The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, said the director general of Ukraine’s and Europe’s largest power plant, Ihor Murashov, has been released from Russian custody after his detention last week.
“I welcome the release,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi tweeted. “I have received confirmation that Mr. Murashov has returned to his family safely.”
Murashov was blindfolded and detained after leaving the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on Friday.
— Ukrainian troops continue offensive, claim new gains
— AP Investigation: Russia smuggling Ukrainian grain to help pay for Putin’s war
— Europe faces ‘unprecedented risk’ of gas shortage, IEA says
— Fleeing Russians follow path of 1917 refugees to Istanbul
— 10 torture sites in 1 town: Russia sowed pain, fear in Izium
MOSCOW — The Russian military on Monday acknowledged that Kyiv’s forces have broken through Moscow’s defenses in the Kherson region.
Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in his daily briefing that “With numerically superior tank units in the direction of Zolota Balka and Oleksandrivka, the enemy managed to forge deep into our defenses.”
Konashenkov added that “Russian troops have occupied a pre-prepared defensive line and continue to inflict massive fire damage” on Kyiv’s forces.
MOSCOW — The lower house of the Russian parliament voted Monday to endorse the treaties for four regions of Ukraine to join Russia.
The unanimous vote by the State Duma followed the signing of the treaties by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of the four regions on Friday after the Kremlin-orchestrated referendums that were rejected by Ukraine and the West as having no legal validity.
The vote was unanimous on each of the four treaties, but the number of yes votes ranged from 409 to 413, apparently because some lawmakers were slow to push the voting buttons.
WASHINGTON — White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby says Ukraine has made gains in the northeast of the country where they are pushing up against the Luhansk region, and he said they are making gains in the south, too.
“They’re absolutely on the move here,” Kirby said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program. “And like you’ve heard President Biden saying, we’re going to continue to make sure we can give them the weapons and capabilities so they can continue that sign of progress.”
KYIV, Ukraine — Russian shelling of eight Ukrainian regions over the past 24 hours has killed two civilians and injured 14 more, Ukraine’s presidential office reported Monday.
A missile strike was carried out on the city of Zaporizhzhia, capital of the Zaporizhzhia region, parts of which are under Russian control and which has been illegally annexed by Moscow.
Russian forces fired some 10 S-300 anti-aircraft missiles at the city and two nearby villages, according to the presidential office. The strike destroyed a rehabilitation center for children with special needs; one person was injured.
Cities across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant were also shelled. In Nikopol, a frequent target of Russian shelling, power lines were damaged, as were a dozen residential buildings and private houses.
MOSCOW — The Kremlin says no final decision has been made on the territory of two of the four regions it plans to incorporate into Russia.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Donetsk and Luhansk regions would join Russia as defined by administrative borders that existed before a conflict erupted there in 2014. He noted that the issue of the borders of the two other regions – Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – remains open.
“We will continue to discuss that with residents of those regions,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties on Friday to make the four regions part of Russia in a move rejected by Ukraine and its Western allies. The lower house of Kremlin-controlled parliament is set to ratify the treaties Monday and the upper house will follow Tuesday.
Russia controls virtually all of the Luhansk region and about 60% of the Donetsk region that together makes Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland of Donbas. In the south, Russia controls most of the Kherson region and a significant part of the Zaporizhzhia region.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador on Monday to protest to protest Russia’s illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions last week. The Polish Foreign Ministry said it’s a coordinated action across Europe Union countries.
Russian Ambassador Sergey Andreev defended Russia’s annexation of the territories. Speaking to reporters after the meeting Andreev said the four former territories of Ukraine “will forever remain Russian territories. This is by no means a breach of international law, it is an act of self-determination.”
He was also asked about the large numbers of Russian men fleeing the country. He replied: “Yes, there are people who are fleeing, but this is how our society cleanses itself of those who are not part of our nation.”
___ LONDON — The Joint Expeditionary Force group of northern European nations will meet Monday to discuss the safety of undersea pipelines and cables after blasts ruptured two natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.
Wallace said the virtual meeting has been called by the U.K. and the Netherlands. The force brings together troops from 10 countries, including the Baltic and Nordic nations, and has seen its importance increase since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
Wallace also said Britain will acquire two specialist ships to protect undersea cables and pipes, with the first “multi-role survey ship for seabed warfare” operational by the end of next year.
BELGOROD, Russia — Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of Russia’s Belgorod region on the border with Ukraine, reported Monday that Ukrainian shelling of a village near the border killed a 48-year-old woman.
The shells, Gladkov said in a statement posted on Telegram, hit the center of the village of Golovchino, damaging several buildings. It wasn’t immediately clear if there were other casualties, according to the statement. ___
MOSCOW — Russia’s top diplomat Monday compared Western military support for Ukraine to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II.
Addressing the lower house of the Russian parliament before it voted to ratify the treaties for four regions of Ukraine to join Russia, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the United States of rallying allies to counter Russia in Ukraine just as Nazi Germany relied on European resources when it invaded the Soviet Union.
“The U.S. has mobilized practically all of the collective West to turn Ukraine into an instrument of war against Russia, just as Hitler mobilized military resources of most European nations to attack the Soviet Union,” Lavrov said.
Presenting the treaties with the four regions to lawmakers before the vote, Lavrov said they marked “the logical continuation of the process of reunification of Russian lands.”
___ MOSCOW — Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says criticism of Russia’s military leadership by Chechnya’s regional leader was driven by emotions.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya, scathingly criticized the Russian military command over the weekend, saying that the Russian retreat from the city of Lyman in eastern Ukraine was a result of incompetence and nepotism.
Kadyrov also called for the use of low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine to reverse the tide of the conflict in Russia’s favor.
Asked about Kadyrov’s statements, Peskov said they were driven by emotions.
“Even in difficult moments, emotions must be excluded while making assessments,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters Monday. “We prefer to stick to well-balanced, objective assessments.”
Responding to Kadyrov’s comments on nuclear weapons, Peskov said conditions for their use are outlined in Russia’s security doctrine, adding that “there could be no other reasons” for their deployment.
___ Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine