The International Atomic Energy Agency's mission has arrived at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after a delay lasting several hours due to shelling around Enerhodar, where the plant is located.
Ahead of the visit, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said the mission was aware of "increased military activity in the area" but was determined to press ahead with its plan to visit the facility and meet personnel there.
Earlier, the country's state nuclear power company said the plant's fifth reactor has been shut down as a result of the shelling.
Meanwhile, Russian forces are concentrating their efforts on restoring supply lines and keeping a hold on captured territories in Ukraine, the country's armed forces said in an operational update Thursday morning.
The comments come amid a renewed push by Kyiv to reclaim Russian-occupied land, particularly in the south of the country around the city of Kherson. Ukraine's forces have attacked supply routes into the city, including key bridges across the Dnipro river.
Zelenskyy said that journalists were barred from touring Zaporizhzhia plant with IAEA inspectors
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a nightly address that both Ukrainian and international journalists were not allowed to tour the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant with IAEA representatives.
"Today, the IAEA mission arrived at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. It is good that it happened, the fact itself, despite all the provocations of the Russian military and the cynical shelling of Enerhodar and the territory of the station," said in an update on the Telegram messaging app, according to an NBC News translation.
Zelenskyy added that the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, promised him that independent journalists would accompany the inspectors.
"Unfortunately, IAEA representatives did not protect representatives of independent media," Zelenskyy added.
— Amanda Macias
IAEA chief wraps first day of work at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said a team of inspectors finished their first day of work at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
Rafael Grossi, who is leading a team of 13 experts, said in a tweet that the nuclear watchdog agency will "maintain a continued presence" at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
The team is conducting in-person assessments of the facility, Europe's largest nuclear power plant, as well as interviewing the Ukrainian employees carrying out daily operations at the site.
— Amanda Macias
Eight more agricultural vessels approved to leave Ukraine
The organization overseeing the export of agricultural products from Ukraine said it has approved eight more vessels to leave the besieged country.
The Joint Coordination Center, an initiative of Ukraine, Russia, the United Nations and Turkey, said that the vessels are carrying a total of 158,075 metric tons of grain and other food products.
The ships are expected to depart on Friday and are destined for China, Israel, India, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and France.
— Amanda Macias
More than 7 million Ukrainians have become refugees from Russia’s war
More 7 million Ukrainians have become refugees and moved to neighboring countries since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the U.N. Refugee Agency estimates.
Nearly 4 million of those people have applied for temporary resident status in neighboring Western countries, according to data collected by the agency.
"The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance," the U.N. Refugee Agency wrote.
— Amanda Macias
FBI, NYPD search alleged properties of Russian oligarch in New York and Florida
Federal agents were seen on Thursday morning searching an apartment in a Manhattan high-rise and an estate in the Hamptons that authorities allege are connected to a Russian oligarch who recently had his yacht seized, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Homeland Security Investigations and FBI agents along with NYPD detectives were seen carrying boxes during a search of 19 Duck Pond Lane in Southampton, N.Y., and the search of 515 Park Ave. in Manhattan.
Records show those properties are linked to sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, a billionaire and close ally of President Vladimir Putin who heads the Moscow-based Renova Group, a conglomerate with interests in the metals, mining, and tech industries, according to U.S. Treasury Department documents.
The U.S. seizure of Vekselberg's $900 million superyacht off the coast in early April marked the first under newly imposed Western sanctions targeting assets of Russian elites in response to the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine. Vekselberg is one of numerous Russian oligarchs to face sanctions since the start of the war.
Read more here.
— NBC NEWS
Macron vows to prevent Russia from winning war in Ukraine
French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to keep up France's humanitarian, economic and military support to Ukraine and to bolster European unity as a way to pile pressure on Russia and prevent it from winning its war in that country.
"We cannot let Russia militarily win the war," Macron said in a speech to French ambassadors at the Elysee presidential palace.
He set the goal of enabling Ukraine to either win militarily or be put in a strong position to achieve "a negotiated peace."
"We must get prepared for a long war," Macron said, adding that this would involve tensions escalating over Ukraine's nuclear plants.
Macron said France strongly supported the mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency that arrived Thursday to the Zaporizhzhia plant to assess its safety. The French president suggested he would call his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin after the IAEA mission concludes.
— Associated Press
Less than 60% of schools in Ukraine are safe to open as four million children start the academic year, U.N. says
The U.N. agency dedicated to observing the welfare of children said that less than 60% of schools are deemed safe and eligible to reopen.
The Kremlin has previously said that its forces do not target civilian infrastructure like schools, hospitals and residential buildings.
The executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF, said it's working with the Ukrainian government on additional ways to get children back to learning in classroom environments.
"For four million children in Ukraine, the mood is one of trepidation. Children are returning to schools - many of which have been damaged during the war – with stories of destruction, uncertain if their teachers and friends will be there to welcome them," wrote UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell in a statement.
Russell added that education for Ukrainian children has been dramatically compromised following two years of the Covid-19 pandemic and six months since the escalation of the war, their physical and mental health is under enormous strain," Russell added.
— Amanda Macias
Kremlin slams new EU visa suspension for Russian citizens
The Kremlin called the European Union's temporary visa restrictions on Russian citizens "ridiculous" and "absurd."
"This is bad for Russians because it will take longer and will be more difficult to get visas. We don't know how it will all be, but most likely, the process will be more difficult," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Interfax.
"Of course, this will also make things more difficult for the Europeans," he added.
"This is ridiculous, these people are pitiful. We should not follow this path, respond with stupidity for stupidity," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said of the new EU visa rule, according to TASS.
On Wednesday, the European Union announced it would suspend some visas for Russian citizens in an effort to limit border crossings.
"Since mid of July, we have seen a substantial increase on border crossing from Russia, in the neighboring states. And this has become a security risk for these neighboring states," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said during a press conference in Prague.
Borrell added that EU member states have seen "many Russians traveling for leisure, shopping, as if no war was raging in Ukraine."
"We are not business as usual, it cannot be used business as usual," he added.
— Amanda Macias
Zelenskyy speaks for the first time with Prime Minister of Israel about Russia's war in Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, the first call between the two leaders.
"I count on his country's accession to the sanctions on Russia and provision of practical assistance to Ukraine in countering the aggression of the Russian Federation," Zelenskyy wrote.
Prime Minister Lapid wrote on Twitter that he congratulated Zelenskyy on Ukraine's recent Independence Day.
"Israel and Ukraine share long-standing ties. We hope to see an end to the war soon and for Ukrainians to live in peace and prosperity," he added.
— Amanda Macias
Russia is doing everything so that Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant 'functions safely,' Foreign Minister Lavrov says
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Russia was doing everything to operate Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant safely and to allow visiting inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to check on the facility.
Speaking at an event in Moscow, Lavrov said: "We are doing everything to ensure that this station is safe, that it functions safely. And for the mission there to carry out all its plans."
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant was captured by Russian forces in March. It remains near the frontlines, and has come under repeated fire in recent weeks, raising fears of a nuclear disaster. Both Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the facility.
UN inspectors arrive at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
A team of nuclear experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency have reached the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after a delay lasting several hours due to shelling near the facility.
— Holly Elyatt
Top Russian oil official dies after fall from hospital window, sources say
Ravil Maganov, the chairman of Russia's second-largest oil producer Lukoil, died on Thursday after falling from a hospital window in Moscow, two sources familiar with the situation said, becoming the latest in a series of businessmen to meet with sudden unexplained deaths.
The sources confirmed reports by several Russian media that the 67-year-old had plunged to his death, but the circumstances surrounding his fall were unclear.
Two people who knew Maganov well told Reuters they believed it was highly unlikely he had committed suicide.
Another source close to the company said there was a belief inside Lukoil management that he had killed himself, but he had not seen evidence or documents to support that.
Asked by Reuters if they were investigating the death as suspicious, Moscow police referred the question to the state's Investigative Committee. The Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lukoil said in a statement that Maganov had "passed away following a serious illness".
"Lukoil's many thousands of employees mourn deeply for this grievous loss and express their sincere condolences to Ravil Maganov's family," it said.
Several other senior executives with ties to Russia's energy industry have died suddenly in unclear circumstances in the past few months.
Russia is ready to listen to Western countries when they 'mature', Foreign Minister Lavrov says
Russia's foreign minister has said Moscow does not intend to completely cut off contact with Western countries and is ready to listen to them when they "mature," according to comments reported by Russian state news agency Interfax.
Speaking to students in Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blamed the West for shutting down dialog with Russia.
"Now we no longer have any illusions, the inability of the Europeans to negotiate is obvious, as well as the Americans, in fact. They cut off all channels, all forms of interaction, and we can no longer rely on them with regard to key technologies for our security and accelerated societal development," the minister said.
Lavrov insisted Russia was "not completely cutting off contacts" with the West but would carry them out on a "mutually beneficial basis."
"Everything depends on our partners: when they mature, we will be ready to listen to them," Lavrov said.
UN visit to nuclear power plant delayed for several hours due to shelling
A visit by a team of experts from the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine has been "delayed" for several hours due to heightened military activity in the area.
There have been multiple reports of shelling on the route to, and in the area of, the nuclear facility which is located in Enerhodar.
"The IAEA mission has been delayed on the Ukrainian-controlled side of the frontline for some three hours," an IAEA spokesman told NBC News this morning.
"Director General Grossi has personally negotiated with Ukrainian military authorities to be able to proceed and he remains determined that this important mission reaches the ZNPP today."
Russia and Ukraine trade accusations amid chaotic start to UN's nuclear power plant visit
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of carrying out "provocations" and attacks on the route to, and in the area of, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on the morning of the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspection of the site.
Ukrainian officials accused Russia of shelling the route that the heavily-guarded IAEA's team of inspectors were due to take to the plant and of trying to sabotage their visit while officials in Enerhodar, where the power plant is located, reported that the city was attacked by Russian forces Thursday morning.
"At this moment, helicopters, field and rocket artillery of the Russian army are shelling the city of Enerhodar," Yevhen Yevtushenko, the head of the Nikopol district military administration (Nikopol lies on the opposite side of the Dnipro River from Enerhodar), said on Telegram.
Ukraine's Enerhodar Mayor Dmytro Orlov said on his Telegram account that civilian infrastructure had been targeted and that helicopters were circling over the city.
Ukraine's state nuclear power company Energoatom said Thursday morning that the fifth reactor has been shut down at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant because of the nearby shelling this morning.
Russia's Ministry of Defense, meanwhile, counteraccused Ukraine of shelling Enerhodar this morning, and claimed that Ukrainian forces tried to "seize" the nuclear power plant.
""Today, at about 06:00 Moscow time, Ukrainian troops in two sabotage groups of up to 60 people in seven boats landed on the coast of the Kakhovka reservoir, three kilometers northeast of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, and attempted to seize the power plant," the ministry said.
The enemy was destroyed, "including with the use of army aviation," the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement reported by Russian news agency Interfax.
The report went on to say that Enerhodar "was subjected to a massive artillery strike from the Armed Forces of Ukraine" this morning in which an apartment building and a kindergarten were hit (the same targets Ukraine said Russia had hit). CNBC was unable to immediately verify any of the reports.
For its part, the head of the IAEA's visit to the nuclear power plant has said the mission will continue despite the reports of heightened military activity nearby.
The visit of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog to the nuclear facility, Europe's largest, was always expected to cause a flurry of fighting, with both sides saying the other was planning "provocations" around the time of the inspection.
— Holly Ellyatt
Nuclear power plant's fifth reactor shut down after nearby shelling
Ukraine's state nuclear power company Energoatom said Thursday morning that the fifth reactor has been shut down at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant because of nearby shelling this morning.
Attacks have been reported in the Enerhodar area where the plant is located, with both Ukraine and Russia accusing each other of violence on the day a team of UN experts is set to carry out a safety inspection.
There are widespread concerns over the stability of the complex amid the ongoing war.
Energoatom said on Telegram this morning that "as a result of another mortar shelling by the Russian occupying forces at the site of the Zaporizhzhya NPP, the emergency protection was activated and the operating 5th power unit was shut down." It said a reserve power supply line was also damaged.
"This is the second time in the last 10 days that the criminal actions of the rioters have led to the shutdown of the unit and power outage of the station," Energoatom noted.
It said power unit No. 6 continues to work in the energy system of Ukraine and at the same time feeds the ZNPP's own needs, adding that the Ukrainian personnel at the plant were "doing everything possible to eliminate damage to its infrastructure."
— Holly Ellyatt
U.S. obtains warrant to seize Boeing 737 owned by Russian firm Lukoil
The United States has obtained a warrant to seize a $45 million Boeing 737 aircraft owned by Russian energy firm PJSC Lukoil, the U.S. Justice Department said.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas authorized the seizure after finding "probable cause that the Boeing aircraft was subject to seizure based on violations of federal law," the department said in a statement.
Court documents revealed that the aircraft did not comply with sanctions that the Department of Commerce had enacted against Russia as it "flew in and out" of the country. The plane last entered the United States in March 2019 and it had Lukoil officials on board, according to the department.
The department has stated that it believes the jet is situated in Russia at present.
— Natalie Tham
IAEA team sets off for nuclear power plant despite reports of intense shelling
The International Atomic Energy Agency's mission to inspect the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has set off, but there are reports this morning of shelling around Enerhodar, where the plant is located.
The IAEA team is due to begin an inspection of the plant this morning following rising concerns over the safety and stability of the facility, Europe's largest nuclear power plant, amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly blamed each other for shelling in the area and on Thursday there were more reports of shelling in the region.
IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said the mission was aware of "increased military activity in the area" but was pressing ahead with its plan to visit the facility and meet personnel there, Reuters reported.
Russian news agency Interfax reported that its forces had fired on a group of Ukrainian troops which had landed in the Enerhodar region on Thursday morning.
Alexander Volga, head of the provisional administration of the city (a Russian-installed official), told Interfax that, "there was a landing of Ukrainian troops, they are currently immobilized, lying in a summer cottage. Our aviation is working on them. Scouts have figured out their location, at the moment they are being hit by fire. I think that everything will be finished in the near future, and we will win."
Interfax repeated Russian claims that Enerhodar was "subjected to a massive artillery strike from the Armed Forces of Ukraine" this morning in which it said apartment buildings and a kindergarten were hit.
Ukraine has not responded to those claims, but Oleksandr Starukh, the Ukrainian head of the Zaporizhzhia region, said on Telegram Thursday that Russian forces were shelling the pre-agreed route the IAEA team are due to take to the nuclear power plant.
"The UN advance team cannot continue the movement due to security reasons. Ukraine continues to make efforts to organize safe access of the international IAEA mission to the ZNPP. We demand that the Russian Federation stop the provocations and grant the IAEA unhindered access to the Ukrainian nuclear facility," he said.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russia says it is trying to restore supply lines to troops in southern Ukraine
Russian forces are concentrating their efforts on restoring supply lines and keeping a hold on captured territories in Ukraine, the country's armed forces said in an operational update Thursday morning.
"The opponent is focusing efforts on establishing full control over the territory of the Donetsk region, as well as keeping the captured areas of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and Nikolaiv regions," the general staff of Ukraine's armed forces said in a post on Facebook.
The comments come amid a renewed push by Kyiv to reclaim Russian-occupied land, particularly in the south of the country around the city Kherson, which was one of the first cities to fall into Russian hands after the invasion.
Ukraine's forces have attacked supply routes into the city, including key bridges across the Dnipro river, in a bid to prevent Russia being able to re-supply its troops.
In the south, Ukraine's armed forces said Russia was focusing on maintaining occupied positions and "taking measures to recover losses" and "trying to restore the logistics supply" to its troops there.
Regional officials have reported Ukrainian advances, and Russian retreats in some areas, since the start of the counteroffensive that began earlier this week, but Ukraine is tight-lipped about the operation, not wanting to reveal its strategy or raise expectations of any imminent breakthrough in the conflict.
— Holly Ellyatt