September 27, 2022

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Russia-Ukraine war: blasts heard in Kyiv region; Joe Biden

Key events

Russia plans to disconnect Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant from grid

Isobel Koshiw

A detailed plan has been drawn up by Russia to disconnect Europe’s largest nuclear plant from Ukraine’s power grid, risking a catastrophic failure of its cooling systems, the Guardian has been told.

World leaders have called for the Zaporizhzhia site to be demilitarised after footage emerged of Russian army vehicles inside the plant, and have previously warned Russia against cutting it off from the Ukrainian grid and connecting it up to the Russian power network.

But Petro Kotin, the head of Ukraine’s atomic energy company, told the Guardian in an interview that Russian engineers had already drawn up a blueprint for a switch on the grounds of emergency planning should fighting sever remaining power connections.

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

They presented [the plan] to [workers at] the plant, and the plant [workers] presented it to us. The precondition for this plan was heavy damage of all lines which connect Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to the Ukrainian system,” Kotin said.

He fears that Russia’s military is now targeting those connections to make the emergency scenario a reality.

The plant’s electricity connections are already in a critical situation, with three of the four main lines connecting it to Ukraine’s grid broken during the war, and two of the three back-up lines connecting it to a conventional power plant also down, he said.

The Russian plan to disconnect it entirely would raise the risk of a catastrophic failure by leaving it dependent on a single source of electricity to cool the reactors. “You cannot just switch from one system to another immediately, you have to … shut down everything on one side, and then you start to switch on another side,” he said.

During this disconnection, the plant won’t be connected to any power supply and that is the reason for the danger,” he said. “If you fail to provide cooling … for one hour and a half, then you will have melting already.”

22 killed in Russian strike on rail station

At least 22 people have been killed and 50 wounded in a Russian rocket strike on a Ukrainian railway station, as the country marked a sombre independence day, and six months since Moscow’s invasion started.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said the rockets struck a train in a station in the town of Chaplyne, about 145km (90 miles) west of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

Chaplyne is our pain today. As of this moment, there are 22 dead, five of them burned in the car, an 11-year-old teenager died,” he said adding that the death toll could increase as rescue operations continue.

The aftermath of a missile strike on the Chaplyne railway station in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region. Photograph: Twitter

Biden to speak with Zelenskiy

US President, Joe Biden, will speak with Ukrainian President, Volodomyr Zelenskiy, following the announcement of a further $3bn (£2.5bn) in US military aid for Ukraine.

John Kirby, the communications coordinator at the national security council, said the US would continue to “rally the free world” and “galvanise allies and partners” to support Ukraine as the Russian invasion hits the six-month mark.

He said the phone call between Biden and Zelenskiy would reaffirm those commitments and would also provide the Ukrainian president with an update on US arms shipments and congratulate him on Ukraine’s independence day, according to the White House.

“The President’s looking forward to that,” Kirby said, while saying there were no travel plans to discuss for Biden to visit Kyiv. He said if a “trip makes sense,” it would come under consideration.

Explosions heard in Kyiv region – reports

Ukrainian officials are reporting explosions near Kyiv early this morning .

Ukraine’s armed forces said that “several” explosions were heard in the Vyshgorod district around 3am on Thursday, a district north of the city centre, in an alert issued via its official Telegram account.

The head of the Kyiv regional military administration, Oleksiy Kuleba, also issued a Telegram update, saying:

We have information about several sounds of explosions in one of the communities of the Vyshgorod district. We are clarifying the information. Emergency services are already working.”

Kuleba urged resident to seek shelter immediately.

According to Ukraine’s emergency services, an air raid alert was issued throughout the region at 3.21am.

Summary and welcome

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.

Ukrainian officials are reporting a series of explosions near Kyiv early this morning. Ukraine’s armed forces said that “several” explosions were heard in the Vyshgorod district around 3am on Thursday, a district north of the city centre.

It is 5am in Kyiv. Here is where we stand:

  • Russia plans to disconnect Europe’s largest nuclear plant from Ukraine’s power grid, risking a catastrophic failure of its cooling systems, the Guardian has been told. Petro Kotin, the head of Ukraine’s atomic energy company, said Russian engineers had drawn up a blueprint for a switch on the grounds of emergency planning should fighting sever remaining power connections. “The precondition for this plan was heavy damage of all lines which connect Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to the Ukrainian system,” Kotin said.

  • At least 22 people have been killed and 50 wounded in a Russian rocket strike on a Ukrainian railway station, as the country marked a sombre independence day, and six months since Moscow’s invasion started. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said the rockets struck a train in a station in the town of Chaplyne, about 145km (90 miles) west of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. “Chaplyne is our pain today. As of this moment, there are 22 dead, five of them burned in the car, an 11-year-old teenager died,” he said adding that the death toll could increase as rescue operations continue.

  • Zelenskiy says Russia has placed the world “on the brink of a radiation disaster”. “It is a fact that the Russian military made the territory of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe a combat zone … Now all of Europe and all neighbouring regions are under the threat of radiation pollution,” he said in a Wednesday evening address. Zelenskiy also called for th UN’s nuclear watchdog to take “permanent control” of the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

  • US president Joe Biden confirmed a further $3bn (£2.5bn) in military aid, including anti-aircraft missiles, artillery, counter-drone defences and radar equipment. US officials said the equipment, which will have to be ordered and will not be delivered for months or years, represented a longer-term investment in Ukrainian security. It is the biggest tranche of US military aid to date.

  • The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, visited Ukraine for the third time since Russia invaded, urging the international community to “stay the course” in its support. Announcing £54m in support, he told Zelenskiy that Ukraine “can and will win the war”. Other senior politicians from across Europe travelled to Kyiv to show their support in person.

  • Moscow is making preparations to stage referendums in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, according to US intelligence. “We have information that Russia continues to prepare to hold these sham referendum in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and the so called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics,” spokesperson for Biden’s national security council, John Kirby, said. “We’ve also learned that the Russian leadership has instructed officials to begin preparing to hold sham referenda, particularly in Kharkiv as well. And these referenda could begin in a matter of days or weeks.”

  • Plans by Russian-backed authorities to try Ukrainian prisoners of war in Mariupol would be a “mockery of justice”, the US secretary of state spokesperson, Ned Price, said. “The planned show trials are illegitimate and a mockery of justice, and we strongly condemn them,” he said on Wednesday.

  • Russia has claimed that the slowing pace of its military campaign in Ukraine is deliberate, and driven by the need to reduce civilian casualties. Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, said: “Everything is being done to avoid casualties among civilians. Of course, this slows down the pace of the offensive, but we are doing this deliberately.” Ukraine’s top military intelligence official, Kyrylo Budanov, said Russia’s offensive was slowing because of moral and physical fatigue in its ranks and Moscow’s “exhausted” resource base.

  • Britain is importing no energy from Russia for the first time on record. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released six months after the start of the war found that in June the UK’s imports from Russia were down by 97% and stood at only £33m as sanctions took effect.

Ukrainian servicemen fire a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft cannon at position near a front line in Kharkiv region, Ukraine on 24 August.
Ukrainian servicemen fire a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft cannon at position near a front line in Kharkiv region, Ukraine on 24 August. Photograph: Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy/Reuters