Russian forces continued their war against Ukraine on Thursday, bombing a nuclear power plant even as the two sides negotiated safe corridors to evacuate citizens safely.
In a video address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Ukrainians to maintain their resistance as the war raged for an eighth day.
Here is an overview of the key things to know about the conflict:
THE NUCLEAR PLANT
Russian troops bombed the Enerhodar nuclear power plant, said the plant’s spokesman, Andriy Tuz.
“We demand that they stop the firing of heavy weapons,” Tuz said in a video posted on Telegram. “There is a real threat of nuclear danger at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.”
An official from Zelenskyy’s office said radiation levels were normal. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly.
Zelenskyy said he informed the leaders of the United States, Britain, the EU and the International Atomic Energy Agency of the possibility of a nuclear disaster. The IAEA said the fire did not affect critical equipment
“If there is an explosion, it’s the end for everyone. The end for Europe. Evacuation from Europe,” Zelenskyy said in an emotional speech in the middle of the night.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will call for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council and he and Zelenskyy agree that Russia must stop attacking and allow emergency services unimpeded access to the plant, Johnson’s office said.
The southern town of Enerhodar is a major energy hub on the Dnieper. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant supplies around 25% of Ukraine’s electricity production and is the largest in Europe.
HOW DOES THE NEGOTIATION TAKE PLACE?
A member of the Ukrainian delegation sent to speak with the Russians said the two sides had agreed to establish corridors allowing civilians to safely leave combat zones. The corridors will include ceasefires along the way, said Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy.
Humanitarian supplies could be delivered through the corridors, which were the Ukrainians’ main demand ahead of their second round of talks on Thursday in Belarus, in the Brest region that borders Poland.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also announced the safe zones. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters before the meeting that Russia would continue its military action until it achieved its goals, primarily the “demilitarization of Ukraine”, but added that it would be up to the Ukrainians to choose the government they should have.
Ukraine has also requested an armistice in the negotiations, Podolyak said in a tweet with a photo of the negotiating table.
The third round of talks is scheduled for early next week, he said.
Leonid Slutsky, a senior Russian lawmaker who took part in the negotiations, said the next round could lead to agreements, some of which would need to be ratified by the Russian and Ukrainian parliaments.
Meanwhile, Zelenskyy challenged Putin to sit down with him for interviews.
“All words are more important than blows,” Zelenskyy said.
Heavy fighting continues on the outskirts of a strategic port city on the Sea of Azov, Mariupol. The city’s regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said Thursday evening that electricity, water, heating and food deliveries in the city had been cut off. He described the Russian siege as an “exemplary punishment” for the city.
The Russian military says it controls Kherson, and local Ukrainian officials have confirmed that Russian forces have taken over the seat of local government in the Black Sea port of 280,000 people – the first major city to fall since the start of the war.
Further shelling was reported in the northern city of Chernihiv, where officials said at least 33 civilians were killed and 18 injured in a Russian shelling of a residential area. Rescue teams were forced to suspend their search for the wreckage due to renewed shelling.
According to the city’s mayor, the nightly explosions heard by Associated Press reporters in the capital, Kyiv, were missiles shot down by Ukrainian air defense systems. The 40-mile (64 kilometer) Russian vehicle convoy remains stuck outside Kiev, which has been hit by deadly shelling.
Russian forces also shelled the country’s second largest city, Kharkiv.
An aide to Zelensky called on his compatriots to use guerrilla tactics against Russian forces, cutting down trees and destroying rear columns of Russian troops.
HOW MANY REFUGEES?
UN announces that one million people have fled Ukraine since the attack began. This represents more than 2% of Ukraine’s population, although some of those fleeing Ukraine are citizens of other countries.
The UN refugee agency has predicted that up to 4 million people could eventually leave Ukraine, a country of 44 million people.
The European Commission has said it will grant temporary residence permits to refugees fleeing violence and allow them to study and work in the 27-nation bloc. This decision would require the approval of Member States, who have expressed their support.
THE NUMBER OF WAR DEAD
Russia has acknowledged that nearly 500 Russian soldiers have been killed so far and around 1,600 have been injured. Ukraine has not released similar figures for its armed forces.
The UN human rights office says at least 227 civilians have been killed and 525 injured in Ukraine since the invasion began on February 24. Ukraine’s state emergency service said more than 2,000 civilians died, although it is impossible to verify this claim.
RUSSIAN GENERAL KILLED
Major General Andrei Sukhovetsky, commanding general of Russia’s 7th Airborne Division, was killed in fighting in Ukraine earlier this week.
His death was confirmed by a local organization of officers from the Krasnodar region in southern Russia. The circumstances of his death were not immediately clear.
Sukhovetsky, who was 47, took part in the Russian military campaign in Syria. A funeral ceremony will take place in Novorossiysk.
CAN FINLAND AND SWEDEN JOIN NATO?
Support for NATO membership has reached record levels in the Nordic neutrals, Finland and Sweden.
A poll commissioned by Finnish TV channel YLE this week showed for the first time that more than 50% of Finns support joining the Western military alliance. In neighboring Sweden, a similar poll showed that supporters of NATO membership outnumber opponents.
Moscow has warned it will be forced to take retaliatory action if Finland and Sweden join the alliance.
SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIA
White House announces new sanctions Thursday was aimed at people in Putin’s inner circle. Earlier this week, the United States announced sanctions against Russia and Belarus, including export controls targeting the Russian oil industry. The United States has joined Europe and Canada in closing its airspace to Russian airlines.
A growing number of the world’s best-known brands — from Apple to Mercedes-Benz and BP — must withdraw from Russia. The German Volkswagen group has decided to stop its commercial activities in Russia, including that of the subsidiary Skoda Auto, which stops the production of cars in its two Russian factories and all exports to Russia.
Similarly, Swedish furniture retailer Ikea said it was closing its operations in Russia, suspending all exports and imports to and from Russia and Belarus, a move that will “directly impact 15,000 IKEA colleagues”.
Sanctions threaten ultra-wealthy Russians who own properties across Europe and send their children to elite European private schools. Some have begun, albeit timidly, to speak out.
French authorities said they seized a yacht linked to Igor Sechin, an ally of Putin who heads Russian oil giant Rosneft, as part of EU sanctions against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Britain has imposed sanctions on two other Russians it says are linked to the Kremlin, cutting them off from properties and interests in the UK. The government claims that Alisher Usmanov and Igor Shuvalov together are worth $19 billion.
The US State Department also said on Thursday it was imposing visa bans on 19 Russian oligarchs and dozens of their family members and associates. The Justice Ministry previously announced a new initiative to prosecute Russian oligarchs.
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich confirmed on Wednesday that he was trying to sell Premier League football club Chelsea, with a price tag of at least $2.5 billion. He said the net proceeds from the sale will be donated to benefit war victims.
WHAT ABOUT THE RUSSIAN PEOPLE?
Ordinary Russians are also feeling the impact of the sanctions, from payment systems that don’t work and problems with withdrawing money to not being able to buy certain items.
Russian and Belarusian athletes are now banned from the Paralympic Games for their country’s role in the war in Ukraine at the opening of the Games on Friday.
Follow AP coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine