The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog announced it would boost its presence in Ukraine to help prevent a nuclear accident during the conflict. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it would soon have a permanent presence at all five of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. Currently, only the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia plant, which is near the frontline, has a permanent IAEA presence.
Ukraine has denied Russia’s claim that Putin’s forces have captured Soledar. On Friday, Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had taken full control of the salt mining town. Ukrainian officials denied the Russian claim, suggesting they were still holding on and counterattacking, with the Ukrainian military spokesperson Serhii Cherevatyi reporting “ongoing battles”.
Soledar is ‘Verdun for 21st century’ according to a top Ukraine official. Andriy Yermak, head of the office of the president of Ukraine, likened the fight for the town to the longest and bloodiest battle in the first world war.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said on Thursday that Ukrainian forces defending Bakhmut and Soledar in the east would be armed with everything they need to keep Russian troops at bay in some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.
Hundreds of civilians remain trapped in Soledar, Ukraine has said. Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk, told Ukrainian state TV that 559 civilians remained in Soledar, including 15 children, and could not be evacuated.
Ukraine is confident Britain will announce it plans to send about 10 Challenger 2 tanks to Kyiv shortly, a move it hopes will help Germany finally allow its Leopard 2s to be re-exported to the embattled country. A formal announcement is anticipated on Monday but Ukrainian sources indicated they understood that Britain had already decided in favour.
Germany will continue to “weigh every step carefully” and consult with its allies on further weapons deliveries to Ukraine, chancellor Olaf Scholz has said. The German leader is facing mounting pressure to approve German-made battle tanks for Kyiv. Scholz said Berlin would keep its “leading position” as one of Kyiv’s top supporters but said he had no intention of being rushed on “such serious things that have to do with peace and war, with the security of our country and of Europe”.