Ukraine confirmed it had launched a counterattack in the Kharkiv region in the northeast of the country, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stating in his nightly address Wednesday that "this week we have good news from Kharkiv region."
Zelenskyy said several settlements had been recaptured but added that "now is not the time to name the towns where the Ukrainian flag is returning," in a bid to maintain a strategic advantage.
During the summer, Ukraine had said it would launch a counteroffensive to retake Kherson in the south but had not mentioned bids to counterattack in Kharkiv or eastern Ukraine. Analysts say Ukraine could now be taking advantage of Russia's decision to redeploy troops to southern Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin slammed the West again on Wednesday, saying sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine are a "danger" to the world. He also threatened to cut off all energy supplies to Europe as winter approaches, hinting that Russia is ready to let the region "freeze."
Ukraine energy chief says is Russia trying to ‘steal’ nuclear plant
The head of Ukraine's atomic energy operator accused Russia of trying to "steal" Europe's largest nuclear plant by cutting it off from the Ukrainian electricity grid and leaving it on the brink of a radiation disaster.
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has been without an outside source of electricity since Monday and receives power for its own safety systems from the only one of its six reactors that remains operational, Enerhoatom chief Petro Kotin told The Associated Press.
"We are trying to keep this unit running as much as possible, but eventually it will have to be shut down and then the station will switch to diesel generators," he said, adding that such generators are "the station's last defense before a radiation accident."
— Associated Press
Japan, India agree to boost military cooperation
Japan and India agreed to expand military cooperation by holding more joint exercises and pursuing combined development of defense equipment such as unmanned vehicles amid growing tensions with China and Russia in the region.
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said there was "an increasing need" for India and Japan to step up security cooperation. He noted Russia's war on Ukraine, China's increasingly assertive actions, including escalating tensions around Taiwan, and North Korean missile and nuclear threats.
Hayashi and Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada held talks together with their Indian counterparts, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Rajnat Singh, in Tokyo.
— Associated Press
4 nations bordering Russia to restrict Russian tourists
Four European countries that border Russia will take regional steps this month to limit people from Russia from entering Europe's visa-free zone by land because they "are increasingly concerned about the substantial and growing influx of Russian citizens."
"We believe that this is becoming a serious threat to our public security and to the overall shared Schengen area," Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said. "There are people coming with the aim of undermining the security of our countries."
Poland and the three Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — have agreed on a common regional approach with the "political will and firm intention to introduce national temporary measures for Russian citizens holding EU visas."
Such measures should take effect in each of the four countries by Sept. 19.
— Associated Press
Five vessels set to depart Ukraine carrying 83,241 metric tons of agricultural products
The organization overseeing the export of agricultural products from Ukraine said it has approved five 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 83,241 metric tons of grain and other food products.
The ships are expected to depart Friday and are destined for China, Italy and Turkey.
— Amanda Macias
Blinken meets Patron, Ukraine's hero bomb-sniffing dog
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken greeted Ukraine's most famous dog, Patron, a 2-year-old Jack Russell who has located hundreds of land mines since the start of the Russian invasion.
Patron has become a national symbol of civilian resistance and mobilization, inspiring fan art and accepting a medal of honor from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier this year.
Blinken also visited a children's hospital in Kyiv during his visit, which was not announced publicly until Blinken touched down in the war-torn country.
-- Christina Wilkie
Here's what is included in the latest U.S. weapons package for Ukraine
The U.S. announced its 20th security assistance package to Ukraine worth approximately $675 million. The latest weapons package brings U.S. commitment to more than $14.5 billion since Russia's late February invasion of Ukraine.
- Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems or HIMARS
- 1,000 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine Systems
- Four 105mm Howitzers and 36,000 105mm artillery rounds
- Additional High-speed Anti-radiation missiles
- 100 Armored High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles
- 1,500,000 rounds of small arms ammunition
- More than 5,000 anti-armor systems
- Additional grenade launchers and small arms
- 50 armored medical treatment vehicles
- Night vision devices and other field equipment
— Amanda Macias
Blinken announces $2.8 billion in U.S. military aid for Ukraine during surprise visit to Kyiv
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an additional $2.8 billion in U.S. military aid for Ukraine during a surprise visit to Kyiv.
The majority of the funds, approximately $2.2 billion, will finance long-term investments for Ukraine and 18 other allies.
"These funds will help our allies and partners who have provided security assistance to Ukraine backfill their capabilities," a State Department spokesman said.
The remaining funds of approximately $675 million will come in the form of weapons and military equipment directly from U.S. arsenals.
"Ukraine's extraordinary front-line defenders continue to courageously fight for their country's freedom, and President Biden has been clear we will support the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes," Blinken said in a statement announcing the additional funding.
"I reiterated this message to President Zelenskyy and his team today in Kyiv, which remains ̶ and will remain ̶ the capital of a sovereign, independent Ukraine," he added.
— Amanda Macias
Biden will hold a call with allies about Ukraine, White House says
President Joe Biden will speak to allies and partners to discuss additional ways to provide aid to Ukraine.
The White House said Biden will "underscore our continued support for Ukraine as it defends itself from Russian aggression."
The call with allies comes as U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin meets with the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Germany.
The group, a coalition of nearly 40 countries supporting Ukraine's military needs, has met four times previously. The group will discuss additional ways to provide security assistance for Ukraine as Russia's war enters its seventh month.
— Amanda Macias.
Blinken makes unannounced visit to Kyiv
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Kyiv on Thursday on a previously unannounced trip to the country. It is third trip to the country since the war began in February.
Blinken is meeting various officials during the visit, which was not pre-announced for security reasons. He visited a children's hospital on Thursday morning, meeting children and families who have been affected by the war. Blinken then met with Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Earlier today, the U.S. approved a further $675 million weapons package for Ukraine with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirming the aid during a visit to Germany.
The latest package includes more GMLRS, (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems), howitzers, ammunition, Humvees, armored ambulances, anti-tank systems among other equipment.
Austin reiterated the U.S.′ commitment to Ukraine, saying the country was in it "for the long haul."
A State Department official said earlier that Blinken will announce Thursday a further $2 billion in military financing for Ukraine and 18 of its neighbors "including both many of our NATO allies as well as other regional security partners who are most potentially at risk for future Russian aggression."
— Holly Ellyatt
U.S. announces further $675 million in military aid for Ukraine
The U.S. approved a further $675 million weapons package for Ukraine with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirming the aid during a visit to Germany, where defense ministers are gathering for a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group to discuss the war.
Austin said President Joe Biden approved the package on Wednesday. The latest package includes more GMLRS, (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems), howitzers, ammunition, Humvees, armored ambulances, anti-tank systems among other equipment.
Austin reiterated the U.S.' commitment to Ukraine, saying the country was in it "for the long haul."
A senior State Department official confirmed to NBC News that Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is in Ukraine today on an unpublicized trip, will announce a further $2 billion in U.S. military financing for Ukraine and 18 of its neighbors "including both many of our NATO allies as well as other regional security partners who are most potentially at risk for future Russian aggression." The other countries that could receive such funding were not named.
These announcements will bring the total U.S. military assistance for Ukraine to approximately $15.2 billion since the start of the Biden administration.
— Holly Ellyatt
Ukraine looks to destroy Russians' river crossings in the south
Ukraine's counterattacks in the northeaast of the country have dominated headlines in the last few days, largely becuase they have come as a surprise, but its counteroffensive in the south continues in the meantime.
In the Kherson province, Ukrainian brigades continue to conduct offensive operations and efforts to damage key crossing points of the Dnipro river, the U.K.'s Ministry of Defence said Thursday.
Ukraine's forces have attacked other bridges (such as the one in the image below) that lead into the Russian-occupied city of Kherson in recent months, in a bid to break Russian supply lines to the city.
"Ukraine has probably destroyed a military pontoon bridge at Darivka, which Russian forces had deployed after the nearby road bridge was severely damaged," the ministry said in an intelligence update on Twitter.
It noted that the Darivka crossing is one of the main routes between the northern and southern sections of Russia's military presence along the Dnipro river.
"Ukraine's systematic precision targeting of vulnerable crossing points likely continues to impose pressure on Russian forces as they attempt to contain Ukrainian attacks: it slows their ability to deploy operational reserves and resupply materiel from the east."
— Holly Ellyatt
Russian ally Belarus kicks off military exercises
Belarus has launched military drills and is set to carry out these exercises until 14 September, according to Reuters which quoted the defense ministry.
The exercises are taking place by Brest, a city near the Polish border, as well as in Minsk, the capital, and the northeastern region of Vitebsk, according to the news agency. They are set to continue until next Wednesday.
The exercises are aimed at practicing "liberating territory temporarily seized by the enemy" and reclaiming border regions, Reuters said, citing the ministry.
— Natalie Tham
Zelenskyy hails counterattack, says several settlements have been reclaimed
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed the country's armed forces had launched counterattacks in the Kharkiv region in the northeast of the country and had been able to reclaim several settlements, although the exact number is unknown.
During the summer, Ukraine had said it would launch a counteroffensive to retake Kherson but had not mentioned bids to counterattack in Kharkiv or eastern Ukraine where fierce fighting has taken place in the last couple of days.
Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Wednesday that "this week we have good news from Kharkiv region. And, I think, every citizen is feeling proud of our soldiers," but he added "now is not the time to name the towns where the Ukrainian flag is returning."
"Each success of our military in one direction or another changes the general situation along the entire front in favor of Ukraine," the president added.
Ukraine launched a counteroffensive to retake Kherson last week but has since become tight-lipped about its progress in a bid, presumably, to maintain a tactical and strategic advantage on the battlefield.
Analysts said Russia's redeployment of troops from eastern to southern Ukraine to defend against Ukraine's counteroffensive there has likely facilitated Kyiv's ability to carry out counterattacks around Kharkiv.
— Holly Ellyatt
Putin says Russia is willing to let Europe ‘freeze’ over winter
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday again threatened to completely stop all supplies to Europe, a move which he hinted would "freeze" the region.
Russia has already halted gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, leaving the region vulnerable as it tries to replenish energy storage ahead of the colder months.
The EU also announced proposals on Wednesday which could see it put a price cap on Russian gas. Group of Seven leaders have already agreed a proposal to put a price cap on Russian oil.
Responding to EU proposals, Putin told business leaders in Vladivostok that Russia could decide to rip up existing supply contracts.
"Will there be any political decisions that contradict the contracts? Yes, we just won't fulfill them. We will not supply anything at all if it contradicts our interests," Putin said at the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia's far east.
"We will not supply gas, oil, coal, heating oil — we will not supply anything," Putin said.
"We would only have one thing left to do: as in the famous Russian fairy tale, we would let the wolf's tail freeze," he said.
Read more on the story here: Putin threatens to let Europe ‘freeze’ over winter, raising risk of energy rationing
— Holly Ellyatt
U.S. ambassador to U.N. says Russia has deported up to 1.6 million Ukrainians to 'filtration camps'
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that Russian authorities have forcibly deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens from their homes to Russia.
"We have evidence that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens – including children – have been interrogated, detained, and forcibly deported, and some of them sent to very remote areas," Thomas-Greenfield told reporters ahead of the U.N. Security Council meeting.
"I want to be clear, the United States has information that officials from Russia's presidential administration are overseeing and coordinating these filtration operations," Thomas-Greenfield said, without naming Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Thomas-Greenfield outlined the "filtration" process for members of the U.N. National Security Council.
"You're stripped of your clothes, you are interrogated, you're beaten. You hear gunfire and screams from rooms next door. Others deemed more threatening are being tortured and killed. Because you are fighting age, you're asked to fight for Russia," she said.
"When you refuse, you're given a Russian passport and set deep into Russia against your will far away from your family and with no means to communicate with anyone you know or love. You've been filtered," she added.
The Kremlin has denied that it has forcibly detained Ukrainian civilians.
— Amanda Macias
Ukraine representative at U.N. says Russia tried to pressure IAEA report on Zaporizhzhia
Ukraine's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya said that Russia tried to exert pressure on IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi during his visit to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
Kyslytsya addressed members of the U.N. Security Council.
Grossi, who led a team of investigators to the site earlier this month, published a report yesterday on the nuclear watchdog agency's findings.
Grossi recommended an immediate establishment of a demilitarized zone at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
— Amanda Macias
Putin and Xi to meet next week as war in Ukraine shows no signs of halting
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping plan to meet next week in Uzbekistan, a Russian official said Wednesday, announcing a summit that could signal another step in warming ties between two powers that are increasingly facing off against the West.
Putin and Xi last met in Beijing in February, weeks before the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine.
The two presidents oversaw the signing of an agreement pledging that relations between the sides would have “no limits.”
It remains unclear whether Xi knew at the time of Russia’s plans to invade Ukraine.
— Associated Press
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant shutdown being considered, official says
Ukraine's top nuclear inspector says the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant could be shut down if hostilities continue around the plant. Europe's largest nuclear plant continues to be at the center of accusations between Russia and Ukraine — with both repeatedly accusing each other of shelling the Russian-occupied facility.
The head of Ukraine's nuclear regulatory body, Oleh Korikov, said shutting down the plant was under consideration.
"Further deterioration of the situation will lead to the fact that we will be forced to operate backup diesel power generators in order to sustain our security systems, and diesel fuel reserves are very difficult to replenish in conditions of war," Korikov said Wednesday in an interview broadcast on YouTube.
"In fact, we will need four tanks of diesel per day. It is very problematic to bring such a volume of fuel across the contact line now. That is, we can potentially get into a situation where we run out of diesel, which can lead to an accident with damage to the active zone of the reactors and the release of radioactive products into the environment. Then it will have consequences not only for Ukraine but also for other countries," he said.
"The option of turning off the station is indeed considered if appropriate conditions arise that would require such a stop. If this happens, the 6th power unit will be turned off."
The 6th reactor is currently the only one functioning in the plant, which was inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency last week.
In the 52-page report, IAEA investigators warned that while ongoing shelling "has not yet triggered a nuclear emergency, it continues to represent a constant threat to nuclear safety and security."
"The IAEA recommends that shelling on site and in its vicinity should be stopped immediately to avoid any further damages to the plant and associated facilities, for the safety of the operating staff and to maintain the physical integrity to support safe and secure operation," wrote IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi.
— Holly Ellyatt