Russian energy giant Gazprom on Tuesday announced it would suspend gas supplies to France’s main provider Engie from Thursday. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky met with top UN nuclear inspectors in Kyiv on Tuesday ahead of their visit to inspect the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. Follow our live blog to keep up with the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
9:00pm: Gazprom says to suspend gas supplies to France’s Engie from Thursday
Russian energy giant Gazprom on Tuesday said it would suspend gas supplies to France’s main provider Engie from Thursday after it failed to pay for deliveries made in July.
“Gazprom Export has notified Engie of a total suspension of gas supplies from September 1, 2022, until the full receipt of the financial sums due for the deliveries,” Gazprom said in a statement published on Telegram.
Engie declined to comment on Gazprom’s announcement when contacted by AFP. The French firm said it had already put in place measures to supply its clients even if supplies from Gazprom are disrupted.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told broadcaster TMC that Engie had found “other supply sources”, without providing details, saying customers needed to be reassured.
8:38pm: US expects Russia to prepare sham referenda in Ukraine, says State Department
The US government has assessed that Moscow is preparing to stage sham referendums in areas of Ukraine under its control to manipulate the results to claim that the Ukrainian people want to join Russia, the State Department said on Tuesday.
Polling data show that in a free referendum, Ukrainians would choose not to join Russia, department spokesman Vedant Patel said at a daily news briefing.
6:37pm: EU divided over restricting Russian travel
The Czech Republic, which currently holds the EU presidency, faced stiff resistance from some European Union states Tuesday over moves to restrict travel by Russians following the invasion of Ukraine.
The Czechs want to suspend a 2007 deal that eased visa applications for Russian tourists, while some other members have urged an outright visa ban. But some EU countries including Hungary, Luxembourg or Austria have raised objections.
“There is no place for tourism,” said Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, who is hosting an informal two-day meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Prague.
Tightening visa restrictions would “send a signal to the elite in Moscow and St Petersburg” which is now free to travel, he added.
5:47pm: Zelensky meets IAEA team on Ukraine nuclear plant
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky with Tuesday with a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ahead of its long-awaited visit to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.
“We want the IAEA mission… to reach the plant and do everything possible to avoid the dangers” of a nuclear disaster, Zelensky said of the site which has been targeted by repeated shelling, according to a video released by the presidency.
The plant — Europe’s largest atomic facility — has been occupied by Russian troops since early March.
“This is probably one of the top-priority questions regarding the safety of Ukraine and the world today,” Zelensky said, calling for the “immediate de-militarization of the plant” and its transfer to “full Ukrainian control”.
5:28pm: Ukraine seeks UNESCO cultural protection for Odesa
Ukraine’s government will ask the UN’s cultural watchdog to add the historic port city of Odesa to its World Heritage List of protected sites as Moscow’s forces approach the city, officials said Tuesday.
Russian forces are within several dozen kilometres (miles) of Odesa, which blossomed after empress Catherine the Great decreed in the late 18th century that it would be Russia’s modern gateway to the Black Sea.
“Odesa is in danger right now,” Ukraine’s Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko told AFP after meeting with UNESCO director Audrey Azoulay in Paris. Last month the city was struck by missiles just hours after Russia agreed to allow a shipment of Ukrainian grain exports from the port.
“On July 24 2022, part of the large glass roof and windows of Odesa’s Museum of Fine Arts, inaugurated in 1899, were destroyed,” the agency said in a statement. It said UNESCO experts already on the ground would provide technical assistance so that Odesa could be urgently added to both the World Heritage List and the list of heritage sites in danger.
3:10pm: Former NATO chief of staff skeptical about EU military aid to Ukraine
“In terms of defence, what we are seeing is a very administrative, protracted discussion about the desirability of training for Ukraine. With that said, I’m a bit skeptical about how much the EU militaries [. . .] have to offer to the Ukrainians at this point in time,” Michel Yakovleff, former vice chief of staff at SHAPE NATO, told FRANCE 24. “The Ukrainians are creating a novel army, so the armies of the EU military could help them with collective competencies, basically at battalion level.”
He added that “the British, for example, not members of the EU but reactive, have been training a large number of Ukrainians in basic infantry skills, that’s as individual skills or squad-level skills. What the Ukrainians I think would need now is skills that accompany to battallion level, I’m talking about 150 to 800 people — staff level competencies”.
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1:38pm: France accuses Russia of using gas as ‘weapon of war’
France has accused Moscow of using energy supplies as “a weapon of war” after Russian gas giant Gazprom reduced deliveries to French utility Engie and prepares to halt flows along the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany from Wednesday.
In an interview with France Inter radio, French Energy Transition Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said Russia is “very clearly” using “gas as a weapon of war and we must prepare for the worst case scenario of a complete interruption of supplies”.
1:25pm: EU discusses boosting arms production, Ukraine military training
EU defense ministers are meeting in Prague to debate ways to ramp up weapons production, boost military training for the Ukrainian armed forces and inflict heavier costs on Russia for invading Ukraine.
The aim of the talks is to work out how best to pool military materiel and resources, but also to bulk-purchase ammunition and weapons like air defense systems for Ukraine. FRANCE 24’s EU correspondent Dave Keating reports from Brussels.
11:20am: ‘Shelling ongoing’ in Zaporizhzhia region
Reporting from Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, FRANCE 24’s James André said there were three detonations early Tuesday as shells fell. “There were no [people] killed, no injured and no major damage,” he said.
Sixteen shells fell overnight across the region, André said. “There is still shelling ongoing.”
9:50am: Russian shelling kills four in Kharkiv: governor
At least four people were killed and four have been wounded in Russian shelling of Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, said the regional governor.
“As a result of the shelling of the central part of Kharkiv, at least 4 people died and 4 more were injured,” Oleh Synehubov, governor of the Kharkiv region in the northeast of Ukraine, wrote on Telegram.
8:43am: EU foreign policy chief eyes green light for Ukraine training mission
European Union defense ministers at a meeting in Prague are expected to approve the establishment of an EU training mission for Ukrainian forces, said Josep Borrell, the bloc’s top diplomat.
“The situation on the ground continues to be very bad. Ukraine needs our support, and we will continue providing support,” Borrell told reporters as he arrived for the talks in Prague.
“A general, overall political agreement (on the training mission) is what I think we have to get today … I hope we will have a political green light for this mission,” he added, without giving details of the mission.
8:37am: French firm Engie says Gazprom further cuts gas deliveries
Russia’s Gazprom has informed French energy utility company Engie of a reduction in gas deliveries due to a disagreement between the parties on the application of some contracts.
“As previously announced, Engie had already secured the volumes necessary to meet its commitments towards its customers and its own requirements, and put in place several measures to significantly reduce any direct financial and physical impacts that could result from an interruption to gas supplies by Gazprom ,” the French firm said in a statement.
8:02am: ‘Highly likely’ that Russia has augmented its forces around Kherson: UK
Russia has made “significant efforts” to reinforce its troops on the western bank of the Dnipro river around Kherson since early August, according to UK military intelligence.
In its daily briefing, the British defense ministry said it was “highly likely” that Russia had augmented its southern military district with components of its eastern military district’s 35th combined arms army.
“There is a realistic possibility that Russia has moved to rationalize the several, semi-independent, operational commands which contributed to its poor performance early in the invasion,” noted the briefing.
“If Ukraine succeeds in undertaking sustained offensive operations, the cohesion of this untested structure will likely be a key factor in the sustainability of Russian defenses in the south,” it added.
7:29am: Russia accuses Ukraine of fresh shelling of nuclear plant
Russian-installed authorities in the Ukrainian city of Enerhodar have accused Ukrainian troops of once again shelling the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Russia’s TASS news agency said.
The city authorities said two shells exploded near a spent fuel storage building at the plant, the agency added.
The latest allegations come as a team of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspectors are set to visit the Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe’s largest.
Ukraine and Russia have repeatedly accused each other of attacking the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant over the past six months.
August 29, 9:53pm: Ukrainians launch rocket barrage at Nova Kakhovka: RIA reports
Ukrainian forces launched a barrage of rockets at the Russian-occupied town of Nova Kakhovka on Monday, leaving it without water or power, officials at the Russian-appointed local authority told RIA news agency.
The town lies just to the east of the city of Kherson, the target of a major counteroffensive that Ukraine launched earlier in the day.
9:09pm: Top pro-Russian official shot dead in Ukraine’s Kherson
A former deputy who switched allegiance from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the occupying Russian forces in the southern region of Kherson has been shot dead, Russian investigators said Monday.
Alexei Kovalev, “the deputy head of the military and civil administration in the Kherson region was killed by bullets”, the investigators said on Telegram.
The attack took place in his home on Sunday, they said, adding a young woman who lived with him was also a victim.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)