Russia’s military says it has taken control of the Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine after its forces opened fire on the facility overnight with rockets, artillery and gunfire. The assault sparked a fire that burned for hours, though it reportedly did not spread to any of the plant’s six reactors, and there’s no sign of an increase in radiation levels at the site. The nuclear plant’s operator says managers are now “working at gunpoint.”
Zaporizhzhia is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and among the 10 largest in the world. Nuclear experts have been warning for weeks of the risk of a catastrophic meltdown. News of the assault drew international alarm. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts tweeted, “This would be an international war crime by Putin that could result in incredible devastation.” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of “nuclear terror.”
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “Europeans, please wake up. Tell your politicians: Russian troops are shooting at a nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, city of Enerhodar. There are six nuclear reactors there. Six. In Chernobyl, it was only one reactor which exploded.”
The nuclear crisis came as Russia laid siege to major cities and intensified artillery and missile attacks on heavily populated urban areas across Ukraine. The southern city of Mariupol has been encircled by Russian forces and subjected to intense strikes. Elsewhere, large explosions shook central Kyiv Friday, while Russian forces in occupied Kherson encountered a hostile response from city residents. In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said the assault was going as planned.
President Vladimir Putin: “Dear comrades, I want to say that the special military operation is proceeding strictly in line with the timetable according to plan. … I will never give up my conviction that Russians and Ukrainians are one people.”
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Putin Thursday, saying after the call he feared “the worst is yet to come” and that Russia wants to seize all of Ukraine.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has identified a camera operator who died Tuesday when Russian forces blew up a television tower in Kyiv. Forty-nine-year-old Yevhenii Sakun was among five people killed in the attack. He worked for the Ukrainian television station LIVE, which had covered the Russian invasion.
In Moscow, Russian authorities on Thursday ordered two TV and radio broadcasters off the air over their coverage of the invasion of Ukraine. Echo of Moscow was one of Russia’s oldest radio stations. Meanwhile, workers at the independent station TV Rain held an on-air protest to conclude its final broadcast Thursday. A news anchor’s last words were “No to war” before staffers walked off the set. They then fled their workplace after learning that special forces were preparing to storm the building. This is TV Rain’s general director, Natalya Sindeeva.
Natalya Sindeeva: “We can’t compare war, catastrophe and terrible tragedy where people are dying every day — which is happening now — to our situation, but we are also at war, because we are working in conditions of war. We have too many restrictions, and for every mistake, we pay not with our lives but with our jobs.”
Meanwhile, the Russian state-funded news outlet RT America has suspended its productions and laid off most of its staff. This comes after RT America was dropped by major U.S. distributors, including DirecTV, and after YouTube, TikTok and Facebook also blocked access to Russian state-funded outlets to its users in Europe.
In Geneva, the U.N. Human Rights Council has voted to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and to establish a commission of inquiry into war crimes. The vote came after investigators from the International Criminal Court left The Hague for Ukraine to collect evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide committed by Russia’s military. British Pakistani lawyer Karim Khan will lead the prosecution.
Karim Khan: “I think the world is watching, and the world expects better. Humanity expects better than we’re getting around the world, and Ukraine is no exception.”
The White House said the U.S. would work closely with the ICC to support its investigation. Russia and Ukraine have not ratified the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court; neither has the United States. In 2020, then-President Trump sanctioned ICC prosecutors over the court’s investigations into Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, as well as war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday it has suspended deportation flights to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion. Meanwhile, the Biden administration said it will allow Ukrainians living in the United States to apply for temporary protected status, TPS, which would shield them from deportation and grant them work permits. Arizona Democratic Congressmember Raúl Grijalva tweeted, “The Biden Admin should also designate TPS for non-white war-stricken countries like Ethiopia, Cameroon, Mauritania, Afghanistan, Mali and others.”
U.S. lawmakers have introduced a bipartisan bill that would ban imports of petroleum products, liquefied natural gas and coal from Russia over its assault on Ukraine. The White House, however, opposes such a ban, citing worries over supply issues and price hikes at the gas pump. Germany and other European nations continue to import large amounts of natural gas from Russia, despite EU sanctions. Last week, German energy giant E.ON said it had no plans to shut down the flow of gas from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.
Thousands of youth climate activists took to the streets around the globe Thursday in solidarity with Ukraine. This is Carla Reemtsma of Germany’s Fridays for Future, speaking from Berlin.
Carla Reemtsma: “This war is a fossil war. And that means that one of the solutions must be the rapid phaseout of coal, oil and gas. It’s important to stop Russian fossil fuels and, accordingly, radically expand renewables and accelerate an energy transition.”
Fridays for Future also tweeted, “While Ukrainians deserve immediate peace and all our support, so do the people from Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and all war torn regions. Empathy, justice, and compassion should be for everyone.”
In Pakistan, at least 30 people were killed, and more than 60 others injured, after a bomb exploded inside a Shia mosque in Peshawar during Friday morning prayers. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which Prime Minister Imran Khan quickly condemned. Khan has been accused by Pakistan’s Shia Muslims and other minority groups of failing to halt attacks by Sunni extremists.
The Supreme Court is allowing the U.S. government to block two psychologists who orchestrated the CIA’s torture program after 9/11 from testifying in a case in Poland brought by Guantánamo prisoner and torture survivor Abu Zubaydah. Zubaydah, who’s been in U.S. custody since 2002 and imprisoned without charge, had called on CIA psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen to prove he’d been illegally detained and tortured in a CIA black site in Poland. In a 6-3 ruling Thursday, Supreme Court justices said the government has the power to prevent the public disclosure of so-called state secrets that purportedly threaten national security.
In Louisville, Kentucky, a jury has acquitted former officer Brett Hankison, who was accused of wanton endangerment for shooting into Breonna Taylor’s neighbor’s apartment during a botched no-knock raid that led to Taylor’s killing in 2020.
Judge Ann Bailey Smith: “Mr. Hankison, this jury has found you not guilty. This court therefore finds that you are not guilty of these charges. You are free to go, and your bond will be released.”
Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, wrote on social media, “To be clear these charges were not for Breonna Taylor but nevertheless he should of been found guilty.” The “not guilty” verdict comes near the second anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s killing. On March 13, 2020, plainclothes officers serving a no-knock warrant broke down the door of Taylor’s home in the middle of the night and shot her dead. Taylor was a Black 26-year-old emergency medical technician and aspiring nurse. No police officers have been charged over her killing.
Florida state lawmakers voted Thursday to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The measure, which now heads to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’s desk, is modeled on a Mississippi abortion law that the Supreme Court is currently weighing and which could essentially undo Roe v. Wade.
Students across Florida walked out of class Thursday to protest Republicans’ new anti-LGBTQ+ education legislation, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Protesters: “We say gay! We say gay! We say gay! We say gay! We say gay! We say gay!”
The bill would ban discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. Meanwhile, in Iowa, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has signed a new law banning transgender girls and women from school sports. Iowa is the 11th state to ban transgender athletes. Legal challenges are expected.
Here in New York City, a man has been charged with hate crimes after a spate of attacks on seven women of Asian descent Sunday. Over a two-hour period, Steven Zajonc punched the women in the face; one was pushed to the ground. Two were treated at the hospital for their injuries.
Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family have agreed to a new $6 billion deal with a group of states that previously rejected the company’s bankruptcy plan. Like previous deals, money would go toward addiction treatment, and the Sacklers would give up control of Purdue, maker of OxyContin. It would also shield the billionaire Sackler family from current and future civil suits over their role in fueling the devastating opioid epidemic.
Tech workers at The New York Times voted overwhelmingly to unionize with the NewsGuild of New York, the same union that already represents some 1,300 editorial staff at the newspaper. The final vote comes after an extended anti-union campaign by The New York Times, including allegations of illegal interference in workers’ organizing efforts.