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Russia-Ukraine live updates: US says Moscow is buying weapons from North Korea

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Vyacheslav Madiyevskyi/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The Russian military has since launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, capturing the strategic port city of Mariupol and securing a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Sep 06, 11:50 AM EDT
IAEA calls for immediate establishment of ‘nuclear safety and security protection zone’ around Zaporizhzhia plant

The nuclear watchdog of the United Nations is calling for the immediate establishment of a “nuclear safety and security protection zone” around the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine.

The recommendation, among several others, was made in a second report released Tuesday by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which deployed an expert mission to the besieged plant last week.

“The IAEA recommends that shelling on site and in its vicinity should be stopped immediately to avoid any further damages to the plant and associated facilities, for the safety of the operating staff and to maintain the physical integrity to support safe and secure operation,” the agency wrote in the report. “This requires agreement by all relevant parties to the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the ZNPP.”

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is the largest in Ukraine and all of Europe. Invading Russian forces overran the site and the surrounding town of Enerhodar in early March. The Ukrainian workers have been left in place to keep the plant operating, as it supplies electricity across the war-torn country, but the site is now on the front line between Russian-occupied and Ukrainian-controlled territory. Moscow and Kyiv have traded blame for shelling at or near the plant in recent days and weeks, fueling fears that the conflict could spark a radiation disaster.

The IAEA said it aims to maintain a “continued presence” at the plant to “help further improve and deepen the understanding of the situation.”

“While the ongoing shelling has not yet triggered a nuclear emergency, it continues to represent a constant threat to nuclear safety and security with potential impact on critical safety functions that may lead to radiological consequences with great safety significance,” the agency wrote in the latest report.

Sep 06, 11:45 AM EDT
Russia purchasing weapons from North Korea: US intelligence report

Crippling global sanctions are forcing Russia to turn to North Korea to secure ammunition and other vital supplies for its military, according to a newly declassified American intelligence report.

“The Russian Ministry of Defense is in the process of purchasing millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for use on the battlefield in Ukraine,” a U.S. official said in the report. “This purchase indicates that the Russian military continues to suffer from severe supply shortages in Ukraine, due in part to export controls and sanctions.”

Given that Moscow has few viable trade partners, the official added that this could be a continuing trend.

This development, first reported by The New York Times, comes on the heels of Russia securing initial shipments of Iranian drones for use on the battlefield.

U.S. sources have released little information about the quality of the weapons from North Korea or when Russia expects to receive them, but sources within the administration said it’s a sign of the Kremlin’s desperation.

Sources also told ABC News that there’s no indication so far that China played an indirect hand in the deal, but that they’re continuing to monitor the situation closely.

-ABC News’ Shannon K. Crawford

Sep 06, 11:28 AM EDT
US senator responds to new Russian sanctions against 25 Americans

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday imposed new sanctions on 25 Americans, including one of U.S. President Joe Biden’s cabinet secretaries, several U.S. senators and two Hollywood actors, all of whom have been outspoken against Russia’s war in neighboring Ukraine.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Arizona Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Sen. Kevin Kramer of North Dakota, as well as actors Ben Stiller and Sean Penn, are banned from entering Russia.

“Through the Armed Services Committee I’ve worked with Republicans, Democrats, and our military leaders to get Ukraine the supplies and weapons needed to beat back this invasion,” Kelly, who is up for re-election, said in a statement to ABC News on Tuesday. “If that earns me a sanction by the Kremlin, then that means we’re doing something right.”

-ABC News’ Libby Cathey

Sep 05, 9:11 AM EDT
Zelenskyy vows to ‘regain territory’ in exclusive David Muir interview

In an exclusive interview with ABC’s “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hinted of more counteroffensives as his country tries to turn the tide of war against Russia.

“It’s a very difficult war,” Zelenskyy told Muir from the presidential office in Kyiv. “We will regain our territory.”

Sep 01, 1:16 PM EDT
Part of IAEA mission leaves Zaporizhzhia power plant: Report

Several experts with the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog have left the Zaporizhzhia power plant, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

Four out of the nine vehicles that arrived earlier Thursday as part of the International Atomic Energy Agency convoy left at 2:15 p.m. local time after about four hours at the plant, according to an Interfax reporter on the ground at the Ukrainian facility.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, who is leading the mission, was among those to leave, while some experts remained behind and will stay at the plant, according to Interfax.

Ukraine’s nuclear regulator, Energoatom, also confirmed Thursday that the majority of the IAEA mission has left the power plant, including Grossi, and that five experts stayed behind to unload equipment brought to the plant.

The IAEA team is expected to remain at the plant through Sept. 3, Energoatom said in an update posted to Telegram.

In a video statement posted to Twitter, Grossi said he completed a first tour of “key areas” at the plant on Thursday.

“Of course there’s a lot more to do,” he said. “My team is staying on, and more importantly and most importantly, we are establishing a continued presence … from the IAEA here.”

-ABC News’ Natalia Shumskaia and Fidel Pavlenko

Sep 01, 12:44 PM EDT
NYC apartment of Russian oligarch searched by federal agents: Sources

Federal agents searched the New York City apartment of Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg on Thursday, law enforcement sources told ABC News.

The oligarch’s Park Avenue apartment was searched by federal agents with the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations, the main investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the sources said.

An address in East Hampton associated with Vekselberg is also being searched as part of court-authorized activity involving the Justice Department’s KleptoCapture task force, according to sources.

The task force has been seizing assets of Russian businessmen associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin over suspected violations of U.S. sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine.

The task force is trying to find yachts, airplanes and other moveable property before the oligarchs can transport them to jurisdictions where it might be more difficult for U.S. authorities to investigate.

In April, Spanish authorities seized Vekselberg’s $90 million yacht in the port of Palma de Mallorca at the request of the Justice Department.

Vekselberg was among the oligarchs previously sanctioned by the U.S. after Russia invaded Crimea in 2018.

-ABC News’ Aaron Katersky

Sep 01, 9:46 AM EDT
New school year begins in Ukraine

Thursday marked the start of a new school year in Ukraine amid Russia’s ongoing war.

For many of Ukraine’s four million schoolchildren, their last day of school was the day before Russian forces invaded their country on Feb. 24. Since then, thousands of schools across Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed, with less than 60% of schools deemed safe and eligible to reopen by the Ukrainian government, according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.

At least 379 children have been killed in Ukraine since the war with Russia began, while the whereabouts of 223 others are unknown and another 7,013 were among Ukrainians forcibly transferred to Russia from Russian-occupied areas, according to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office. And as of July 31, an estimated 650,000 Ukrainian children living as refugees in 12 host countries were still not enrolled in national education systems, according to UNICEF.

UNICEF is working with the Ukrainian government to help get the country’s schoolchildren back to learning, in classrooms when it is deemed safe, and through online or community-based alternatives if in-person is not possible. Some 760,000 children have received formal or non-formal education since the start of the war. More than 1.7 million children and caregivers have benefited from UNICEF-supported mental health and psychosocial support interventions, the agency said in a press release Thursday.

On the first day of Ukraine’s academic year, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell visited a rehabilitated primary school damaged during the early weeks of war. Only 300 students can attend at any one time due to the capacity of the school’s bomb shelter, a mere 14% of the school’s pre-war capacity, according to UNICEF.

“The new school year should be a time of excitement and promise, as children re-enter the classroom and share stories of their summer with friends and teachers,” Russell said in a statement Thursday. “Yet, for four million children in Ukraine, the mood is one of trepidation. Children are returning to schools — many of which have been damaged during the war — with stories of destruction, uncertain if their teachers and friends will be there to welcome them. Many parents are hesitating to send their children to school, not knowing if they will be safe.”

Sep 01, 8:40 AM EDT
IAEA mission arrives at Zaporzhzhia nuclear power plant

A high-stakes mission from the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog reached a Russian-controlled power plant in Ukraine on Thursday afternoon amid reports of heavy fighting there.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has long sought access to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, since invading Russian troops overran the site and the surrounding town of Enerhodar in southeastern Ukraine in early March. The Ukrainian workers have been left in place to keep the plant operating, as it supplies electricity across the war-torn country, but the site is now on the frontline between Russian-occupied and Ukrainian-controlled territory. Moscow and Kyiv have traded accusations of shelling at or near the plant in recent days and weeks, fueling fears that the conflict could spark a radiation disaster.

IAEA’s Rafael Grossi, who is leading a team of over a dozen experts sent to inspect the besieged plant, said earlier Thursday that they were “aware” of the high risk posed by the “increased military activity in the area” between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

“There has been increased military activity, including this morning, until very recently, a few minutes ago. I have been briefed by the Ukrainian regional military commander here about that and the inherent risks,” Grossi told reporters as he and his team left their hotel in the city of Zaporizhzhia, north of Enerhodar, across the Dnipro River.

“But, weighing the pros and cons, and having come so far, we are not stopping,” he added. “We are moving now.”

A few hours later, the IAEA announced via Twitter that its “Support and Assistance Mission … has just arrived at Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant to conduct indispensable nuclear safety and security and safeguards activities.”

Aug 31, 10:45 AM EDT
IAEA mission arrives in Zaporizhzhia

A long-awaited expert mission from the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog arrived in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s team will travel to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant near the town of Enerhodar on Thursday for the first time.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, who is leading the mission, told reporters during a press briefing in Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday that the aim is for his team to establish a permanent presence at the Russian-occupied plant and that the initial phase would take “days.”

When asked if it was possible to demilitarize the site, Grossi said it was “a matter of political will” and that his mission is to preserve Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant. He admitted it was “not a risk-free mission” and underlined that his team would be operating in Ukrainian sovereign territory but in cooperation with Russian forces.

Asked if he thought Russian troops would really give his team full access, Grossi told reporters the IAEA was on a “technical mission” and that he was confident his team could work “on both sides.”

Aug 30, 4:31 PM EDT
Blinken heralds arrival of first shipload of Ukrainian grain to drought-stricken Horn of Africa

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday celebrated the first shipment of Ukrainian grain to arrive in the Horn of Africa — a region facing dire hunger — since Russia’s invasion began.

“The United States welcomes the arrival in Djibouti of 23,300 metric tons of Ukrainian grain aboard the ship Brave Commander. This grain will be distributed within Ethiopia and Somalia, countries that are dangerously food insecure after four years of drought,” Blinken said in a statement.

This is the first shipload to reach the region since a United Nations-brokered deal that allowed ships to leave Ukraine’s ports again.

According to Ukrainian officials, dozens of ships have been able to safely navigate the Black Sea in recent weeks. But State Department officials have claimed Russian allies, like Syria, have unfairly benefitted from recent exports, proving detrimental to countries the World Food Programme has determined are facing a greater level of need.

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Aug 30, 4:25 PM EDT
EU preemptively donates 5.5 million potassium iodide tablets to protect Ukrainians from potential radiation exposure

The European Commission said it received a request from the Ukrainian government on Friday for potassium iodide tablets as a preventative safety measure to increase the level of protection around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The European Response Coordination Centre quickly mobilized 5.5 million potassium iodide tablets through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism for Ukraine, including 5 million from the rescEU emergency reserves and 500,000 from Austria.

“No nuclear power plant should ever be used as a war theatre,” EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič said. “It is unacceptable that civilian lives are put in danger. All military action around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant must stop immediately.”

-ABC News’ Max Uzol

Aug 30, 2:15 PM EDT
Sens. Klobuchar, Portman meet with Zelenskyy in Ukraine

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov on a visit to the war-torn country.

“The support that the U.S. has given has been strongly bipartisan and we want that to continue,” Klobuchar told ABC News.

Portman noted the psychological advantage of Ukraine now making advances in Kherson, which was the first oblast taken by the Russians six months ago.

It shows that “even when the Russians are dug in, as they are in that region, that Ukrainians can make progress in an offensive,” he said. “And my hope is that we will continue to see that to the point that the Russians will finally come to the bargaining table and stop this illegal, totally unprovoked war on Ukraine.”

-ABC News’ Ibtissem Guenfoud

Aug 30, 11:07 AM EDT
Russian forces shelling corridors leading to nuclear plant, Ukraine says

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Russian forces are shelling corridors the International Atomic Energy Agency mission would take to reach the Zaporizhzhia power plant in southeastern Ukraine.

Podolyak said Russian forces are probably shelling the path to ensure the IAEA mission pass through Russian-controlled territory to reach the plant.

Aug 29, 4:38 PM EDT
Zelenskyy vows to reclaim all territory lost to Russian forces

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday vowed to reclaim all territory lost to Russian forces.

“Ukraine is returning its own. And it will return the Kharkiv region, Luhansk region, Donetsk region, Zaporizhzhia region, Kherson region, Crimea. Definitely our entire water area of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, from Zmiinyi Island to the Kerch Strait,” he said in his daily address. “This will happen. This is ours. And just as our society understands it, I want the occupiers to understand it, too. There will be no place for them on Ukrainian land.”

Zelenskyy said his message to Russian fighters is that if they want to survive, it’s time for them to flee or surrender.

“The occupiers should know, we will oust them to the border — to our border, the line of which has not changed. The invaders know it well,” he said. “If they want to survive, it is time for the Russian military to flee. Go home. If you are afraid to return to your home in Russia, well, let such occupiers surrender, and we will guarantee them compliance with all norms of the Geneva Conventions.”

Aug 29, 3:00 PM EDT
White House calls for controlled shutdown of Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactors, DMZ around plant

White House spokesman John Kirby said Monday that Russia should agree to a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and that a controlled shutdown of the reactors “would be the safest and least risky option in the near-term.”

Kirby also expressed support for the IAEA mission to the power plant.

“We fully support the International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Grossi’s expert mission to the power plant, and we are glad that the team is on its way to ascertain the safety, security and safeguards of the systems there, as well as to evaluate the staff’s working conditions,” he said. “Russia should ensure safe, unfettered access for these independent inspectors.”

-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson

Aug 29, 1:33 PM EDT
Ukrainian forces launch major counteroffensive

Ukrainian forces have launched a major counteroffensive in multiple directions in the southern part of Ukraine, Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Operational Command, said Monday.

Humeniuk said the situation in the south remains “tense,” but controlled.

Ukrainians have been targeting strategic Russian command posts and slowly advancing toward Kherson for weeks. Kherson was first major city in the south to be captured by Russian forces following the invasion.

Russian military issued a statement confirming the offensive and claiming Ukraine sustained heavy losses.

Meanwhile, at least 12 missiles have struck Mykolaiv, which remains under Ukraine’s control in the south. Two people were killed and 24 were wounded, according to the governor of Mykolaiv Oblast.

-ABC News’ Max Uzol and Natalia Shumskaia

Aug 29, 12:47 PM EDT
Ukrainian official accused of treason is shot and killed

Oleksiy Kovalyov, a Ukrainian official who was accused of treason for openly collaborating with Russia, was shot and killed in his home on Sunday in Hola Prystan, Kherson Oblast, according to preliminary information from the Investigative Committee of Russia (SKR). An unidentified woman was also killed, SKR said.

Kovalyov was a Ukrainian lawmaker from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s party who was accused of treason; criminal proceedings were initiated by Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigations in June. He is one of the highest-ranking Ukrainian defectors who fled to Kherson after the invasion and openly collaborated with Russia. He was appointed by the Russians as the deputy head of the Kherson Military-Civil Administration.

Aug 29, 12:19 PM EDT
IAEA says mission to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant ‘on its way’

The head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog announced Monday that the agency’s long-awaited expert mission to the Zaporizhzhia power plant in southeastern Ukraine “is now on its way.”

“The day has come,” Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a post on Twitter.

Grossi, who is leading the IAEA’s “Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhia,” has long sought access to the nuclear power plant, which is the largest in Europe. Russia and Ukraine have traded accusations of shelling at or near the site in recent weeks, fueling fears that the fighting could cause a nuclear disaster.

“We must protect the safety and security of #Ukraine’s and Europe’s biggest nuclear facility,” Grossi tweeted, alongside a photo of himself with 13 other experts. “Proud to lead this mission which will be in #ZNPP later this week.”

Shortly after invading neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian troops stormed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant near the town of Enerhodar, on the banks of the Dnipro River in the country’s southeast. The Ukrainian workers have been left in place to keep the plant operating, as it supplies electricity across the war-torn nation.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the IAEA team will travel to the plant via Ukrainian-controlled territory, state-run TASS reported.

The area around the nuclear plant is controlled by Russian forces. Peskov said once the IAEA team enters Russian-controlled territory, all necessary security will be provided.

Aug 29, 2:21 AM EDT
IAEA says mission to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant ‘on its way’

The head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog announced Monday that the agency’s long-awaited expert mission to the Zaporizhzhia power plant in southeastern Ukraine “is now on its way.”

“The day has come,” Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a post on Twitter.

Grossi, who is leading the IAEA’s “Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhia,” has long sought access to the nuclear power plant, which is the largest in Europe. Russia and Ukraine have traded accusations of shelling at or near the site in recent weeks, fueling fears that the fighting could cause a nuclear disaster.

“We must protect the safety and security of #Ukraine’s and Europe’s biggest nuclear facility,” Grossi tweeted, alongside a photo of himself with 13 other experts. “Proud to lead this mission which will be in #ZNPP later this week.”

Shortly after invading neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian troops stormed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant near the town of Enerhodar, on the banks of the Dnipro River in the country’s southeast. The Ukrainian workers have been left in place to keep the plant operating, as it supplies electricity across the war-torn nation.

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