Russia's War in Ukraine live updates: More than 1.5 million flee Ukraine, creating Europe's fastest-growing refugee crisis since WWII

Published March 7, 2022 at 8:11 AM EST
Residents of Irpin cross a wooden board teetering above rushing waters as two men in military fatigues help.
Chris McGrath
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Getty Images Europe
Residents of Irpin cross a wooden board teetering above rushing waters as two men in military fatigues help.

Russian forces have seized one of Ukraine's active nuclear power plants and are advancing on another, about 75 miles north of the city of Mykolaiv, raising international concerns about nuclear safety. "A nuclear accident anywhere is really a nuclear accident everywhere," said one expert.

A third round of talks: Russia’s Defense Ministry announced limited cease-fires for humanitarian corridors for evacuation — but all the published routes lead to Belarus or Russia

Nuclear worries: Staff at the Zaporizhzhia plant — the largest nuclear power facility in Europe — are mostly cut off from communication channels and appear to be "operating under some level of duress," reports NPR's Leila Fadel from Lviv.

Ukraine at the U.N. court: Ukraine is asking for an emergency order to halt hostilities.

Correction: In a previous introduction to this blog, we incorrectly said Russia is reportedly advancing on the third of Ukraine's four active nuclear power plants. Only one of the country's active nuclear power plants, the Zaporizhzhia facility, has been seized as of Tuesday. Russian forces have also seized the Chernobyl plant, which was decommissioned after the 1986 disaster.

Defiant Ukrainians go ahead with weddings

Posted March 7, 2022 at 12:37 PM EST
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko congratulates the servicemen of Ukrainian territorial defense, Valeri (R) and Lesya (C), with their wedding not far from check-point on Kyiv's outskirts on March 6, 2022.
Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko congratulates the servicemen of Ukrainian territorial defense, Valeriy and Lesya, with their wedding not far from checkpoint on Kyiv's outskirts on Sunday.

Two Ukrainian soldiers were among the couples who chose to get married on Sunday, defying the chaotic violence that Russia has unleashed on their country. Lesya Filimonova and Valeriy Filimonov are serving on the front line in Kyiv, which has been under heavy attack during the invasion.

Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko attended the couple’s ceremony, which took place in an open field. Like their comrades, the wedding party wore camouflage fatigues; Lesya added a wedding veil.

“Life goes on!” Klitschko said in a tweet, pledging to keep Kyiv safe from Russian attackers.

Also getting married Sunday were Bohdan and Iryna Manko, who held a church ceremony in the western city of Lviv. Bohdan acknowledged the difficulty of the moment, but he said the couple is optimistic for the future.

“We will help with everything we can to fight this invasion, and Ukraine will win," he said. "And we didn't cancel our wedding because we hope for the better future — to rebuild our country and to live in a happy country with everyone. So, we feel very hopeful now.”

On the ground

11,000 Russian personnel have died in the war, Ukraine’s military says

Posted March 7, 2022 at 11:32 AM EST
A serviceman of the Ukrainian Military Forces walks in front of a tank following fighting against Russian troops and Russia-backed separatists near Zolote village in the Luhansk region on March 6, 2022. Ukraine says Russia has lost more than 11,000 personnel in its invasion.
Anatolii Stepanov
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AFP via Getty Images
A Ukrainian service member passes a tank following fighting against Russian troops and Russia-backed separatists near Zolote village in the Luhansk region over the weekend.

Less than two weeks after invading Ukraine, Russian forces have lost 11,000 people, the Ukrainian military said on Monday.

The numbers, from Feb. 24 to March 7, are preliminary. In addition to thousands of deaths, Russia’s military has lost 290 tanks, 999 armored vehicles, 46 aircraft and 68 helicopters, according to Ukraine’s defense ministry.

Russia’s defense ministry said on Monday that it has “wiped out 2,396 Ukrainian military facilities,” according to state-run Tass media. It did not offer a casualty estimate for its foe.

Citing Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, Tass says the Russian force has “destroyed 827 Ukrainian tanks and other combat armored vehicles," along with more than 300 field artillery guns and mortars and 78 drones.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Russia's forces have been "stopped" at the cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv, which have suffered intense shelling.

"The Russians are ordinary terrorists. And terrorists will be destroyed," he said.

Revealing the depth of the gap between the reality in Ukraine and what is being reported in Russia, Tass reiterated the defense ministry’s claims that Russian troops are not targeting Ukrainian cities, adding, “There are no threats whatsoever to the civilian population.”

On Monday, Ukraine said Russian forces have damaged or destroyed 202 schools and dozens of hospitals. And the U.N. human rights office said indiscriminate shelling has killed 406 civilians in Ukraine and injured 801 more -- but it warns that the actual numbers are considerably higher than those figures.

Over the weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin enacted a new law that imposes heavy prison sentences on anyone reporting news that could be seen as discrediting Russia’s military.

Video

Watch this pianist welcome Ukrainian refugees to Poland with music

Posted March 7, 2022 at 11:23 AM EST

Refugees entering Poland from Ukraine had a pleasant surprise on Friday when an Italian pianist showed up to welcome them at the Medyka border crossing.

The pianist, Davide Martello, said he wanted to offer the refugees some musical relief from the war they are fleeing.

"They leave the bombs behind and they go to the music," said Martello, while refugees around him took pictures and clapped. "I am saying 'hello' to all these people who are coming in and saying 'hello' with my piano."

The European Union decided Thursday to grant temporary protection and residency permits to people fleeing Ukraine.

Diplomacy

The EU is poised to discuss Ukraine's membership application in the coming days

Posted March 7, 2022 at 11:06 AM EST
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (L) and European Council President Charles Michel (R) stand next to each other in front of several blue and yellow flags.
Kenzo Tribouillard
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POOL/AFP via Getty Images
President of the European Council Charles Michel (right), with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in December, reiterated that the European Union supports Ukraine's efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering and ensure nuclear safety.

A top European Union official said on Monday that Ukraine's bid for membership will be discussed "in the coming days."

European Council President Charles Michel said in a tweet that he had been in continued close contact with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who officially submitted Ukraine's application for EU membership a week ago and has implored the EU to fast-track its approval.

Citing Russia's aggression, Michel reiterated that the EU supports Ukraine's efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering and ensure nuclear safety.

"The EU’s solidarity, friendship and unprecedented assistance for #Ukraine are unwavering," he added.

On Monday, Zelenskyy also tweeted about their discussions, saying they had talked about Russia's shelling of civilian and critical infrastructure as well as the threat to Ukraine's nuclear facilities.

He said he also raised the subject of Ukraine's membership in the EU, adding that "the people of Ukraine deserve this."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told Euronews last weekend that Ukraine is "one of us and we want them in" the European Union but suggested its entry wouldn't be immediate because of the involved nature of the process.

The EU has officially welcomed Ukraine's application for membership, though it's unclear how long that will take. European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said last week that the EU would work with Ukraine toward that goal.

Here's how the process typically works.

World reaction

International Judo Federation strips Putin of his honorary titles

Posted March 7, 2022 at 10:41 AM EST
Russian President Vladimir Putin, wearing a white martial arts outfit, stretches on a yellow mat.
Alexey Druzhinin
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AFP via Getty Images
Vladimir Putin takes part in a judo training session at a sports complex in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2010.

The world governing body of judo has stripped Russian President Vladimir Putin of his roles, just over a week after suspending him as its ambassador and honorary president.

The International Judo Federation announced on Sunday that it had removed Putin from all of his positions in the organization. It did the same for Arkady Rotenberg, a Russian billionaire who is among the oligarchs sanctioned by the U.S. last week.

The organization said in late February that it was suspending Putin's roles "in light of the ongoing war conflict in Ukraine."

Marius Vizer, the group's president, wrote a letter to member federations on Thursday condemning Russia's invasion and declaring solidarity with Ukraine.

"At present, understanding the fury that this invasion is provoking, we believe the most urgent thing to do is to help Ukrainian people and the world of judo is mobilized, numerous clubs are launching refugee welcome operations and material aid," he wrote. "We are engaging in this approach."

It is working with the Ukrainian Judo Federation, the Ukrainian Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee to offer $200,000 in humanitarian assistance "for the Ukrainian Judo Family," he added.

Putin is a longtime judo enthusiast, who holds a black belt in the sport and co-authored a 2004 book titled Judo: History, Theory, Practice. He famously joined Russian Olympians for a training session in Sochi in 2019 (here's the video).

His decision to invade Ukraine has created a ripple effect in the world of judo — as well as among many other cultural events and industries, many of which are pulling away from Russia.

Exactly one week ago, the European Judo Union said it was withdrawing Putin's status as its honorary president — a day after its actual president, Sergey Soloveychik, resigned from his position.

He cited Russia's invasion of Ukraine and said he believed his resignation was necessary in order to "maintain unity within our ranks."

"You’ve known me for years, and no one doubts that my heart belongs to judo. But it is equally true that it belongs to my homeland, Russia," he said in a statement. "We, judoka, must always be loyal to our principles."

Judo isn't the only sport punishing Putin personally in response to Russia's aggression.

World Taekwondo announced last week that it would withdraw the honorary black belt it gave to Putin in 2013. Additionally, it won't display any national flags or anthems from Russia and Belarus at its events and won't hold or recognize any events in those countries.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus have also been banned from competing in the ongoing Winter Paralympic Games.

Numerous international sports organizations — including FIFA, the World Motor Sport Council, the World Athletics Council and the International Tennis Federation — have placed sanctions on Russian athletes. So has the International Chess Federation, among others.

International Dispatch
On the ground

An ad hoc army of volunteers assembles to help Ukrainian refugees

Posted March 7, 2022 at 10:35 AM EST
A fire department volunteer from France bundles a child arriving from war-torn Ukraine in a thermal blanket on a freezing day at the Medyka border crossing on March 07, 2022 in Medyka, Poland.
Sean Gallup
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Getty Images
A fire department volunteer from France bundles a child arriving from war-torn Ukraine in a thermal blanket on a freezing day at the Medyka border crossing in Poland on Monday.

MEDYK, Poland -- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II as the U.N. refugee agency says more than 1.5 million Ukrainians have fled their homeland in just the first 12 days of fighting.

The bulk of the refugees — more than 1 million — have left Ukraine through one of eight border crossings in Poland. At more than 20 reception centers along the Polish border, NGOs, charities and the U.N. refugee agency are being aided by an ad hoc army of volunteers from Poland and across Europe who are playing a vital support role serving food, directing donations and helping to drive refugees to friends and family across the continent.

“This is not job for me. If I can help, I can help,” says Krstaps Naymanes, a deliveryman from Liepaja, Latvia, who hit pause on his day job to aid Ukrainians. With friends and a charity, he helped organize cars, RVs and a large bus to take refugees anywhere in Latvia, where others on the ground there are ready to help.

“We have flats, houses, food, everything,” he says. “Don’t charge, like, money for this. Peoples want help, and can help. This time need to do! That’s it.”

Nearby there’s a growing mountain of new and gently used children’s shoes and clothes in cardboard boxes and spread on tarps on the ground. Unlike Europe’s last big war, the piles signal comfort this time.

A network of NGOs and the U.N. are coordinating much of the relief and donations. But central, too, are self-organized groups of people, often via social media, who’ve dropped everything to assist, especially with transport.

“Able or not, [I] closed my business and just send an out-of-office notice to all my clients, saying ‘This is the way it is, and if you’re not happy, go find another lawyer,’ ” says attorney Stephane Ober, who abruptly shuttered his law office in Luxembourg to volunteer.

Chris Melzer with the U.N.'s refugee agency says he keeps hearing from people all over Europe who want to pitch in.

“Doctors who said, ‘I'm taking my annual leave. I would like to help.’ And from people who said, ‘Yeah, we had a church group and we collected 10, 000 euros or something.' " Or the man from Heidelberg, Germany, who said, " 'I have no relation to Ukraine, but I have a van. We want to help.' So, it's really amazing,” Melzer says.

But it’s unclear whether this ad hoc and volunteer humanitarian aid will be enough, however, if the exodus widens from a nation of more than 40 million people. Melzer also encourages people to try to channel their energy through established NGOs and charities. “My recommendation is, look for a partner here, especially if you don't speak Polish. Otherwise, it could be just hard to coordinate your help.”

Nonetheless, he views the volunteer support network as a bright spot in a horrible conflict. “On the eastern side of the border, it is heartbreaking. And on this side of the border it’s heartwarming,” Melzer says. “And for us as humanitarians, it keeps us running, actually.”

Business

Levi's halts sales in Russia, evoking Cold War scrambles for blue jeans

Posted March 7, 2022 at 9:40 AM EST
The leather Levi's label on a pair of blue jeans.
Justin Sullivan
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Getty Images
Levi Strauss & Co. has pledged to support its employers, partners and their families affected by the decision in the coming months.

Levi Strauss & Co. announced today that it is pausing commercial operations in Russia, as well as donating thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees.

"Given the enormous disruption occurring in the region, which makes normal business untenable, LS&Co. is temporarily suspending commercial operations in Russia, including any new investments," the company said in a news release.

It pledged to support its employers, partners and their families affected by the decision in the coming months. About 4% of the company's total net revenues came from Eastern Europe in 2021, with about half of that related to Russia, the company said.

"But any business considerations are clearly secondary to the human suffering experienced by so many," it added.

Levi's and the Levi Strauss Foundation are donating more than $300,000 to nonprofit organizations helping Ukrainians displaced by Russia's invasion, including the International Rescue Committee and CARE.

Levi's says it's offering employees a 2-to-1 match — up to $200,000 — for donations to a number of unnamed "organizations committed to ensuring that the most vulnerable communities get the support they need, including several that are ensuring discrimination doesn't occur at border crossings."

Meanwhile, the company is working with its licensee partners to donate jackets, backpacks and other warm clothing to Ukrainian refugees.

Levi's decision to pull back from Russia evokes memories of the Cold War era, when jeans were synonymous with capitalism and banned in Soviet-occupied East Germany.

The company details this history on its website, noting that schools and dance halls forbade blue jeans. Many young people turned to relatives abroad or the black market to try to get their hands on them.

"International fashion could not be stopped at the Iron Curtain," it writes. "Despite government efforts, Western trends, especially Levi’s® blue jeans, were the most in vogue in the East."

As the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, hundreds of young people made their way toward freedom dressed in blue jeans, the company said. It added that Levi Strauss Germany established a branch office in reunified Berlin in 1990 before expanding to previously restricted markets.

On the ground

With 202 schools and 34 hospitals hit, Russia is ‘good at killing civilians,’ Ukraine adviser says

Posted March 7, 2022 at 9:19 AM EST
Russian shelling devastated this school building in the city of Chernihiv, as seen on March 4. One day earlier, at least 47 people died in the northern Ukrainian city when Russian forces hit residential areas, including schools and a high-rise apartment building, officials said.
Dimitar Dilkoff
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AFP via Getty Images
Russian shelling devastated this school building in the city of Chernihiv, as seen on March 4. One day earlier, at least 47 people died in the northern Ukrainian city when Russian forces hit residential areas, including schools and a high-rise apartment building, officials said.

Calling Russia’s military modern-day barbarians, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak says the invading Russian forces have damaged or destroyed 202 schools, 34 hospitals and more than 1,500 residential buildings in Ukraine, in less than two weeks of war.

“The Russian army doesn’t know how to fight against other armies. But it’s good at killing civilians,” Podolyak said via Twitter.

More than 900 Ukrainian settlements do not have water, heat or electricity, he added.

The U.N.’s human rights office says it has confirmed 1,207 civilian casualties in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24 — 406 people killed and 801 injured. But the office warns that the real figures are “considerably higher,” citing the difficulty of gathering information in a country that’s become a war zone.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” the U.N. agency said.

World reaction

Russia arrests nearly 5,000 protesters this weekend

Posted March 7, 2022 at 9:06 AM EST
Police stand outside a white van at night, with buildings in the background.
AFP
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via Getty Images
Police officers detain a man during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in central Moscow on Thursday.

Thousands of people turned out in cities across Russia this weekend to protest the war in Ukraine, risking arrest in a country where such demonstrations are illegal. Many of them were detained and some subjected torture as a result, according to an independent Russian human rights group.

Police detained more than 4,640 protesters in 65 Russian cities on Sunday, according to the monitoring group OVD-Info. It says more than 13,000 Russians in 147 cities have been detained at anti-war rallies since Russia first invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

"At least 30 instances of protesters being beaten have been confirmed and it is likely that this number is much higher," it wrote in an update on Sunday. "There are many videos on social networks in which police officers are seen beating anti-war protesters."

The group also cited reports of torture and mistreatment of detainees at police stations, saying some did not allow lawyers to visit.

At the Brateevo station in Moscow, it said, detainees were "hit in the face and head with bottles, kicked in the legs, kneed in the stomach, dragged by their hair and had sanitizer sprayed in their faces."

And dozens of people are facing even more dire consequences. OVD-Info says 25 people are facing criminal cases and jail terms over their anti-war actions. The charges against them include vandalism, incitement to extremism, disseminating deliberately false information, and committing violence against police officers.

Thirteen journalists were detained at Sunday's protests, the group added. It also said there have been known cases of police officers "searching for protest videos on the phones of passerby in central Moscow, with reports of detainment."

Anyone who refused to unlock their phone was threatened with an administrative charge of disobeying the police, it added.

"The screws are being fully tightened — essentially we are witnessing military censorship," Maria Kuznetsova, OVD-Info's spokesperson, told Reuters.

Sunday's arrests came days after jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny called on people around the world to stage daily protests against Putin's invasion of Ukraine, praising the Russians who had already done so and writing on Twitter that "each arrested person must be replaced by two newcomers."

The following day, Russia passed two lawsthat criminalize independent war reporting and war protests, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison. Several Western media organizations, like Bloomberg and the BBC, have temporarily suspended their operations inside the country as a result.

Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that the new laws are part of Russia's effort to suppress dissent and block information that contradicts the Kremlin's narrative about the invasion.

“The Kremlin is wiping out all options for dissent to ensure that brave anti-war protesters do not return to the streets,” he said. “When President Putin goes after such a fundamental right — the cornerstone of democracy — with such totalitarian tactics, he is dispensing with any pretense that his government has any respect for rule of law, human rights, or democracy.”

International Dispatch
Diplomacy

Russia and Ukraine set to meet for 3rd round of talks today

Posted March 7, 2022 at 8:35 AM EST
A man in military fatigues carries a woman on his back across debris
Aris Messinis
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AFP via Getty Images
A man carries a woman on his back as people flee the city of Irpin, west of Kyiv, on Monday.

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine and Russia are expected to hold a third round of talks today as Russia has announced a partial cease-fire in some Ukrainian cities.

Russia’s Defense Ministry announced the limited cease-fires are for humanitarian corridors for evacuation — but all the published routes lead to Belarus or Russia, not to other parts of Ukraine. Prior corridors were shut down after civilians were attacked.

Russia says the latest partial cease-fire covers the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Sumy in the north as well as Mariupol in the south.

The cities have been under Russian attack for days and the humanitarian situation is turning desperate. In Mariupol, for example, residents say that there’s no heat or water and that food is running low.

Ukrainians are treating the latest Russian announcement with deep skepticism. They accuse Russian forces of breaking two cease-fires over the weekend by opening fire and killing civilians trying to evacuate.

Diplomacy

Ukraine asks the U.N.’s highest court to rule against Russia

Posted March 7, 2022 at 8:18 AM EST
Ukraine is asking the U.N.'s highest court to order Russia to stop its invasion. Here, Hungarian policemen carry refugee children fleeing Ukraine on Monday, as families arrive at a train station in Zahony, Hungary. Hungary has been the second-most-popular destination for people fleeing Ukraine after Russia began its large-scale attacks on February 24.
Christopher Furlong
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Getty Images
Hungarian police officers carry refugee children fleeing Ukraine on Monday, as families arrive at a train station in Zahony, Hungary.

Ukraine formally asked the U.N.’s International Court of Justice to order Russia to halt its war on Ukraine on Monday, citing the 1948 international convention banning genocide. Ukraine’s request at The Hague comes after Russia recognized two Ukrainian territories as independent entities and mounted what it called a peacekeeping effort — purportedly to prevent genocide there.

“On the basis of this false allegation, Russia is now engaged in a military invasion of Ukraine involving grave and widespread violations of the human rights of Ukrainian people,” Ukraine’s petition states.

Russia’s delegation snubbed the hearing — an absence that Ukraine’s envoy to Crimea, Anton Korynevych, noted in his remarks.

“The fact that the Russia seats are empty speaks loudly,” Korynevych said. “They are not here in this court of law. They are on a battlefield, waging aggressive war against my country.”

With its actions in Ukraine, Korynevych said, Russia is showing the world its lack of respect for international law and the depths of its cruelty toward Ukrainians.

A second hearing is slated for Tuesday, when Russia, should it choose to attend, can make its own arguments.

On the ground

As Russia approaches another Ukrainian nuclear plant, expert warns of far-reaching risks

Posted March 7, 2022 at 8:10 AM EST
A fire burns at a power plant
AP
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Press Service of National Nuclear Energy Generation Company Energoatom
A fire burns at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine on Friday after Russian strikes. Staff at the plant have been mostly cut off from the rest of the world.

Russian forces have seized two of Ukraine's five nuclear power plants — Chernobyl, the now-decommissioned site of the world's worst nuclear disaster, and Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

And they are approaching another active plant, officials from Ukraine and the U.S. have warned in recent days.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told U.S. lawmakers on Saturday that the next plant under threat is Yuzhnoukrainsk, which is south of Kyiv.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. representative to the United Nations, said in remarks on Friday that "Russian forces are now 20 miles, and closing, from Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear facility."

As Russian troops continue their bombardment of Ukrainian cities, and representatives from both countries are expected to meet again today, there is growing concern about keeping the power plants out of the fighting.

"A nuclear accident anywhere is really a nuclear accident everywhere," Mariana Budjeryn, a Ukrainian and a nuclear expert at Harvard's Belfer Center, told Morning Edition. "You cannot control the weather. The winds can carry this radioactive activity far and wide. We're talking about a time scale of decades that these consequences could continue to play out."

Here's what else we know.

Zaporizhzhia's Ukrainian operators are cut off from communication

Zaporizhzhia is home to six nuclear reactors. And the biggest concern at the facility is the staff, Morning Edition host Leila Fadel reports from Lviv.

Russian forces cut most communications channels, and, she says, it seems that staff members — who are Ukrainian — are "operating under some level of duress."

As NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reported, the International Atomic Energy Agency said over the weekend that Russian forces are in full control of the plant, with all reactor operations requiring Russian military approval. It added that Russian troops had switched off some mobile networks and internet access, making it difficult for operations to communicate with the outside world.

Why nuclear energy is so important to both sides

Budjeryn told Fadel that Ukraine relies heavily on nuclear energy, with about 50% of its overall energy mix coming from nuclear power plants.

Whoever runs those can control which people and industries get electricity, she explained, calling it "one of the ways to control and subdue a country."

Noting Ukraine's fierce resistance to Russian forces, Budjeryn worries that Putin could play a drastic card if he's seen as losing.

"I wonder if he might resort to use of a tactical, of a small nuclear weapon [on Ukrainian territory] ... to shock Ukraine into surrender," she said.

The range of impact could equal or exceed the scope of the atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Japan at the end of World War II, she said. Russia could also deploy a nuclear bomb above a city to cause an electromagnetic pulse that would incapacitate a big urban area.

Fadel says this is an unprecedented moment. Most, if not all, of the safeguards put in place to account for accidents at nuclear plants weren't designed with a full-scale war in mind, she adds, which is why nuclear experts like Budjeryn are concerned.

"If something does go wrong, the safeguards in place aren't built to withstand direct impact from a weapon," says Fadel. "So this is new territory."

🎧 Listen to Fadel's conversation with Budjeryn.

Clarification: In a previous version of this post and the headline, we said Russia is reportedly advancing on the third of Ukraine's four active nuclear power plants. Only one of the country's active nuclear power plants, the Zaporizhzhia facility, has been seized as of Tuesday. Russian forces have also seized the Chernobyl plant, which was decommissioned after the 1986 disaster.