What happened in the Russia-Ukraine war this week? Catch up with the must-read news and analysis

·6 min read
<span>Photograph: Maxar Technologies Handout/EPA</span>
Photograph: Maxar Technologies Handout/EPA

Every week we wrap up the must-reads from our coverage of the Ukraine war, from news and features to analysis, visual guides and opinion.

‘Grave crisis’ at Ukraine nuclear plant, says UN

This week Isobel Koshiw in Kyiv and Jennifer Rankin followed Ukraine and Russia’s trading of accusations over the shelling of Europe’s largest atomic plant last weekend, with the UN secretary general since calling for international inspectors to be given access to the plant.

“Any attack to a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing,” António Guterres told a news conference in Japan on Monday after the shelling on Saturday damaged three radiation sensors.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the IAEA, Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, echoed the call for international inspectors and said Russian forces were attempting to cause electricity blackouts in southern Ukraine by shelling the Zaporizhzhia plant, which was captured by Russian forces in early March but is still run by Ukrainian technicians. However, Russia maintains that Ukrainian forces hit the site with a multiple rocket launcher. The head of Zaporizhzhia’s occupying authorities, Evgeniy Balitskyi, said Ukrainian forces had “decided to put the whole of Europe on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe” by shelling the plant, in Ukraine’s south-east.

As Peter Beaumont explains, the shelling around the plant is concerning, but the most serious issue is the disruption to the safety regime and routine maintenance of the plant as a result of the ongoing conflict.

By Friday, shelling had resumed and the UN was warning of a “grave crisis”.

A general view of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in south-eastern Ukraine
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which the UN has called for international inspectors to be given access to. Photograph: AP

Russian airbase on Crimean coast damaged in blasts

A Russian airbase deep behind the frontline in Crimea was damaged on Tuesday by several large explosions, killing at least one person and destroying up to a dozen Russian aircraft, Dan Sabbagh reports from Kyiv.

Political sources in Ukraine said the country had carried out the attack on Crimea’s western coast – but no public claim of responsibility was made by Kyiv of the incident. Ukraine’s public coyness about the attack is partly designed to preserve some ambiguity about the means used, sources said, prompting broad speculation as to how Kyiv was able to strike so deep behind Russian lines, in one of the first attacks on Crimean soil since the Russian invasion began in February.

By Thursday, satellite images had emerged appearing to show at least nine Russian warplanes destroyed and large parts of the runway badly damaged.

An analysis piece from Dan Sabbagh suggests that the attack sends a powerful message to Moscow.

Although not the first Ukrainian attack in Crimea since the start of the war, it is the most significant, not just because it took place about 180km (112 miles) behind the frontline but because it took place in the sight of thousands of tourists, he says.

People on a beach as smoke and flames rise in the distance after explosions at a Russian military airbase in Novofedorivka, Crimea
People on a beach as flames rise after explosions at a Russian military airbase in Novofedorivka, Crimea. Photograph: Reuters

Inside the Russian prison camp where dozens of Ukrainians burned to death

Screams from soldiers being tortured, overflowing cells, inhuman conditions, a regime of intimidation and murder. Inedible gruel, no communication with the outside world and days marked off with a homemade calendar written on a box of tea.

This, according to a prisoner who was there, is what conditions are like inside Olenivka, the notorious detention centre outside Donetsk where dozens of Ukrainian soldiers burned to death while in Russian captivity in a horrific episode late last month.

Anna Vorosheva, a 45-year-old Ukrainian entrepreneur, gave a harrowing account to Luke Harding of her 100 days spent inside the jail. She was detained by the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic on charges of “terrorism” for trying to deliver humanitarian supplies to Mariupol.

Now recovering in France, Vorosheva said she had no doubt Russia “cynically and deliberately” murdered Ukrainian prisoners of war.

Zelenskiy rebukes Amnesty for accusing Ukraine of endangering civilians

A report by Amnesty International accusing the Ukrainian army of endangering civilians has drawn criticism from western diplomats, including the British and US ambassadors to Ukraine, as the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, attacked its findings, Isobel Koshiw writes in Kyiv.

The report accused the Ukrainian military of putting civilians at risk by positioning themselves in residential areas, saying soldiers should not be basing themselves in empty schools or repurposing civilian buildings in urban areas as it meant the Russians would target them and civilians would be caught up in the crossfire. The Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova held up the report as proof that Ukraine was using civilians as human shields.

But critics say the report was poorly researched and put together. The head of Amnesty’s Ukraine operations, Oksana Pokalchuk, resigned her post on Friday evening, a day after claiming the organisation ignored her concerns about the report.

Amnesty International stood by its assertion that Ukraine breached international humanitarian law and said its findings were based on evidence gathered during extensive investigations. While stressing that it condemns Russia’s invasion, it said it would report Ukrainian violations when it observed them.

Women who fled Ukraine agonise over when to return

Natalia Kompaniets spends her days running over a dilemma with her daughter as they sit in their temporary new home in Budapest. “Every day we think: should we go back or not? There’s a battle in our souls,” Kompaniets, a 51-year-old who left the town of Obukhiv outside Kyiv in early March, tells Shaun Walker in Budapest and Warsaw.

In the coming months, life is likely to get more difficult for many Ukrainian refugees, as the initial outpouring of goodwill across Europe wears off, and more people are forced to fend for themselves when it comes to food and accommodation. Many are weighing up a similar questions to Kompaniets: if they are from a relatively safe part of Ukraine, is it time to return? Should they wait for the war to end? And how long would that mean waiting?

Tatiana, a 32-year-old from Zaporizhzhia, came to Budapest because a friend was working there as a builder, and allowed her and her son to stay in a house he was renovating. But when the renovations were complete they had to move out. She is now staying in a safe house that was originally meant for victims of domestic violence, but since March one floor has been reserved for Ukrainian refugees.

She is worried about staying in Hungary and is unsure if she can find work there. But she is also worried about returning to Zaporizhzhia, a city close to the frontline in eastern Ukraine.

  • Our visual guide to the invasion is updated regularly and can be found here