A nuclear plant located in the middle of intense fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops was temporarily disconnected from the power grid Thursday when fires damaged the sole transmission line, Ukraine officials said.
It was the first time the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe's largest, has ever been disconnected, leading to a large blackout in the region and increased concerns about a catastrophe that could be felt across much of Europe.
The damage forced the two reactors still in use to go offline, but one was quickly restored and electricity returned to the area, said Yevgeny Balitsky, the regional governor installed by Russia.
The U.N. and international atomic energy officials have been trying for weeks to gain access to the plant, warning that continued fighting in the vicinity could trigger a disastrous accident. Russia took control of the facility and surrounding region early in the war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of storing weapons at the plant and launching attacks from around it. Zelenskyy says Russia’s military actions there amount to “nuclear blackmail.” Moscow, meanwhile, accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the facility.
'YOU FIGHT ENDLESSLY': Ukrainians worldwide grapple with months of war
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►The Moscow Regional Court upheld a guilty verdict and 14-year prison sentence handed down in June for American Marc Fogel, a history teacher at an international school when he was arrested at a Moscow airport for possession of cannabis he used for spinal pain.
►Russian planes flew about 200 sorties over Ukraine on Wednesday, Ukraine's Independence Day, the Ukraine air force said. Air raid sirens blared across most of the country.
►Yevgeny Roizman, the former mayor of Yekaterinburg – Russia's fourth-largest city – was released Thursday after being arrested the previous day. But he still faces charges for criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and he's barred from attending public events and communicating with anyone other than his lawyers and close family.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to add 137,000 service members to his military, an increase of almost 14%. The new total will be 1,150,628.
Pentagon officials have estimated that about 80,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded since the invasion began. The Kremlin has said that only volunteer contract soldiers take part in what it calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine, rejecting claims that it was pondering a broad mobilization.
All Russian men aged 18-27 must serve one year in the military, but a large number avoid the draft for health reasons or deferments granted to university students. The share of men who avoid the draft is particularly large in Moscow and other major cities.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has declared a goal of forming a 1-million-strong military.
President Joe Biden congratulated his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the country's Independence Day during a phone call Thursday and reaffirmed the U.S. government's support a day after committing nearly $3 billion more in security assistance, according to a White House readout of their conversation.
The new aid package, aimed at bolstering Ukraine's long-term defense, will include surface-to-air missile systems, artillery ammunition and drones. Since January, the Biden administration has spent $13.5 billion on military aid to Ukraine.
There are no plans for Biden to visit Kyiv, the White House has said.
Half a year after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, USA TODAY reporters reconnected with Ukrainians across the globe who first shared their experiences during the early stages of the war.
While some are struggling under Russian occupation or living amid fierce combat and shelling, others in the U.S. and Europe are adapting to new countries and a new normal. Several said they worry public attention to the war and its human toll is waning. Here are their stories.
Two children were among the dead in the rocket attack that killed 25 people Wednesday in a train station and residential zone in Chaplyne, city official Kirill Timoshenko said. He said 31 people were injured and that search and rescue operations have been completed. The attack struck Chaplyne, 400 miles east of Kyiv, on Ukraine's Independence Day. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had warned Ukrainians for days that Moscow might attempt “something particularly cruel” this week.
"An 11-year-old boy died under the rubble of a house. Another 6-year-old child died during a fire in a car near the railway station," he said.
Russia said it targeted a military train and claimed to have killed more than 200 Ukrainian reservists.
A car bombing last week outside Moscow that killed a pro-Putin commentator had put Ukraine on high alert for reprisals, even though Ukraine authorities denied involvement in the attack.
Zelenskyy said Ukraine will "definitely" make Russia take responsibility for their war crimes and once again pledged to drive Russian troops out of his country. "Not a single stain of this evil will remain in our free Ukraine," he said.
Contributing: The Associated Press