only absolute transparency and [a[] controlled situation at and around the ZNPP can guarantee a gradual return to normal nuclear safety for the Ukrainian state, for the international community, and for the IAEA."

Zelenskyy reiterated calls by Ukraine and the international community for the Russian army to withdraw from the territory of the nuclear power plant "and all neighboring areas, and take away its military equipment from the plant."

"This must happen without any conditions and as soon as possible," he added. "Ukraine is ready to ensure proper control of the IAEA, and the relevant mission can be sent to the Zaporizhzhia plant in a legal way, very fast and as efficiently as possible."

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Now, Kyiv is fighting back

Smoke rises after explosions were heard from the direction of a Russian military airbase near Novofedorivka, Crimea, on Aug. 9, 2022.
Stringer | Reuters

When Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014 little was done to stop it or actively help Ukraine get its territory back, a salient point given Russia's full-scale invasion of its neighbor that begun earlier this year.

But now, Ukraine appears to be finally in a position to fight back on the peninsula with a spate of recent incidents in which Russian military positions and infrastructure in Crimea have been damaged.

These, it's believed, are likely to be a part of Ukraine's tentative counteroffensive in the south as it seeks to dislodge the occupying forces and eventually reclaim its territory, once and for all.

The latest incidents in Crimea took place on Tuesday when a fire caused multiple explosions in a Russian ammunition depot near Dzhankoi in the north of the peninsula. A nearby railway and electricity sub-station were also damaged as well as residential buildings, Russia's defense ministry said.

Read more on the story here: Russia took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Now, Kyiv is fighting back

Ukraine's state energy company says it was hit with a Russian cyberattack

The Russian flag displayed on a laptop screen with binary code code overlaying.
Nurphoto | Getty Images

Ukraine's state energy company said it was targeted by a Russian cyberattack, according to a statement on the Telegram messaging app translated by NBC News.

"The most powerful hacker attack since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation took place on the official website of EnergoAtom State Enterprise," the company said, adding that the cyberattack came from within Russian territory.

"The mentioned attack did not significantly affect the work of the website of and remained invisible to users," the company added.

— Amanda Macias

Ukrainian Emergency Ministry conduct nuclear catastrophe exercise in the city of Zaporizhzhia

Ukraine's Emergency Ministry conducts a nuclear catastrophe exercise in Zaporizhzhia in case of a potential accident at the city's nuclear power plant.

Ukraine remains deeply scarred by the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear catastrophe when a Soviet-era reactor exploded and spewed radiation into the atmosphere in the country's north.

Russian forces took over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant a few days after the Kremlin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Emergency Ministry rescuers attend an exercise in the city of Zaporizhzhia on August 17, 2022, in case of a possible nuclear incident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant located near the city. 
Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images
Ukrainian Emergency Ministry rescuers attend an exercise in the city of Zaporizhzhia on August 17, 2022, in case of a possible nuclear incident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant located near the city.
Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images
Ukrainian Emergency Ministry rescuers attend an exercise in the city of Zaporizhzhia on August 17, 2022, in case of a possible nuclear incident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant located near the city. 
Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images
Ukrainian Emergency Ministry rescuers attend an exercise in the city of Zaporizhzhia on August 17, 2022, in case of a possible nuclear incident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant located near the city. 
Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images

— Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images

U.N. secretary-general will not meet with Russian officials during trip

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is not expected to meet with any Russian officials following his visit to Ukraine.

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that Guterres will take meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week. He added that Guterres has no plans to hold discussions with Russian officials.

Dujarric said that Guterres will also meet separately with Zelenskyy to discuss the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

— Amanda Macias

Russian military sites in Crimea keep exploding, hinting at growing Ukrainian ambitions and abilities

Smoke rises after explosions were heard from the direction of a Russian military airbase near Novofedorivka, Crimea August 9, 2022.
Stringer | Reuters

Crimea is now at the heart of what appears to be an audacious Ukrainian effort to target Russian supply lines and morale. 

A series of blasts hit a Russian military depot in the annexed peninsula Tuesday — rocking the relaxed summer holiday destination for the second time in a week and suggesting a growing Ukrainian ability to strike deep behind enemy lines.

It's a significant development that could shift the dynamics of the war as it nears the six-month mark, and which defies warnings from Moscow against attacking a region that holds deep strategic and symbolic value for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Read more here.

— NBC NEWS

Read CNBC's previous live coverage here:

Security situation in Crimea deteriorates for Moscow; pro-Russian breakaway region cozies up to North Korea