Negotiations under way for nuclear watchdog to visit Russian-occupied plant; US urges for demilitarised zone
Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.
I’m Samantha Lock and I will be bringing you all the latest developments for the next short while. Whether you’ve been following our coverage overnight or you’ve just dropped in, here are the latest lines.
Shelling temporarily disconnected the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant from Ukraine’s grid. Fires caused by shelling cut the last remaining power line to the plant on Thursday, temporarily disconnecting it from Ukraine’s national grid for the first time in nearly 40 years of operation, the country’s nuclear power firm, Energoatom, said.
Ukraine’s energy minister, German Galushchenko, said the UN nuclear watchdog could travel to the Zaporizhzhia plant in the “coming days”. The UN nuclear watchdog’s chief, Rafael Grossi, earlier said his team were “very, very close” to being able to go to the plant.
The White House called on Russia to agree to a demilitarised zone around the plant, after the US president, Joe Biden, spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Biden congratulated him on the country’s 31st independence day, celebrated on Wednesday. Zelenskiy said he had “a great conversation” and thanked Biden for his “unwavering” support. It comes a day after Biden announced nearly $3bn in new military assistance to Ukraine, including anti-aircraft missiles, artillery, counter-drone defences and radar equipment, the biggest tranche of US military aid to date.
Vladimir Putin has signed a decree to increase the size of Russia’s armed forces from 1.9 million to 2.04 million, as the war in Ukraine enters its seventh month with no signs of abating. The Russian president’s decree appears to point to the country’s aim to replenish its military, which has been heavily damaged in Ukraine and has failed to achieve its objective to capture the capital, Kyiv.
At least 25 people have been confirmed dead after a Russian rocket strike on a Ukrainian train station. Russian forces attacked a train in the village of Chaplyne, Dnipropetrovsk oblast on Wednesday. The deputy head of the president’s office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, reported on Telegram that two children were killed in the attack. Russia has since confirmed it was behind the attack.
The mayor of the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, has said a building allegedly used by Russian-backed officials in the region has been “blown up”. Fedorov, who is not in the city, posted a video reportedly showing damage to the building, which he said was being used to plan a “pseudo-referendum” by Russia-backed authorities on whether the region should join Russia.