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Russian strike at Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant but reactors not damaged – as it happened


Key events

Summary

We are now closing this live blog.

Here is a summary of today’s events:

  • Ukrainian forensic experts have so far exhumed 146 bodies, mostly civilians at the mass burial site in eastern Ukraine, the regional governor said on Monday. Oleh Synehubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, said the exhumed bodies included two children.

  • The Kremlin has rejected allegations that Russian forces had committed war crimes in Ukraine’s Kharkiv province as a “lie”.

  • Ukraine has recaptured a village close to the eastern city of Lysychansk, in a small but symbolic victory that means Russia no longer has full control of the Luhansk region – one of Vladimir Putin’s key war aims.

  • Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska said it was a “great honour” to be present at the Queen’s state funeral, “on behalf of all Ukrainians”.

  • Denis Pushilin, head of the Russia-backed separatist Donetsk region of Ukraine, has called on his fellow separatist leader of Luhansk province to combine efforts aimed at preparing a referendum on joining Russia.

  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may cause long-term grain prices to rise by 7% and expanded production elsewhere would lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions, a study finds.

  • Russia’s foreign ministry has summoned the Canadian ambassador and issued a protest over attacks on the Russian embassy in Ottawa, it said.

  • The Kremlin has said beefing up ties with Beijing is a top policy goal, a Russian security official said during a visit to China.

  • Germany’s Die Linke could split into two parties over the Ukraine war, as the ailing leftwing outfit’s indecisive stance over economic sanctions against Russia triggered a series of high-profile resignations.

  • German chancellor Olaf Scholz will visit Saudi Arabia and meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as part of a Gulf trip, his spokesman said, as Germany rushes to secure energy supplies.

  • The German central bank said it was increasingly likely that Europe’s largest economy would shrink for a “prolonged” period as Russia throttled energy supplies to the continent.

  • Germany’s defence minister Christine Lambrecht said her country will provide Ukraine with four additional self-propelled howitzers and ammunition.

  • Thirteen people were killed in artillery shelling on Monday in the east Ukrainian separatist-held city of Donetsk, the city’s Russian-backed mayor said.

  • Russian troops struck the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant in Ukraine’s southern Mykolaiv region early on Monday but its reactors have not been damaged and are working normally, Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom said.

  • The Kremlin has rejected allegations that Russian forces had committed war crimes in Ukraine’s Kharkiv province as a “lie”.

  • Russia is urging Uefa to ban the manager of Ukraine men’s national team after he expressed a wish to fight Vladimir Putin’s invading forces, the Guardian has revealed.

  • The US president, Joe Biden, has warned Vladimir Putin that the use of nuclear or other non-conventional weapons against Ukraine would prompt a “consequential” response from the US.

  • Russia is highly likely to have lost at least four combat jets in Ukraine within the last 10 days, taking its attrition to around 55 since the beginning of its invasion, the UK’s ministry of defence said.

  • Russia was one of a small group of countries excluded from the Queen’s state funeral in London today that included Belarus, Myanmar, Syria, Venezuela and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

  • The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) says Russia’s president Vladimir Putin is increasingly relying on irregular volunteer and proxy forces rather than conventional units,” in its latest update on the Russian campaign.

  • On Sunday, Ukrainian civilians were fleeing heavy fighting as Russia’s armed forces tried to hold off a further dramatic advance by Ukrainian troops in the north-east of the country.

  • Ukrainian military said on Sunday its forces repelled attacks by Russian troops in the areas of the Kharkiv region in the east and Kherson in south where Ukraine launched counteroffensives this month, as well as in parts of Donetsk in the south-east, Reuters reports.

  • Five civilians were killed in Russian attacks in the eastern Donetsk region, while in Nikopol, further west, several dozen residential buildings, gas pipelines and power lines were hit, regional governors said on Sunday.

  • The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, vowed there would be no let-up in fighting to regain territory lost to Russia.

  • Ukrainian forces are refusing to discard worn-out US-provided arms, with many reverse-engineering spare parts to continue the counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion.

  • The Ukrainian military said Russia has deployed Iranian attack drones, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

  • The Russian singer Alla Pugacheva has spoken out against the war in Ukraine and the “death of our boys for illusory goals”.

  • The Georgian president, Salome Zourabichvili, has criticised Russia after the discovery of mass graves in Izium last week.

  • The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said the mass graves discovered in Izium were evidence of Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine.

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Denis Pushilin, head of the Russia-backed separatist Donetsk region of Ukraine, has called on his fellow separatist leader of Luhansk province to combine efforts aimed at preparing a referendum on joining Russia.
Reuters reports that in a video posted on social media, he told Luhansk People’s Republic leader Leonid Pasechnik in a phone call that “our actions should be synchronised”.

German defence minister Christine Lambrecht, pictured last week.
German defence minister Christine Lambrecht, pictured last week. Photograph: Clemens Bilan/EPA

Germany’s defence minister Christine Lambrecht said her country will provide Ukraine with four additional self-propelled howitzers and ammunition.

Lambrecht said the 10 howitzers already supplied by Germany and eight from the Netherlands “have proven themselves in battle.”

She said:

Ukraine is full of praise of the system and has expressed a desire for more howitzers.

In order to further support Ukraine in its brave fight against the brutal Russian attack, Germany will grant this request.”

Lambrecht said the Panzerhaubitze 2000 model howitzers recently underwent refurbishment.

Ukraine now has full control of the Luhansk region after recapturing village

Luke Harding

Luke Harding

Ukraine has recaptured a village close to the eastern city of Lysychansk, in a small but symbolic victory that means Russia no longer has full control of the Luhansk region, one of Vladimir Putin’s key war aims.

Luhansk’s governor Serhiy Haidai said Ukraine’s armed forces were in “complete control” of Bilohorivka. “It’s a suburb of Lysychansk. Soon we will drive these scumbags out of there with a broom,” he said, adding: “Step by step, centimetre by centimetre, we will liberate our entire land from the invaders.”

Video footage shared on Telegram showed Ukrainian soldiers patrolling on foot down a ruined street. Russian forces have occupied all of Luhansk province for the past two-and-a-half months. After a long and grinding battle Ukraine’s general staff decided to retreat in July from the cities of Sievierdonetsk and Lysychansk.

Over the past 12 days Ukrainian regiments in the north-east have mounted a stunning counteroffensive, liberating more than 300 settlements across the Kharkiv region, and forcing Russian units to flee in disarray. The reclaimed area is half the size of Wales, and goes right up to the Russian border.

There were unconfirmed reports on Monday of Ukrainian troops advancing into Lysychansk. There now seems little prospect that the Kremlin will be able to take control of the whole of the Donbas, which includes Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. In March, Putin said this was the goal of his “special military operation” in Ukraine, after his failed attempt to seize the capital Kyiv.

Over the weekend Russian troops shelled the city of Kupiansk from new, hastily constructed defensive positions just east of the Oskil River. Hundreds of people were evacuated. Ukraine said it took control of all of the city on Friday, crossing in amphibious vehicles over a pontoon bridge to the river’s left bank.

Ukrainian officials say 200 Russian soldiers died in a strike on Sunday when a missile hit a former bus shelter where they were based, in the frontline city of Svatove.

According to the Institute for the Study of War, Russia has failed to send reinforcements. It is now under pressure and vulnerable to a further counter-offensive, the thinktank said.

Governor Haidai said the leaders of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic were beginning to panic. There have been numerous reports of snatch squads detaining men on the street and drafting them into the army. Mobile communications and the internet have been jammed, to prevent people learning about Moscow’s military setbacks, he claimed.

On Monday, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, accused the Kremlin of reckless behaviour after a shell landed 300 metres from a nuclear power plant in the southern Mykolaiv region. The missile damaged buildings and blew out windows. Three power lines were temporarily knocked out at the Pivdennoukrainsk facility.

This video published by the President’s Office shows the latest shelling near the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant in Mykolaiv Oblast.

The missile landed just 300 meters away from the plant, damaging its premises and three power lines. pic.twitter.com/qi1Wm3Ht5C

— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) September 19, 2022

You can read the full report here.

More on the mass grave in Izium.

Reuters reports that Ukrainian forensic experts have so far exhumed 146 bodies, mostly civilians at the mass burial site in eastern Ukraine, the regional governor said on Monday.

Oleh Synehubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, said the exhumed bodies included two children.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said around 450 bodies are believed to have been buried at the site in a forest on the outskirts of Izium, which was recently recaptured by Ukrainian forces during a counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region.

Bethan McKernan

Bethan McKernan

A hearing in Moscow to decide on the future of the Jewish Agency’s activities in Russia has been postponed for four weeks after lawyers for the charity, which facilitates immigration of Jewish people to Israel, asked for time to submit amendments to the agency’s scope of operations.

Russia’s justice ministry first recommended in June that the Jewish Agency – a quasi-governmental body – be shut down for violating Russian privacy laws. A hearing in August was delayed by the Basmanny city court to 19 September, and delayed again today for another four weeks.

Israel has been caught in a delicate balancing act since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February: the country relies on Moscow to facilitate its military operations next-door in Syria, but has also faced pressure from its western allies to impose sanctions and forceful diplomatic action.

Israel’s caretaker prime minister, Yair Lapid, has warned that closing the Jewish Agency’s offices would be a severe blow to bilateral relations.

About 24,000 Russians have arrived in Israel since the start of the war, and another 35,000 are waiting for paperwork to be processed, according to the Jewish Agency.

Around 165,000 people with Jewish heritage were estimated to live in Russia at the beginning of 2022.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may cause long-term grain prices to rise by 7% and how expanded production elsewhere would lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions.

Russia and Ukraine together export about 28% of the world’s wheat supply.

Researchers in the United States and Uruguay modelled the likely impact of the conflict on wheat and maize prices over the coming 12 months, looking at a variety of scenarios for the study published in Nature Food.

One model found that if Russian grain exports were halved and Ukrainian exports significantly reduced during that time, maize would be 4.6% more expensive and wheat 7.2% more expensive – even assuming that other exporters could step in and plug the gap.

The researchers said the price increase would persist as long as exports remained restricted, Agence France-Press reports.

To close the supply shortfall, the study found that other major producers would need to expand their grain-growing areas significantly.

Were all grain exports from Ukraine to cease, Australia would need to expand its wheat area by 1%, China by 1.5%, the European Union by 1.9% and India by 1.2%, according to the model.

This land-use change would lead to just over a billion tonnes of additional carbon dioxide equivalent added to the atmosphere, the study said.

Lead author Jerome Dumortier, a researcher at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Indianapolis in the US, said:

The cropland expansion resulting from the war in Ukraine is occurring at the expense of more carbon emissions,” said United Nations chief Antonio Guterres warned in July that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had combined with the lingering trade impacts of Covid-19 to create an “unprecedented global hunger crisis”.

Figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization show food prices are currently more than 10% higher than they were a year ago.

Although Moscow and Kyiv reached an agreement in July to resume some grain exports, there are fears that the conflict could lead to years of elevated food prices.

Dumortier said that it was not currently clear whether other grain producers were able to meet global demand, meaning prices could rise even further than predicted in the models.

“There are drought conditions in South America, Europe, and China, and export restrictions from various countries,” he told AFP.

“Given those hindrances to full adjustment, commodity prices may be higher than what is estimated in the paper.”

Ukraine’s first lady said it was a “great honour” to be present at the Queen’s state funeral, “on behalf of all Ukrainians”.

Olena Zelenska, president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s wife, was among hundreds of heads of state and dignitaries from around the world gathered in Westminster Abbey for the service on Monday.

She represented her nation at the ceremony on behalf of her husband, as he continues to organise the fightback against Russian invaders, PA News reports.

Zelenska said the Queen’s attention to Ukraine “was an important signal of support”.

She wrote on Twitter:

She wished us better times and shared our desire for freedom. We will always remember it with deep gratitude.”

Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko, (left) and First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska, second right and Denys Shmyhal visited the Queen’s lying-in-state at Westminster Hall on Sunday.
Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko, (left) and First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska, second right and Denys Shmyhal visited the Queen’s lying-in-state at Westminster Hall on Sunday. Photograph: Joe Giddens/AP

On Sunday, Zelenska visited Westminster Hall for the Queen’s lying in state to pay her respects to the Queen.

She was pictured bowing her head as she stood alongside Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal and Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko.

Earlier she met the Princess of Wales at Buckingham Palace.

Zelenska travelled to the UK after her husband last week signed a book of condolence for the Queen.

The Princess of Wales (left) speaks with the first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, at Buckingham Palace in London on Sunday.
The Princess of Wales (left) speaks with the first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, at Buckingham Palace in London on Sunday. Photograph: Reuters

The UK’s ambassador in Kyiv, Melinda Simmons, said she was “deeply honoured” by the president’s gesture.

She added:

Grateful to the president for taking the time to do this given all else that is happening in (Ukraine) at this time.”

Ukrainian troops have been taking part in a major counter-offensive against Russia’s forces.

Zelenskiy appeared to be a fan of the Queen, having been given a biography of the Queen by Boris Johnson during the then-prime minister’s visit to Kyiv in June.

Russia’s foreign ministry has summoned the Canadian ambassador and issued a protest over attacks on the Russian embassy in Ottawa, it said on Monday.

Reuters reports that the ministry said an unknown person threw a Molotov cocktail on to the grounds of the Russian embassy in Ottawa.

The ministry also said “aggressive” demonstrators had blocked an entrance to the consular section of the embassy.

Here is a summary of events so far:

  • The Kremlin has said beefing up ties with Beijing is a top policy goal, a Russian security official said on Monday during a visit to China.

  • Germany’s Die Linke could split into two parties over the Ukraine war, as the ailing leftwing outfit’s indecisive stance over economic sanctions against Russia triggered a series of high-profile resignations this week.

  • German chancellor Olaf Scholz will visit Saudi Arabia and meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as part of a Gulf trip, his spokesman said on Monday, as Germany rushes to secure energy supplies.

  • The German central bank said on Monday it was increasingly likely that Europe’s largest economy would shrink for a “prolonged” period as Russia throttled energy supplies to the continent.

  • Thirteen people were killed in artillery shelling on Monday in the east Ukrainian separatist-held city of Donetsk, the city’s Russian-backed mayor said.

  • Russian troops struck the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant in Ukraine’s southern Mykolaiv region early on Monday but its reactors have not been damaged and are working normally, Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom said.

  • The Kremlin has rejected allegations that Russian forces had committed war crimes in Ukraine’s Kharkiv province as a “lie”.

  • Russia is urging Uefa to ban the manager of Ukraine men’s national team after he expressed a wish to fight Vladimir Putin’s invading forces, the Guardian has revealed.

  • The US president, Joe Biden, has warned Vladimir Putin that the use of nuclear or other non-conventional weapons against Ukraine would prompt a “consequential” response from the US.

  • Russia is highly likely to have lost at least four combat jets in Ukraine within the last 10 days, taking its attrition to about 55 since the beginning of its invasion, the British military said on Monday.

  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has added to the small group of countries excluded from the Queen’s funeral in London today including Belarus, Myanmar, Syria, Venezuela and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

  • The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) says Russia’s president Vladimir Putin is “increasingly relying on irregular volunteer and proxy forces rather than conventional units,” in its latest update on the Russian campaign.

  • The Ukrainian military said on Sunday that its forces repelled attacks by Russian troops in the Kharkiv region in the east and Kherson in the south, where Ukraine launched counteroffensives this month, as well as in parts of Donetsk in the south-east.

  • On Sunday, Ukrainian civilians were fleeing heavy fighting as Russia’s armed forces tried to hold off a further dramatic advance by Ukrainian troops in the north-east of the country.

  • Ukrainian military said on Sunday that its forces repelled attacks by Russian troops in the areas of the Kharkiv region in the east and Kherson in south where Ukraine launched counteroffensives this month, as well as in parts of Donetsk in the south-east, Reuters reports.

  • Five civilians were killed in Russian attacks in the eastern Donetsk region over the past day while in Nikopol, further west, several dozen residential buildings, gas pipelines and power lines were hit, regional governors said on Sunday.

  • The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, vowed there would be no let-up in fighting to regain territory lost to Russia.

  • In an intelligence update, Britain’s defence ministry said Russian strikes on civilian infrastructure, including a power grid and a dam, had intensified.

  • Ukrainian forces are refusing to discard worn-out US-provided arms, with many reverse-engineering spare parts to continue the counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion.

  • The Ukrainian military said Russia has deployed Iranian attack drones, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

  • The Ukrainian military has carried out 20 airstrikes in the past 24 hours against Russian strongholds, according to the general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

  • The Russian singer Alla Pugacheva has spoken out against the war in Ukraine and the “death of our boys for illusory goals”.

  • The Georgian president, Salome Zourabichvili, levelled heavy criticism against Russia on Sunday after the discovery of mass graves in Izium last week.

  • The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said on Sunday that the mass graves discovered in Izium were evidence of Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine.

A selection of recent pictures from the agencies

The Ukrainian national flag is seen at the entrance of the village in Troitske, Kharkiv region.
The Ukrainian national flag is seen at the entrance of the village in Troitske, Kharkiv region. Photograph: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
Destroyed military vehicles and equipment are seen in the village of Husarivka, not far from the city of Balakliya.
Destroyed military vehicles and equipment are seen in the village of Husarivka, not far from the city of Balakliya. Photograph: Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images
A view of a destroyed bridge not far from of Balakliya.
A view of a destroyed bridge not far from of Balakliya. Photograph: Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images

My colleagues Luke Harding and Isobel Koshiw report on the Ukrainian recapture of Shevchenkove, Kharkiv region, with liberated Ukrainians telling of life under occupation.

Until last week, a portrait of Vladimir Putin hung on the wall of the mayor’s office in the town of Shevchenkove, Kharkiv region.

There was a Russian flag. Around a cabinet table, a pro-Kremlin “leader”, Andrey Strezhko, held meetings with colleagues. There was a lot to discuss. One topic: a referendum on joining Russia. Another: a new autumn curriculum for Shevchenkove’s two schools, minus anything Ukrainian.

Andrii Konashavych, the acting military administrator in Shevchenkove.
Andrii Konashavych, the acting military administrator in Shevchenkove. Photograph: Daniel Carde/The Guardian

Strezhko’s ambitious plans were never realised. On 8 September, Ukraine’s armed forces launched a surprise counteroffensive. They swiftly recaptured a swathe of territory in the north-eastern Kharkiv region, including Shevchenkove. Most residents greeted the soldiers with hugs and kisses. Strezhko disappeared. He is believed to have fled across the Russian border, along with other collaborators.

Shevchenkove’s acting military administrator, Andrii Konashavych, pointed to the chair where the pseudo-mayor had sat in the council building. On the wall was a portrait of Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine’s national poet who gives his name to the town. What happened to the Putin photo? “We tore it up,” Konashavych said. Why was there no picture of President Zelenskiy? “Presidents come and go. Shevchenko is eternal,” he replied.

Read the full report here.

Nikolai Patrushev has called for strengthened ties between Russia and China.
Nikolai Patrushev has called for strengthened ties between Russia and China. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

The Kremlin said beefing up ties with Beijing is a top policy goal, a Russian security official said on Monday during a visit to China.

Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the national security council chaired by Russian president Vladimir Putin, described the “strengthening of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation with Beijing as an unconditional priority of Russia’s foreign policy.”

During a meeting with Guo Shengkun, a top official of China’s Communist party, Patrushev said:

In the current conditions, our countries must show even greater readiness for mutual support and development of cooperation.”

After the talks in the Chinese city of Nanping, Patrushev’s office said in a statement that the parties agreed to:

…expand information exchanges on countering extremism and foreign attempts to undermine the constitutional order of both countries in order to derail independent policies of Russia and China serving their national interests.”

The Chinese and Russian officials also emphasized a need to expand cooperation on cybersecurity and bolster contacts between their law enforcement agencies on fighting terrorism.

The statement didn’t offer any further details of prospective cooperation.

Putin met with Chinese president Xi Jinping last week in Uzbekistan, their first encounter since the Russian leader invaded Ukraine in February.

A Chinese government statement issued after the meeting said Xi promised “strong support” for Russia’s “core interests.”

Philip Oltermann

Philip Oltermann

Germany’s Die Linke could split into two parties over the Ukraine war, as the ailing leftwing outfit’s indecisive stance over economic sanctions against Russia triggered a series of high-profile resignations this week.

The German Left party’s future has hung in a precarious balance since it snuck into the national parliament last autumn under a special provision for parties that win three or more constituency seats.

Should three of its 39 delegates resign from the party, Die Linke would lose its status as a parliamentary group and attached privileges over speaking times and committee memberships.

Party insiders say such resignations are a matter of when, not if, after a week of vicious public in-fighting over a speech in which the former co-leader Sahra Wagenknecht accused the German government of “launching an unprecedented economic war against our most important energy supplier”.

Read the full report here.

The symbol of the United Nations is displayed outside the Secretariat Building during an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly, Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, at the United Nations Headquarters, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
The symbol of the United Nations is displayed outside the Secretariat Building during an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly, Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, at the United Nations Headquarters, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File) Photograph: John Minchillo/AP

The Associated Press has a preview of this week’s meeting of the UN general assembly:

Facing a complex set of challenges that try humanity as never before, world leaders convene at the United Nations this week under the shadow of Europe’s first major war since World War II — a conflict that has unleashed a global food crisis and divided major powers in a way not seen since the Cold War.

The many facets of the Ukraine war are expected to dominate the annual meeting, which convenes as many countries and peoples confront growing inequality, an escalating climate crisis, the threat of multiple famines and an internet-fuelled tide of misinformation and hate speech — all atop a coronavirus pandemic that is halfway through its third year.

For the first time since the United Nations was founded atop the ashes of World War II, European nations are witnessing war in their midst waged by nuclear-armed neighbouring Russia.

Its invasion not only threatens Ukraine‘s survival as an independent democratic nation but has leaders in many countries worrying about trying to preserve regional and international peace and prevent a wider war.

The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, said the strategic divides — with the west on one side and Russia and increasingly China on the other — are “paralysing the global response to the dramatic challenges we face”.

He pointed not only to the devastation in Ukraine from nearly seven months of fighting but to the war’s impact on the global economy.

Escalating food and energy prices are hitting the world’s poorest people hardest, and nations are “being devoured by the acids of nationalism and self-interest” instead of working together and resolving disputes peacefully, two principles that lie at the heart of the UN charter and underpin everything the United Nations tries to do.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will make a two-day trip to Saudi Arabia.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will make a two-day trip to Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Hannibal Hanschke/EPA

German chancellor Olaf Scholz will visit Saudi Arabia and meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as part of a Gulf trip, his spokesman said on Monday, as Germany rushes to secure energy supplies.

Scholz, whose two-day trip will also take him to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, will become the latest Western leader to meet with the crown prince.

Bin Salman has been regarded as a pariah in the West due to his suspected role in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

But he is being courted again as Europe and its allies urgently seek fresh sources of fossil fuels after Russia cut gas supplies amid soaring tensions over its invasion of Ukraine.

Agence France-Press reports:

Scholz, accompanied by a business delegation, will visit Saudi Arabia on Saturday, where he will meet with the crown prince and – if his health permits it – King Salman, government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said.

He did not go into detail about the reasons for Scholz’s Gulf visit but said he would be “very surprised” if the topic of energy was not discussed.

The spokesman also offered assurances that “the murder of Mr Khashoggi will certainly figure in discussions”.

It is the latest sign of bin Salman’s international rehabilitation – in July, French President Emmanuel Macron held talks with him in Paris, and US President Joe Biden visited the kingdom.

On Sunday, Scholz will head to the UAE and meet with President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and in the afternoon will hold talks with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

German economy minister Robert Habeck already visited Qatar and the UAE in March in an effort to find alternatives to Russian gas, which Germany has traditionally depended on heavily.

Russia’s decision to cut off supplies has triggered an energy crisis in Europe, with consumers and businesses facing soaring bills as winter approaches.

Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have sentenced an employee of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – the world’s largest regional security organisation – to 13 years in jail on treason charges, Russian news agencies reported Monday.

“A panel of judges found Dmitry Pavlovich Shabanov guilty … and sentenced him to 13 years in prison,” the RIA Novosti news agency reported, quoting the supreme court of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR).

Shabanov, who was detained in April, is accused of passing confidential information to foreign intelligence services, Agence France-Presse reports.

According to separatist authorities, Shabanov was recruited in 2016 by a former officer of Ukraine’s SBU security service and an agent in Ukraine of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

Between August 2021 and April 2022, he collected “information on the movements of military equipment as well as units of the Lugansk People’s Army” and “sent them to the CIA agent”, the separatists said.

The OSCE has “unequivocally” condemned the charges against Shabanov and Mikhail Petrov, another OSCE staffer detailed in April, describing the allegations as “totally unacceptable so-called ‘legal proceedings’”.

The OSCE mission, which has been deployed in the conflict zone since 2014, left the separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in the wake of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine earlier this year.

Around one hundred Ukrainians protested in front of the Federal Ministry of Defence in Berlin on Sunday following the discovery of mass graves in Izyum.
About 100 Ukrainians protested in front of the German defence ministry in Berlin on Sunday following the discovery of mass graves in Izium. Photograph: snapshot-photography/F Boillot/REX/Shutterstock

Here is what we know so far regarding the more than 440 graves that have been uncovered in a forest near Izium in eastern Ukraine.

According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), some of the bodies recovered had their hands tied. Others showed signs of having suffered violence.

Last week, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, announced the discovery of a mass grave in Izium after it was recaptured from the Russians.

At one burial site, more than 440 graves dating between March and September 2022 were discovered.

Investigators have exhumed the bodies of at least 17 Ukrainian soldiers from one site. A cross over the grave bore the inscription: “Ukrainian army, 17 people. Izium morgue.”

The authorities say there are more than 440 tombs because the last number entered on the crosses is 445. Some of the crosses are made from varnished wood and also carry names and dates.

Investigators say about 100 bodies have been exhumed.

Ukrainian officials suspect that some of the dead were tortured by Russian forces during their occupation of the north-east Kharkiv region.

At least two of the bodies recovered were found with their hands tied, AFP journalists said. One of the two “had their hands tied, their jaw broken and two stab wounds in the back”, a member of the Kharkiv prosecutor’s office told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The remains have been identified as that of a pro-Ukrainian volunteer fighter, the official added.

Civilians who died during fighting in March for control of the city have also been exhumed.

Around 10 teams – each of around four people, including representatives of the prosecutor’s office – have been at work investigating following the discovery of the graves.

Emergency service workers in white overalls were handling the exhumations.

Kharkiv prosecutor Yevgen Sokolov, who is leading the investigation, said he did not have an exact number for those thought to have suffered violent deaths. Of the bodies so far exhumed, he said “most have wounds from shelling and explosions”.

Others had suffered “injuries from sharp objects and showed signs of violent death”, he said. Sokolov said one combatant had had “his hands tied behind his back” and another was found with “rope around the neck and broken limbs”. He also said a body was exhumed “with multiple stab wounds”.

“At this point, we don’t have bodies with bullets in their skulls but there is still a lot of work to be done,” he said.

If the weather remained mild, he estimated it would take another week to finish exhuming the bodies.

Europe’s imports of thermal coal in 2022 could be the highest in at least four years and may rise further next year, analysts said on Monday, highlighting the extent of the energy crisis following sanctions on Russia, Reuters reports.

European imports of thermal coal this year could rise to about 100m tonnes, the most since 2017, according to Noble Resources International Pte Ltd, while commodities pricing agency Argus expects shipments to reach a four-year high.

“Europe is going back in time,” Rodrigo Echeverri, head of research at Noble, told a conference.





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