Russia-Ukraine war: Moscow’s forces attempt advance in Donetsk; Putin vows to expand relations with North Korea – live

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Putin says Russia and North Korea will expand relations

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has said Russia and North Korea will expand bilateral relations, Pyongyang’s state news agency, the KCNA, reported on Monday. Putin told the North Korean ruler, Kim Jong-un, that the two countries would “expand the comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations with common efforts”, the KCNA reported on Monday.

In a letter to Kim for North Korea’s liberation day, Putin said closer ties would be in both countries’ interests, and would help strengthen the security and stability of the Korean peninsula and the north-eastern Asian region, the KCNA said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un pose for a photo during their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, in 2019. Photograph: Reuters

Kim also reportedly sent a letter to Putin saying Russian-North Korean friendship had been forged in the second world war with victory over Japan. Their “strategic and tactical cooperation, support and solidarity” had since reached a new level in their common efforts to frustrate threats and provocations from hostile military forces, Kim said in the letter, as reported by Reuters. KCNA did not identify the hostile forces, but it has typically used that term to refer to the US and its allies.

Kim predicted cooperation between Russia and North Korea would grow based on an agreement signed in 2019 when he met with Putin.

North Korea in July recognised two Russian-occupied “people’s republics” in eastern Ukraine as independent states, and officials raised the prospect of North Korean workers being sent to the areas to help in construction and other labour.

Updated at 00.56 EDT

Key events

Russian proxies are continuing to consolidate administrative control of occupied areas by enforcing payments in rubles, according to a recent report from the institute for the study of war.

The US thinktank cited Ukraine’s main intelligence directorate (GUR) as saying that Moscow-installed authorities in the occupied city of Kherson are pressuring local ambulance workers to sign forms consenting to work for the new occupation government and receive payments in rubles.

Russian occupation authorities are also reportedly continuing to collect personal passport data from recipients of humanitarian aid, civilians who contact the occupying forces’ government, and customers of Russian mobile phone services.

Russia is likely in the advanced planning stages to hold a referendum for the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) to join Russia, according to British intelligence.

On 11 August, Russian media reported that the Moscow-installed administrative head, Denis Pushilin, said that the date of a referendum on the DPR joining Russia would be announced after the DPR’s “complete liberation”.

However, it is unclear if the final decision to go ahead with a vote has yet been taken, the UK Ministry of Defence reports.

Russia attempts advance in eastern Donetsk

Ukrainian forces reported heavy Russian shelling and attempts to advance on several towns in the eastern region of Donetsk that has become a key focus of the near six-month war, but said they had repelled many of the attacks.

Ukraine’s military command said on Sunday that Russian soldiers had continued unsuccessfully to attack Ukrainian positions near Avdiivka, which, since 2014, has become one of the outposts of Ukrainian forces near Donetsk.

Ukraine’s military command said “fierce fighting” had continued in Pisky, an eastern village that Russia had earlier in the day said it had under full control.

A DPR member is seen at Pisky village after shellings in Donetsk, Ukraine, on 12 August. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

“The occupiers are trying to break through the defence of our troops in the directions of Oleksandropol, Krasnohorivka, Avdiivka, Maryinka, and Pisky,” Ukraine’s general staff said in its nightly briefing. “Fierce fighting continues.”

Oleg Zhdanov, a Ukrainian military expert, said the situation was particularly difficult in Avdiivka and nearby towns, such as Pisky.

“We have insufficient artillery power in place and our forces are asking for more support to defend Pisky,” he said in a video posted online. “But the town is basically under Ukrainian control.”

The Guardian could not immediately independently verify the battlefield accounts.

Updated at 01.39 EDT

New Zealand deploys troops to help train Ukraine soldiers

Eva Corlett

Our Wellington-based correspondent, Eva Corlett, brings us this report from New Zealand.

The island nation will send another 120 troops to the UK to help train Ukrainian soldiers to defend the country against Russia’s “unjustified invasion”, in its latest show of solidarity.

At a press conference on Monday, Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister, said the extra defence force personnel would take over from 30 New Zealand soldiers deployed in May. It forms part of a wider measures to support Ukraine, including more than NZD$40m in financial support and the sanctioning of 840 people and entities.

Ardern said the deployment would enable two teams to train Ukrainian personnel in frontline combat including weapon handling, first aid and operational law.

The latest deployment brought the total number of personnel sent to support Ukraine in the war to 224 – comparable to partner nations like Denmark (130) and Sweden (120), Ardern said.

We know that one of the highest priorities for Ukraine right now, is to train its soldiers, and New Zealand is proud to stand in solidarity alongside a number of other countries to answer that call.”

Training will be conducted exclusively on UK soil until late November, and New Zealand troops will not enter Ukraine.

Ardern was pressed on whether she would take up President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s offer to visit Ukraine in person, but said she had no plans to do so.

A total of 42 countries have called on Russia to immediately withdraw military forces from Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, including the US, Japan and the UK, plus the EU. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned of a possible nuclear disaster unless fighting stops.

The statement called the deployment of Russian military personnel and weaponry at the nuclear facility unacceptable in that it “disregards the safety, security, and safeguards principles that all members of the IAEA have committed to respect”.

A Russian serviceman stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

The presence of Russian military forces at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant prevents the operator and the Ukrainian authorities from fulfilling their nuclear and radiation safety obligations in accordance with international conventions and IAEA safety standards, and prevents the IAEA from fulfilling its safeguards mandate.

We urge the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw its military forces and all other unauthorised personnel from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, its immediate surroundings, and all of Ukraine so that the operator and the Ukrainian authorities can resume their sovereign responsibilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders and the legitimate operating staff can conduct their duties without outside interference, threat, or unacceptably harsh working conditions.”

Updated at 01.24 EDT

Russian soldiers at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant to be targeted: Zelenskiy

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has said his forces will target Russian soldiers who shoot at or from Europe’s largest nuclear power station, amid warnings that the Kremlin may falsely claim Kyiv has directly hit the critical site.

Zelenskiy said anyone giving orders for attacks on the site or nearby towns and cities should face trial by an international court, as concern about the safety of the nuclear site remained high.

Ukraine will target Russian soldiers at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, says Zelenskiy – video

“Every Russian soldier who either shoots at the plant, or shoots using the plant as cover, must understand that he becomes a special target for our intelligence agents, for our special services, for our army,” Zelenskiy said in a video address.

He called for new sanctions against Russia that would “necessarily block the Russian nuclear industry”, and he argued that “absolutely all officials of the terrorist state, as well as those who help them in this blackmail operation with the nuclear power plant, must be tried by an international court”.

Russia to work with Taliban where it ‘suits Moscow’s interests’

The Russian ambassador in Kabul has said working with the Taliban is necessary where it is in the interests of Moscow.

The Taliban, no matter how you treat them, is a reality that cannot be avoided. Therefore, we must work with them where it suits our interests and where it is required to solve the tasks facing Russia,” Dmitry Zhirnov said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

Talks were set to begin in Moscow between a delegation of the Afghan ministry of industry and trade sent by the Taliban government and Russian partners, Zhirnov added.

Kabul also planned to discuss the supply of oil, grain, sunflower oil.

Посол России в Кабуле обозначил принципы работы с талибами*, отметив, что нужно работать с ними там, где это отвечает интересам Москвыhttps://t.co/MZMGOhDwoh pic.twitter.com/04CUy4XqMD

— РИА Новости (@rianru) August 15, 2022

Updated at 00.57 EDT

Putin says Russia and North Korea will expand relations

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has said Russia and North Korea will expand bilateral relations, Pyongyang’s state news agency, the KCNA, reported on Monday. Putin told the North Korean ruler, Kim Jong-un, that the two countries would “expand the comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations with common efforts”, the KCNA reported on Monday.

In a letter to Kim for North Korea’s liberation day, Putin said closer ties would be in both countries’ interests, and would help strengthen the security and stability of the Korean peninsula and the north-eastern Asian region, the KCNA said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un pose for a photo during their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, in 2019. Photograph: Reuters

Kim also reportedly sent a letter to Putin saying Russian-North Korean friendship had been forged in the second world war with victory over Japan. Their “strategic and tactical cooperation, support and solidarity” had since reached a new level in their common efforts to frustrate threats and provocations from hostile military forces, Kim said in the letter, as reported by Reuters. KCNA did not identify the hostile forces, but it has typically used that term to refer to the US and its allies.

Kim predicted cooperation between Russia and North Korea would grow based on an agreement signed in 2019 when he met with Putin.

North Korea in July recognised two Russian-occupied “people’s republics” in eastern Ukraine as independent states, and officials raised the prospect of North Korean workers being sent to the areas to help in construction and other labour.

Updated at 00.56 EDT

Summary and welcome

Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

I’m Samantha Lock and I will be bringing you all the latest developments for the next short while. Whether you’ve been following our coverage overnight or you’ve just dropped in, here are the latest lines.

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has said Russia and North Korea will expand bilateral relations, Pyongyang’s state media reported. The Russian ambassador in Kabul also said working with the Taliban was necessary where it is in the interests of Moscow.

Ukrainian forces reported heavy Russian shelling and attempts to advance on several towns in the eastern region of Donetsk, but said they had repelled many of the attacks.

It is 7.30am in Ukraine. Here is everything you might have missed:

  • Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, says Russia and North Korea will expand bilateral relations, Pyongyang’s state media reported on Monday. Putin told North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that the two countries would “expand the comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations with common efforts,” Pyongyang’s state media reported on Monday. In a letter to Kim for North Korea’s liberation day, Putin said that closer ties would be in both countries’ interests, and would help strengthen the security and stability of the Korean peninsula and the north-eastern Asian region, North Korea’s KCNA news agency said.

  • The first UN ship to carry Ukrainian grain for Africa is ready to depart with 23,000 tonnes of wheat. The MV Brave Commander will head to Africa and “Ethiopia will be the last country where the 23,000-tonne cargo of wheat will be delivered”, said Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov. It will be the first shipment of food aid since Kyiv and Moscow agreed a deal brokered by the UN and Turkey in July to unblock Black Sea grain deliveries.

  • The first ship to depart Ukraine when grain exports resumed was approaching the Syrian port of Tartus on Sunday. The ship left Ukraine two weeks ago but cargo on the Razoni was refused by its original Lebanese buyer, two shipping sources told Reuters.

  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said his forces will target Russian soldiers who shoot at or from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. “Every Russian soldier who either shoots at the plant, or shoots using the plant as cover, must understand that he becomes a special target for our intelligence agents, for our special services, for our army,” he said.

  • A total of 42 countries have called on Russia to immediately withdraw military forces from the plant, including the US, Japan and the UK, plus the EU. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has warned of a possible nuclear disaster unless fighting stops.

  • Zelenskiy has warned those with Russian citizenship against being complicit and silent in supporting Putin’s war on Ukraine. “People’s silence approaches the level of complicity. And the rejection of the real fight against evil becomes the assistance to it. Therefore, if you have Russian citizenship and you are silent, it means that you are not fighting, it means that you are supporting it,” he said in his latest national address.

  • Ukraine’s forces continued to strike at strategic bridges supplying Russian troops holding the city of Kherson, the only major site held by the invaders on the west bank of the Dnieper, including the Antonovsky road bridge and the crossing at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant upstream. Ukraine said Russian troops who crossed the Dnieper river during their offensive in the southern region were facing growing difficulties after bridges were damaged.

  • Russia says it has taken control of Udy, a village in the eastern Kharkiv region, according to its latest military briefing. The village has been under heavy shelling by Russian forces.

  • Russia’s priority over the past week has likely been to reorient units to strengthen its campaign in southern Ukraine, British military intelligence said on Sunday. The UK Ministry of Defence said Russia also appeared to be intensifying attacks on the eastern Donbas front, in what is likely to be an attempt to ensure Ukraine is not able to concentrate forces in the south against Kherson.

  • Saudi Arabia’s largely state-owned energy firm recorded one of the largest quarterly profits in history, highlighting the colossal profits made by gas and oil-rich nations during the energy crisis linked to the war in Ukraine. Saudi Aramco profits in the three months to the end of June were up 90% to $48bn (£40bn) to beat the near $26bn it made a year earlier. Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding invested in Russian energy groups Gazprom, Rosneft and Lukoil between 22 February and 22 March, it said on Twitter on Sunday.

  • Countries throughout Europe have called for the EU to limit or block short-term Schengen visas for Russian citizens. Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Finland and the Czech Republic all urged new restrictions. Poland is also considering restrictions for Russian tourist visas.

Ukrainian servicemen hold anti-drone guns as they take part in a training exercise not far from front line in Mykolaiv region, Ukraine on 14 August. Photograph: Reuters

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