Ukraine, international officials decry 'alarming' military activity near nuclear plant: Recap

A Ukraine official on Friday decried Russian control of Europe's largest nuclear plant as the U.N. nuclear chief warned that military activity near the plant is "very alarming."

Russian troops took over the Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine, one of the 10 largest nuclear plants in the world, shortly after invading the country in February. Before the war, the plant accounted for about half the electricity generated by nuclear power in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi said in a Facebook post translated by CNN that there is "no adequate control over operations at the plant."

Monastyrskyi said Ukrainian specialists working at the plant are not always allowed in the areas they should be. He said the Ukrainian government has appealed to the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure proper control of the plant, adding that his office is "preparing for any scenario."

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Rafael Grossi, the U.N.’s nuclear chief, said both nations need to immediately allow nuclear experts to assess damage to the plant and evaluate its safety and security.

The situation there “has been deteriorating very rapidly,” he said. At least one nuclear reactor was forced to shut down last week after shelling and explosions at the plant shut down the electrical power transformer and two backup transformers.

Latest developments:

►Russia’s gross domestic product contracted 4% in the second quarter of this year, the first full quarter since Russia sent troops into Ukraine, the state statistical service said Friday.

►A Russian court placed journalist Marina Ovsyannikova under house arrest for nearly two months as she faces charges of spreading false information about the country's armed forces that could result in a 10-year prison sentence. Ovsyannikova has been critical of the war in Ukraine and was arrested Wednesday after holding up a sign in which she called Russian President Vladimir Putin "a killer.''

►The invasion of Ukraine has set Russia's economy back four years in the first quarter sine the invasion amid international sanctions, disrupted trade and stalled consumer spending, setting the country up for one of its longest downturns on record, according to Bloomberg analysis.

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In this handout photo taken from video and released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Aug. 7, 2022, a general view of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine.
In this handout photo taken from video and released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Aug. 7, 2022, a general view of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine.

Blasts at Crimea air base not from US long-range weapons, official says

Explosions at an air base in Crimea that destroyed Russian warplanes were not caused by a long-range U.S. weapon, a senior military official said Friday.

The attack wrecked a Russian fighter, attack and surveillance aircraft, said the official who spoke on thecondition of anonymity to discuss battlefield assessments. Ammunition stored at the base also detonated and damaged the airfield and surrounding buildings.

The Pentagon has not provided Ukraine with weapons that have the range to strike the air base, the official said. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said earlier in the week that Ukrainian-made weapons or saboteurs were responsible for the blasts.

The Ukrainian air force said Wednesday that nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in the explosions that also killed one person and wounded 14. Satellite images appeared to show at least seven damaged aircraft as Russian officials attempted to downplay the blasts, claiming no aircraft had been damaged.

— Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY

UN transport ship to bring Ukrainian grain to Africa

Officials announced that the first U.N. grain transport ship will soon be leaving Ukraine for Africa amid surging food prices and a mounting global food crisis.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil. But the war has devastated many poorer country that rely grain supplies from the breadbasket of Europe.

European Council President Charles Michel announced Friday that the first transport of the U.N.'s World Food Program was posed to set sail, taking more than 23,000 metric tons of grain to African countries from Ethiopia through Djibouti.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine updates: UN demands end to conflict near nuclear plant