A week before the Russian invasion of Ukraine reaches the six-month mark, the war continues to rage on.
From claims about how Russia is managing the “information” war to unexpected events on the frontline, here are the major developments from the last week.
1. Stand-off at the Ukrainian power plant
UN chief Antonio Guterres visited a city in western Ukraine, Lviv on Thursday. This was his first meeting with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy since April, and he discussed his fears about the fighting near the Ukrainian nuclear power plant Zaporizhzhia.
The plant is under Russian control but still has Ukrainian technicians operating it, and Kyiv wants to take it back.
Guterres said he was “gravely concerned” about the ongoing fighting in the area, claiming: “Any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide.”
Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also at the meeting, and expressed his fears on Thursday that there would be “another Chernobyl” by the nuclear power plant if fighting continued.
Ukraine and Russia have been trading blame over the attacks around the nuclear plant in recent weeks, with Zelenskyy claiming that Moscow was responsible for “deliberate” heavy artillery fire over the plant.
Moscow has rejected calls to demilitarize the area (calling it “unacceptable”) despite pleas from Guterres, Erdogan and Zelenskyy.
Ukrainian staff still at the plant also claim the area has become “the target of continuous military attacks”. Kyiv believes Russia wants to disconnect the nuclear complex’s power from the grid too, and could be planning a “provocation” by the plant.
Zelenskyy has warned that “the world is on a verge of nuclear disaster”, in case the plant is hit during battle, and he lashed out at “Russia’s irresponsible actions and nuclear blackmailing”.
Erdogan was also reportedly considering setting up a negotiation between Zelenskyy and Russian president Vladimir Putin, but the Ukrainian president said Moscow must withdraw troops first.
A Russian diplomat sparked hopes on Friday that Putin could allow nuclear inspectors to check on the plant next month, to secure its safety.
Zelenskyy with Guterres
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
2. The 25th cargo ship left Ukraine
The world’s bread basket, as Ukraine is often dubbed, was able to export its grain supply to other countries once again back in July.
It came after a surprise deal was struck between Ukraine and Russia, following months of Moscow blockading Ukrainian ports.
Although there were initial fears that the agreement would be short-lived and the food crisis in various parts of the world would continue, the 25th cargo ship left Ukraine on Thursday.
Guterres praised the agreement during his visit to Ukraine this week, and called for more compromise between Ukraine and Russia.
“I appeal for this to continue and for them to overcome all obstacles in a spirit of compromise and permanently settle all difficulties.”
3. Putin ‘losing’ information was
On Thursday, Jeremy Fleming, the head of the UK’s GCHQ’s intelligence service wrote in The Economist: “So far, president Putin has comprehensively lost the information war in Ukraine and in the West.
“Although that’s cause for celebration, we should not underestimate how Russian disinformation is playing out elsewhere in the world.”
He claimed that Russia’s online plans have fallen short. Despite Moscow’s attempts to destroy and deface Ukrainian government systems, GCHQ said it has been able to intercept and warn Ukraine of such attacks ahead of time.
4. Kharkiv explosion
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, continues to be the subjected to heavy artillery, months after Russia tried – and failed – to capture it.
Seventeen people were killed and 42 injured in two separate Russian attacks this week, one on Wednesday and one on Thursday.
Zelenskyy said the attack on Wednesday night was a “devious and cynical strike on civilians with no justification” and was the latest evidence Russia was targeting civilians to destroy Ukraine.
The Ukrainian president promised: “We cannot forgive. We will avenge it.”
The city’s mayor Ihor Terekhov said: “Russian troops shell Kharkiv with such hatred, with such aggressiveness, such cynical destruction of the city occurs because Kharkiv does not give up, Kharkiv is a Ukrainian city that continues to live.”
But, Russia’s “most expensive plane” was reportedly shot down over Kharkiv this week by the Ukrainian forces.
In #Kharkiv province, #Ukraine’s military shot down the recent (2018 year of manufacturing) & most expensive Russian multi-role jet Su-30CM which costs $50 mln. The pilot ejected & disappeared. (Photos shared by Ukr. journo Andrei Tsaplienko via Unian news website) pic.twitter.com/bKbGWUgs0j
— Viktor Kovalenko (@MrKovalenko) August 19, 2022
5. Explosions in Crimea
Videos circulated on social media of large explosions in the Russian occupied Crimea peninsula on Thursday.
The area was taken over by Russian forces back in 2014, so it was widely believed that the fires and explosions stemmed from Ukrainian fire.
The Ukrainian defense ministry did not confirm any involvement, but joked about how many explosions in the occupied country were caused by “careless smokers”.
At least four explosions were detected near the airbase of Belbek, near Crimea’s largest city of Svastopol.
Mikhail Razvozhayev, Russian installed governor of Sevastopol, said there were not injuries or damage from the blasts.
This was just one of several attacks this week – further explosions were detected by a major airbase and munitions depot.
Zelenskyy also hinted that more attacks could be on the way, saying he hoped Russians would realize Crimea is “not a place for them”.
More things blowing up at military sites in Crimea, where the Russian defense ministry admits “a fire took place” and “munitions detonated” near the village of Maiske – without explaining how.
Ukraine has already shown it can strike deep behind enemy lines… pic.twitter.com/NwaiDYRBJB
— max seddon (@maxseddon) August 16, 2022