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Ukraine war: Six key developments you need to know today

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP, Reuters
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Sergeant Major Artur Shevtsov with the Dnipro-1 regiment exits a bunker at the unit's position near Sloviansk 5 August, 2022
Sergeant Major Artur Shevtsov with the Dnipro-1 regiment exits a bunker at the unit's position near Sloviansk 5 August, 2022   -   Copyright  AP Photo/David Goldman

1. Ukrainian forces hit key bridges, Russian barracks in the south of the country

Ukraine has struck Russian troop bases and two key bridges across the Dnipro river in long-range missile strikes overnight, Ukrainian officials said on Monday.

The strikes hit the only two crossings Russia has to the pocket of southern Ukrainian territory it has occupied on the western bank of the vast Dnipro river, said Natalia Humeniuk, spokesperson for Ukraine's southern military command.

"The results are rather respectable, hits on the Antonivskyi and Kakhovskyi bridges," she said on domestic television.

Ukrainian HIMARS strikes also hit multiple military bases in Ukraine's Russian-occupied southern city of Melitopol in the early hours, killing troops and destroying hardware, the city's mayor said.

"According to preliminary estimates, a significant amount of military equipment was destroyed," Ivan Fedorov wrote on Telegram.

Ukraine's defence minister said two weeks ago that 50 Russian ammunition depots had been destroyed by US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launchers, which Ukraine started using in June.

2. The first cargo ship carrying Ukrainian grain from Black Sea arrives in Turkey

The first of the ships to leave Ukraine under a deal to unblock grain supplies, the Turkey-flagged Polarnet, arrived at its destination in Turkey on Monday.

The ship carrying 12,000 tonnes of corn docked at Derince port in the Gulf of Izmit after setting off from Chornomorsk on 5 August.

“This sends a message of hope to every family in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia: Ukraine won’t abandon you,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted. “If Russia sticks to its obligations, the ‘grain corridor’ will keep maintaining global food security.”

A total of 10 ships have now been authorised to sail under the grain deal between Ukraine and Russia, which was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations — eight outbound and two headed for Ukraine.

The first ship to depart Ukraine, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, which left on 1 August, still hasn’t reached its destination in Lebanon and was anchored off Turkey’s southern coast on Sunday evening, according to the Marine Traffic website.

Meanwhile, two more ships carrying corn and soybeans departed Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Monday, the Turkish Defence Ministry said.

The Sakura left Yuzhny carrying 11,000 tonnes of soybeans to Italy, while the Arizona left Chornomorsk with 48,458 tonnes of corn bound for İskenderun in southern Turkey.

Four ships that left Ukraine on Sunday are expected to anchor near Istanbul on Monday evening, the Defence Ministry said. They are due to be inspected on Tuesday.

3. Amnesty 'regrets distress and anger' caused by Ukraine report as criticism persists

The furore over Amnesty International's report accusing Kyiv of endangering civilians continued on Monday, drawing angry reactions from Ukrainian officials and criticism from Western diplomats.

The report also sparked fears it would serve as a further justification for Moscow in its increased bombardment of civilian targets in recent weeks.

On Sunday, the rights group said it regrets the pain caused by the report, which infuriated President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and triggered the resignation of its Kyiv office head.

In the meantime, the Russian Mission in Geneva tweeted that if a civilian building "is used for military purposes, it turns into a legitimate target for a precision strike", causing further reactions against the report.

The rights group published the report on Thursday, saying the presence of Ukrainian troops in residential areas heightened risks to civilians during Russia's invasion.

4. UN chief calls for end to attacks on Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

The head of Ukraine's state nuclear power company Energoatom called on Monday for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to be made a military-free zone, warning of the risk of a Chornobyl-style nuclear disaster after the site was hit by shelling.

He called for a team of peacekeepers to be deployed at the site in comments on television after Ukraine and Russia accused each of shelling the nuclear power plant -- Europe's biggest -- which lies in Russian-controlled southern Ukraine.

"The decision that we demand from the world community and all our partners... is to withdraw the invaders from the territory of the station and create a demilitarized zone on the territory of the station," Petro Kotin said.

Meanwhile, UN chief Antonio Guterres has called for the end of military operations around Europe's largest nuclear plant.

Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine has been hit by a series of bombardments since last Friday, with both Russian and Ukrainian forces blaming one another for the attacks.

"Any attack on nuclear power plants is a suicidal thing," the UN's secretary-general told reporters in Tokyo, adding that international inspectors should be allowed to access the nuclear plant immediately.

"I hope that these attacks will end," said Guterres. "At the same time, I hope that the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] will be able to access the power plant."

Russian forces captured the plant in Ukraine's southeast in early March, shortly after Moscow's 24 February invasion of its western neighbour, but it is still run by Ukrainian technicians.

Reports from Ukraine on Monday claim that the Russian military has mined the power plant with explosives, while the Russian commanding officer at the site has allegedly expressed his readiness to blow up the plant.

5. No Zelenskyy-Putin meeting in sight, says Kremlin

There is no basis for a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents at the moment, the Kremlin said on Monday.

In response to a question about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's offers to broker peace talks, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy could meet only after negotiators from both sides had "done their homework".

Negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv have been stalled for months, with each side blaming the other for a lack of progress.

"The Ukrainian delegation has gone off the radar, there is no negotiation process now," Peskov said on Monday.

"As for a meeting between Presidents Putin and Zelenskyy, it is possible only after all the homework has been done by the delegations. This is missing, so there are no necessary prerequisites for the meeting," he added.

6. Plans are afoot in Zaporzhizhia to hold referendum on joining Russia

The head of the Moscow-installed administration in the occupied part of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region, Yevgeny Balitsky, said on social media that authorities are pressing ahead with plans to stage a referendum on joining Russia. 

"I signed a decree... to start working on the issue of organising a referendum on the reunification of the Zaporizhzhia region with the Russian Federation," he said shortly after indicating the vote could be held in autumn.

The south-eastern Ukrainian region has been under Russian occupation since the early days of the war, and rumours of the potential referendum have been circulating since. 

The latest from Balitsky indicates that Russia might push for a referendum in Zaporizhzhia, but also in other occupied regions such as Kherson and Mariupol, as a way of justifying its territorial claims as "the will of the people". 

These referendums would be similar to the ones in 2014 in Moscow-occupied Crimea and the separatist-held self-proclaimed republics, LNR and DNR, in the eastern region of the Donbas.

On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russia would lose any chance of negotiating with Ukraine should it conduct referendums in the occupied territories.

"If the occupiers follow the path of these pseudo-referendums, they will close any possibility of negotiations with Ukraine and the free world for themselves," he said in his nightly address.