Car bomb murder outside Moscow triggers accusations; Ukraine on alert for Independence Day attacks

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

Russian shelling hit cities near Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant overnight, the region's governor reported via Telegram, adding that schools, homes and other civilian infrastructure had been destroyed or damaged.

International leaders continue to sound the alarm over a potential nuclear disaster from the fighting and Russia's occupation of the plant, which is the largest of its kind in Europe.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is warning of a "particularly nasty" Russian attack this week ahead of Ukraine's 31st independence day on Aug. 24. Russian forces have positioned more cruise-missile bearing warships in the Black Sea, and large gatherings in Kyiv have been banned for most of this week.

U.S. intelligence suggests Russia may attack Ukraine infrastructure, report says

Pedestrians use an underpass in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday, Aug. 22, 2022. Russia could be planning to attack Ukraine's civilian infrastructure and government facilities soon, Reuters reported, citing a U.S. official.
Julia Kochetova | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Russia could be planning to attack Ukraine's civilian infrastructure and government facilities soon, Reuters reported, citing a U.S. official.

"We have information that Russia is stepping up efforts to launch strikes against Ukraine's civilian infrastructure and government facilities in the coming days," the official said, according to Reuters.

"Given Russia's track record in Ukraine, we are concerned about the continued threat that Russian strikes pose to civilians and civilian infrastructure," the official added.

Reuters reported that the official's statement was based on U.S. intelligence that has been downgraded.

— Abigail Ng

More than 700,000 metric tons of agricultural products have left Ukrainian ports

An aerial view of "Glory" named empty grain ship as Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations (UN) of the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) conduct inspection on vessel in Istanbul, Turkiye on August 09, 2022.
Ali Atmaca | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The organization overseeing the export of agricultural products from Ukraine said that so far a total of 721,449 metric tons of grains and other foodstuffs have departed through the humanitarian sea corridor under the Black Sea Grain Initiative. 

The Joint Coordination Center, or JCC, said that more than 25 ships carrying grains and other crops have left Ukrainian ports.

The JCC also said that it authorized the movement of one outbound merchant vessel named Kafkam Etler to depart tomorrow from the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk. The vessel was approved to carry 2,437 metric tons of corn to Turkey.

— 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 hit two residential buildings.

The service said on its Facebook page that 25 civilians have died and that search and rescue operations have concluded. The service added that nine people were rescued from the rubble and that about 40 people are recovering from their injuries at nearby hospitals.

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

— Amanda Macias

Russia says anti-air defense systems were triggered in Crimea and an object was shot down

Russia reported fresh Ukrainian drone attacks on Friday, after explosions erupted near military bases in Russian-held areas of Ukraine. This photo taken on Aug. 16, 2022 shows smoke billowing from a munitions depot in the village of Mayskoye, Crimea.
Stringer | AFP | Getty Images

The top official in the Russian-controlled city of Sevastopol in Crimea said an anti-air defense system had been triggered nearby after Russian media reported that explosions were heard in the city.

In a statement posted on Telegram, Sevastopol's Russian-appointed governor Mikhail Razvozhayev said that an object had been shot down.

The Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, has been rocked by a series of explosions in the past two weeks. 

Moscow last week blamed a blast at a munitions depot in the north of the region on saboteurs. Ukraine has hinted at involvement in the incidents but has not directly claimed responsibility.

— Reuters

Ukrainian officials warn of Russian attacks on Independence Day

Tackling corruption and reforming the judicial system are key changes that the EU will want to see if Ukraine's application is to proceed.
Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

City authorities in Kyiv called on residents in the capital to be "incredibly attentive" and if there is an air-raid alarm to "immediately go to shelter," citing concerns of a Russian attack ahead of Ukraine's Independence Day.

"There is a possible threat of missile and bomb attacks by the Russian troops against military facilities, defense industry facilities, critical infrastructure and nearby residential areas," the Kyiv City Military Administration wrote on their Telegram messaging app.

Earlier on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned of a "particularly nasty" Russian attack this week ahead of Ukraine's 31st independence day on Aug. 24.

— Amanda Macias

Biden administration opposes blanket visa ban on all Russian citizens

A sign hangs above a passport control at the quiet and nearly empty Imatra border crossing between Finland and Russia on May 24, 2022 near Imatra, Finland.
Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The U.S. will not join calls from some European Union countries to issue a blanket visa ban on Russian citizens in retaliation for the Kremlin's war in Ukraine.

Estonia, Finland and the Czech Republic have supported a call from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to block the entry of all Russians into Western countries.

"The U.S. wouldn't want to close off pathways to refuge and safety for Russia's dissidents or others who are vulnerable to human rights abuses," a spokesperson for the State Department told NBC News in a statement. "We've also been clear that it is important to draw a line between the actions of the Russian government and its policies in Ukraine, and the people of Russia," the person added.

So far, the Biden administration has issued visa restrictions on approximately 5,000 individuals in response to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.  

— Amanda Macias

State Department summoned Russian ambassador to the U.S. to discuss war in Ukraine

Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov speaks during a discussion about the legacy of Anatoly Dobrynin at the Woodrow Wilson Institute on November 18, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The State Department said it summoned Russia's Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov in order to "warn Russia against any escalation of its war on Ukraine," a State Department spokesperson confirmed to NBC News.

The spokesperson said that the meeting between Antonov and U.S. diplomats occurred on August 18.

U.S. officials also expressed concerns regarding Russia's occupation of Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant and called on the Kremlin to remove its forces from the area.

The State Department spokesperson declined to offer further details on the discussions.

— Amanda Macias

Dennis Rodman says he plans to go to Russia this week to ask for WNBA star Griner's release

Dennis Rodman attends Sapphire Gentlemen's Club Debuts New Times Square Location on August 15, 2019 in New York City.
Ilya S. Savenok | Getty Images

Former NBA player Dennis Rodman said that he plans to go to Russia to assist in WNBA star Brittney Griner’s release.

Earlier this month, a Russian court found Griner guilty of drug charges and sentenced her to nine years in prison. The court also fined Griner 1 million rubles ($16,301).

The 31-year-old Griner, who plays professional basketball in Russia during the WNBA offseason, was arrested in February at a Russian airport on accusations that she was smuggling vape cartridges with cannabis oil.

"I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl," Rodman told NBC News on Saturday at a restaurant in D.C. "I'm trying to go this week."

— Amanda Macias

One in 10 schools destroyed by Russia's war in Ukraine, U.N. says

A house lies in ruins after the shelling of Russian troops, Kushuhum urban-type settlement, Zaporizhzhia Region, southeastern Ukraine.
Dmytro Smolyenko | Future Publishing | Getty Images

The United Nations has determined that 1 in 10 schools in Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed by Russia's war in Ukraine.

"Ukraine's education system has been devastated by the escalation of hostilities across the country. Schools have been targeted or used by parties, resulting in families not feeling safe to send their children to school," UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell said in a statement.

Russell added that Ukraine's academic year would have started next week without Russia's war.

"We estimate that 1 in 10 schools have been damaged or destroyed," she said. "All children need to be in school and learning, including children caught up in emergencies. Children in Ukraine and those displaced by this war are no exception," she added.

The Kremlin has denied that its forces target civilian infrastructure like schools.

— Amanda Macias

War in Ukraine has left nearly 1,000 children killed or injured, UNICEF says

A woman mourns while visiting the grave of Stanislav Hvostov, 22, a Ukrainian serviceman killed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in the military section of the Kharkiv cemetery number 18 in Bezlioudivka, eastern Ukraine on May 21, 2022.
Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images

The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, or UNICEF, said that nearly 1,000 children have been killed or injured due to Russia's war in Ukraine.

"At least 972 children in Ukraine have been killed or injured by violence since the war escalated nearly six months ago, an average of over five children killed or injured each day," UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a statement.

"And these are just the figures the UN has been able to verify. We believe the true number to be much higher," she added.

Russell said that the majority of deaths and injuries occur from Russia's use of explosives with wide areas of impact.

"The use of explosive weapons has caused most of the child casualties. These weapons do not discriminate between civilian and combatant, especially when used in populated areas as has been the case in Ukraine – in Mariupol, Luhansk, Kremenchuk, and Vinnytsia," she said.

— Amanda Macias

Poland donates 5,000 Starlink terminals to Ukraine

A Starlink logo of a satellite internet constellation being constructed by SpaceX is seen on a smartphone and a pc screen.
Pavlo Gonchar | LightRocket | Getty Images

Ukraine's digital minister Mykhailo Fedorov said on the Telegram messaging platform that Poland donated an additional 5,000 Starlink terminals.

The Starlink satellite internet network is a segment of Elon Musk's SpaceX business.

Fedorov said that approximately 20,000 Starlink terminals, also known as dishes or antenna, are currently operating in Ukraine.

— Amanda Macias

Russia requests U.N. meeting on Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

A Russian serviceman stands guard the territory outside the second reactor of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022.
Andrey Borodulin | AFP | Getty Images

Russia asked the U.N. Security Council to hold a meeting on Tuesday regarding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported, citing Deputy Ambassador to the U.N. Dmitry Polyanskiy.

 Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe's largest, was overrun by Russian troops in March. It remains close to the frontlines and has come under repeated shelling in recent weeks, raising fears of a nuclear disaster. Both Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for strikes on the plant. 

— Reuters

Russian officials slated to discuss Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant this week

Russia's Parliament has taken several steps toward putting the country's economy on a war footing, with two bills being passed in the State Duma that would allow the government to compel Russian businesses to supply the military with goods for the war effort.
Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | Getty Images

Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of Russia's State Duma said that the group would meet to discuss the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant "from the Kyiv regime," according to statement on Telegram that was translated by NBC News.

The meeting of the State Duma, also referred to as the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia, is expected to take place on Aug. 25.

— Amanda Macias

Russia increases naval presence in Black Sea, Ukraine says

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Navy Day Parade on July, 31 2022, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Planned Navy Day celebrations in Sevastopol in Russian-annexed Crimea were canceled on Sunday after officials accused Ukraine of carrying out a drone attack on the Black Sea Fleet's headquarters there, injuring five people.
Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine's military says Russia has increased its naval presence in the Black Sea. Ukrainian forces said that Russia has added at least 14 units to its Black Sea fleet. It was not immediately clear how many Russians make up a unit.

Ukraine's military also said that Russia has at least 30 Kalibr cruise missiles on alert in the region.

— Amanda Macias

Ukrainian officials respond to FSB's accusation of directing Dugina murder plot

Ukrainian officials responded to allegations by the Russian security service, the FSB, that Ukrainian intelligence directed the murder of Darya Dugina, the daughter of a close Putin ally, in a car bombing outside of Moscow on Saturday night.

"Ru-propaganda lives in a fictional world," Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said via Twitter, mocking the FSB's purported findings, which allege that a Ukrainian female agent and her young daughter entered Russia in order to carry out the attack.

Dugina's father Alexander Dugin is known to be an ultra-nationalist and has been called Putin's "spiritual guide" for the Ukraine invasion. Many analysts believe Dugin himself was the intended target of the attack, but was spared because he changed cars at the last minute while his daughter was driving his.

One senior Ukrainian official quoted by The Guardian asked, "What reason is there for us to do this?" adding that Dugin and his daughter were not strategically important targets for Ukraine. "Not many people here have heard of him, and nobody had heard of his daughter," the official also said.

— Natasha Turak

Nearly 9,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since Russia's invasion, army chief says

Thirteen coffins are seen at the Krasnopilske cemetery during a mass funeral for Ukrainian military on July 1, 2022 in the Dnipro, Ukraine.
Paula Bronstein | Getty Images

Close to 9,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died in the fighting since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of its neighbor in late February, Ukrainian army chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyy said. This is the first time Ukraine has publicly disclosed its military losses since the war began.

NBC has not independently verified the figures, and analysts say that to do so would be very difficult given the ongoing conflict.

Zaluzhnyy did not specify the death numbers for various branches of the military. He also said that children in particular need protection due to the fact that a large proportion of those serving are fathers.

The children "really do not understand anything that is going on and definitely need protection ... because their father has gone to the front and possibly is among the almost 9,000 heroes who have been killed," Zaluzhnyy said.

The CIA estimated in July that 15,000 Russian soldiers have died and an additional 45,000 have been wounded since the invasion began.

— Natasha Turak

Russia's security service claims it has 'solved' murder of Putin ally's daughter Darya Dugina

Investigators work on the site of explosion of a car driven by Daria Dugina outside Moscow.
Investigative Committee of Russia via AP

Russia's state security service, the FSB, says it has solved the murder of Putin ally Darya Dugina, who was killed in a car bombing Saturday outside of Moscow, according to a report from Russian state news agency TASS.

The FSB claims the bombing was carried out by a member of Ukrainian intelligence who has since fled Russia. NBC has not independently verified the information.

Ukraine's government vocally denied any allegations of Ukrainian involvement. Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said on television on Sunday, "Ukraine has absolutely nothing to do with this because we are not a criminal state like Russia or a terrorist one at that."

One former member of Russia's parliament, now living in Ukraine due to being expelled for anti-Putin positions, claimed the attack was carried out by members of an anti-Putin resistance group inside Russia. NBC has also not verified this claim.

— Natasha Turak

Ukraine displays seized Russian military equipment and weapons

Ukrainians take part in an open-air exhibit in Kyiv and Lviv showing seized military equipment and weapons.

Some of the exhibits included a tank and motorized artillery systems belonging to the Russian army. The display comes ahead of Ukraine's 31st anniversary of Independence Day.

A boy with Ukrainian national flags poses on a destroyed Russian military vehicle displayed on the main street of Khreshchatyk in Kyiv, as part of the country's Independence Day celebrations.
Oleksii Chumachenko | Lightrocket | Getty Images
Members of the public look around some destroyed Russian tanks in the city centre on August 22, 2022 in Lviv, Ukraine. 
Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images
Members of the public look around some destroyed Russian tanks in the city centre on August 22, 2022 in Lviv, Ukraine. 
Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images
Ukrainians arrive at Khreschatyk Street to see the seized military equipment and weapons including tank and motorized artillery systems belonging to the Russian army displayed by Ukraine ahead of the country's 31st anniversary of Independence Day in Kyiv, Ukraine on August 21, 2022. 
Metin Atkas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Ukrainians arrive at Khreschatyk Street to see the seized military equipment and weapons including tank and motorized artillery systems belonging to the Russian army displayed by Ukraine ahead of the country's 31st anniversary of Independence Day in Kyiv, Ukraine on August 21, 2022. 
Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

— Getty Images

UN says at least 5,587 killed in Ukraine since start of war

TOPSHOT - Family members mourn next to the coffin of Ukrainian serviceman Anton Savytskyi during a funeral ceremony at Bucha's cemetery in Kyiv region on August 13, 2022, amid the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.
Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images

The United Nations has confirmed civilian 5,587 deaths and 7,890 injuries in Ukraine since Russia's Feb. 24 invasion.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, because the armed conflict can delay fatality reports.

The international organization said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.

— Amanda Macias

Turkey's Erdogan to speak with Putin this week over Zaporizhzhia plant concerns

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia August 5, 2022.
Turkish Presidential Press Office | Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week to discuss the status of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, which has been under occupation by Russian forces since March. Erdogan has stressed the importance of keeping the plant stable and safe to avert a potential nuclear catastrophe.

The two are also expected to discuss the war in Ukraine generally and continued grain shipments out of Ukraine's Black Sea ports, which Russian naval ships had blocked for months. A few of the ships have been able to incrementally leave to export Ukraine's produce, thanks to a deal brokered by Turkish officials. News of the two leaders' forthcoming call was published by Russian state news agency RIA.

— Natasha Turak

Speculation swirls over car bomb killing of Putin ally's daughter outside of Moscow

Blame is being cast in multiple directions following a car bombing that killed the daughter of prominent Putin ally and Russian ideologue Alexander Dugin in the outskirts of Moscow on Saturday.

Russian authorities have opened an investigation into the killing of Darya Dugina, who was in the car that was blown up. Authorities believe that the intended target was her father, an ultra-nationalist and anti-Western philosopher who was close to Putin and described as his "spiritual guide" for the invasion of Ukraine. He ended up taking a different car, while his daughter drove his car.

Dugina died on the scene when "an explosive device, presumably installed in the Toyota Land Cruiser, went off on a public road and the car caught fire" on Saturday night local time near Bolshiye Vyazemy, a village on the outskirts of Moscow.

Journalist and political expert Darya Dugina, daughter of Russian politologist Alexander Dugin, is pictured in the Tsargrad TV studio in Moscow, Russia, in this undated handout image obtained by Reuters on August 21, 2022. | Via Reuters

Russian authorities have accused Ukrainian intelligence of orchestrating the murder, which Kyiv has denied. Meanwhile, a former member of Russia's Parliament who was expelled for his anti-Putin stance, Ilya Ponomarev, claimed the blast was carried out by Russian resistance members. He said the group was called the National Republican Army and its aim is to topple Putin.

"This attack opens a new page in Russian resistance to Putinism," Ponomarev said from Kyiv, where he is now based.

— Natasha Turak

Zelenskyy warns of 'particularly nasty' Russian attack ahead of Ukraine's independence day

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned of especially harmful activity by Russia ahead of Ukraine's national day on Aug. 24.

"Russia may try to do something particularly nasty, something particularly cruel" this week, the president said in his nightly address, as the country commemorates its 31st year of independence. The capital Kyiv has banned large gatherings for four days starting Monday.

Ukraine's military warned that Russia has positioned several warships and submarines equipped with cruise missiles in the Black Sea and placed air defense systems in neighboring Belarus.

"Russia may try to do something particularly nasty, something particularly cruel" this week, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Adam Berry | Getty Images News | Getty Images

— Natasha Turak

Shelling from Russian forces batters city near nuclear power plant

Russian shelling pounded the city of Nikopol overnight, which is two miles across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. International leaders have sounded the alarm over a potential nuclear catastrophe from the conflict.

Valentyn Reznichenko, the region's governor, said the nearby districts of Kryvoriz and Synelnykiv were also heavily shelled.

"A night of shelling and casualties," Reznichenko wrote on his official Telegram account. "Nikopol was shelled with 'Grad' and barrel artillery three times during the night. 42 Russian shells flew into the residential quarters."

He added that in the city, two houses were destroyed and nearly 50 damaged. Shelling also hit "a kindergarten, shops, pharmacies, markets, a court and a bus station" and "caused five fires … Up to 2,000 people are without electricity," he added.

— Natasha Turak

Russia likely struggling to motivate its forces, UK says

Russia is likely struggling to motivate its military forces in Ukraine, Britain's Ministry of Defense wrote in its latest intelligence update on Twitter, suggesting the government may be resorting to financial incentives.

"Russia is likely increasingly struggling to motivate the auxiliary forces it is using to augment its regular troops in the Donbas. Commanders are probably resorting to direct financial incentives, while some combat units are deemed unreliable for offensive operations," said the post.

"A consistent contributing factor to these problems is Russia's classification of the war as a 'special military operation' which limits the state's powers of legal coercion," it added.

— Natasha Turak

Zelenskyy thanks Biden for latest security assistance package

Ukraine was already stocking up on U.S.-made Javelins before Russia invaded. Here a group of Ukrainian servicemen take a shipment of Javelins in early February, as Russia positioned troops on Ukraine's border.
Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked U.S. President Joe Biden for the 19th security assistance package.

"I highly appreciate another U.S. military aid package in the amount of $775 million. Thank you @POTUS for this decision," Zelenskyy wrote. "Ukraine will be free," he added.

The latest weapons package brings U.S. commitment to approximately $10.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of Biden's presidency.

— Amanda Macias

Ukraine GDP projected to fall by 35-40% in late 2022

A view of devastation after conflicts as Ukrainians trying to rebound back to life Irpin near Kyiv, Ukraine on June 21, 2022.
Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukraine's gross domestic product in the remaining months of 2022 may fall by 35 to 40% due to Russia's war, according to Yulia Svyrydenko, Ukraine's Minister of Economic Development and Trade.

"According to our calculations, according to the macroeconomic forecasts made by the Ministry of Economy, the curtailment of the economy by the end of the year may be at the level of 35-40%," said Svyrydenko, who also serves simultaneously as Ukraine's first deputy prime minister.

The National Bank also predicts that Ukraine's real GDP in the third and fourth quarters of 2022 will contract. According to the National Bank estimates, the economy will also slip by another 19% in the first quarter of 2023.

— Amanda Macias

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