© Reuters. Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, Iran July 19, 2022. President Website/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS
(Reuters) – Ukrainian troops bolstered by stepped-up supplies of Western military aid on Monday started a long-awaited counter-offensive to retake territory in the south from Russian forces, the Ukrainian military said.
* A team from the U.N. nuclear watchdog (IAEA) is heading to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the agency’s chief said, as Russia and Ukraine traded accusations of shelling in its vicinity, stirring fears of a radiation disaster.
* Officials installed by Russia in Ukraine said that a Ukrainian missile strike punched a hole in the roof of a fuel depot at the Zaporizhzhia plant, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
* Russia’s defence ministry said Russian forces shot down a Ukrainian drone that was trying to attack the Zaporizhzhia reactor complex.
* The White House said on Monday that Russia should agree to a demilitarized zone around the plant.
Reuters was unable to independently verify either of the reports.
* Russia has shipped a battery of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles from Syria to a Russian port near Crimea, according to an Israeli satellite imaging company, in an apparent attempt to bolster its air defences in the war with Ukraine.
* Britain’s defence ministry said it was not clear how Russia would achieve an announced large increase in its armed forces but the boost was unlikely to substantially increase its combat power in Ukraine.
* Russian shelling hit residential areas of the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv on Monday, killing two people and destroying homes, city officials and witnesses said.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports.
HUMAN IMPACT OF WAR
* Thousands of people fleeing Russia-occupied areas of south Ukraine are arriving in a city near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear site despite fears of a radiation leak from fighting. For many, shelling in their hometowns is a more urgent danger.
* Across Ukraine, authorities are building bomb shelters and repairing thousands of buildings damaged by Russian shelling before the country’s nearly 6 million school-aged children return to school in September – in person or online.
* Bogdan and Olga have had no electricity, gas or running water for more than a month in their village near the frontline in eastern Ukraine, but they have no plans to leave. They survive on the food they have grown, baking bread in an oven in the garden and drawing water from a well.
* Germany faces the “bitter reality” that Russia will not restore gas supplies to the country, the German economy minister said on Monday, ahead of planned halt by state energy giant Gazprom (MCX:) of exports to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.
* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of economic terrorism as the cost of Europe’s energy crisis spiralled with Germany on the hook for at least 19 billion euros to bail out its biggest importer of Russian gas.
* European Union foreign ministers, meeting in Prague on Tuesday and Wednesday, may agree tightening the issuance of visas for Russians and start debate on a wider ban on tourist visas though there is no agreement on that, EU officials said.
* Germany will keep up its support for Ukraine “for as long as it takes”, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, calling for an enlargement of the European Union to eventually include Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.
* Russia’s oil output has exceeded expectations in the wake of the war in Ukraine but Moscow will find it increasingly difficult to uphold production as Western sanctions begin to bite, the head of the International Energy Agency said on Monday.
* Ukraine’s agricultural exports could rise to 6 million-6.5 million tonnes in October, double the volume seen in July, as its sea ports gradually reopen, the country’s agriculture minister said on Monday.