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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

Ukraine has made no secret of its wish to join the EU and has already applied to join the bloc.
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

Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the United States.
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

A police officer patrols in front of the Russian State Duma and the building of the Hall of Columns, April 8, 2022.
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.
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