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Ukraine live briefing: Russian and Ukrainian groups win Nobel prize; Russian attacks mount in south

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 10/7/2022 James Bikales, Adela Suliman, Maite Fernández Simon, Nick Parker, Robyn Dixon

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to human rights activists from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. The prize will be shared by imprisoned Belarusian human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski, Russian organization Memorial and Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties. The winners have made an “outstanding effort to document war crimes, human rights abuses and the abuse of power,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

As the war drags on, President Biden has warned that the risk of nuclear “Armageddon” is at its highest since the Cuban missile crisis. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments about using nuclear weapons have been “irresponsible” but that the United States is not yet adjusting its nuclear posture.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a Friday interview with the BBC, said that he did not think Russia was ready to use nuclear weapons but that Putin’s officials had begun to “prepare their society” for the possibility.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • The leader of the Nobel committee said it wished “to honor three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence in the neighbor countries of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.” The chairwoman, Berit Reiss-Andersen, added that “we are in the midst of a war, and we are talking about two authoritarian regimes and one nation fighting a war, and we would like to highlight the importance of civil society.”
  • The awarding of the peace prize to a Russian group and a Belarusian activist generated immediate criticism in Ukraine, where many politicians and activists view ordinary Russians as complicit in Putin’s war, The Washington Post reported.
  • The war in Ukraine is proving toxic for Russia’s top commanders, with at least eight generals fired, reassigned or otherwise sidelined since the start of the invasion on Feb. 24. The dismissals reflect a scramble by political elites to place blame for the costly and faltering war as open criticism grows louder, particularly among pro-war hawks and propagandists.
  • Russia is moving ahead with plans to incorporate the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant into Russia’s energy system, though the process could take months, according to officials cited in Russian media Friday. Work has begun to restart two of the power units at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, according to a Kremlin-backed official in the Russian-controlled Ukrainian town of Enerhodar, where the plant is located.
  • Shelling once again damaged a power line at Zaporizhzhia, underscoring the “precarious nuclear safety and security situation” at the nuclear plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement Friday. The U.N. nuclear watchdog recognizes the plant as a “Ukrainian facility” and is calling for a security protection zone around the facility. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who met with Zelensky in Kyiv on Thursday, will visit Moscow next week.
  • Russian authorities punished major cultural and political figures who have criticized the war. Rapper Oxxxymiron; dystopian fantasy writer Dmitry Glukhovsky, author of the Metro trilogy; and activist Alena Popova were all declared foreign agents Friday. Popova, a fellow at the quasi-governmental nonpartisan Wilson Center think tank who studies authoritarianism, criticized the move on Twitter. On Instagram, Glukhovsky said critics of the war were acting patriotically. Oxxxymiron (real name Miron Fyodorov) tweeted an animated GIF of Leonardo DiCaprio rolling his eyes.

2. Battleground updates

  • Ukrainian forces retook 300 square miles and 29 settlements in the east this week, Zelensky said Friday evening. “In total, 2,434 square kilometers of our land and 96 settlements have already been liberated since the beginning of this offensive operation,” he said.
  • Ukrainian authorities found two mass graves in recently retaken city of Lyman, according to the regional governor. At least 200 bodies were found in one, Donetsk leader Pavlo Kyrylenko said Friday on Telegram. In nearby Sviatohirsk, Kyrylenko said, the bodies of 21 civilians had been found.
  • At least 22 civilians were killed and at least 32 were wounded in the southeast as the result of Russian operations Thursday, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, wrote in a Telegram post. Russia’s missile strikes on residential facilities in Zaporizhzhia killed at least 11 people Thursday, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said.
  • Captured Russian equipment now makes up a large portion of Ukraine’s military hardware, according to Britain’s Defense Ministry. Ukrainian forces probably have captured at least 440 Russian battle tanks and 650 other armored vehicles since the war began, the British Defense Ministry said Friday. “The failure of Russian crews to destroy intact equipment before withdrawing or surrendering highlights their poor state of training and low levels of battle discipline.”

3. Global impact

  • European Union leaders met in Prague on Friday to discuss the war and its impact, including rising inflation and energy shortages heading into winter. A day earlier, an inaugural meeting of the newly formed European Political Community was also held in Prague. Zelensky addressed both gatherings via video link. Europe’s focus on energy has intensified after OPEC Plus’s landmark decision this week to cut oil production starting in November.
  • U.S. officials stressed on Friday that they had seen no evidence that Russia had taken the measures necessary to use its nuclear arsenal and that the United States has no reason to change its nuclear posture. President Biden startled many Americans by saying at a fundraiser Thursday night that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons.”
  • Europe is “on the brink of a nuclear disaster due to the capture of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant by Russian troops,” Zelensky told E.U. leaders Friday. “Never before has our continent faced such a threat — the threat of destroying underwater pipelines, cables, and tunnels. But now you can expect this from Russia.
  • Vladimir Kara-Murza faces a new charge of treason. The Russian opposition politician who is being held in a detention center over comments he made in the United States opposing the war writes opinion columns for The Washington Post.

4. From our correspondents

After the Russian retreat in east Ukraine, police find dozens of torture sites: Across at least five provinces, Russian troops left the remnants of an archipelago of torture in their wake, often in buildings where families had lived or children had played, Louisa Loveluck reports.

On Friday, the chief investigator of the northeastern Kharkiv province, Serhii Bolvinov, said his forces had recovered 534 civilian bodies, most of them from a mass grave in the town of Izyum. Many bore signs of torture.

In Lyman, 100 miles to the southeast, a key transport hub for Russian forces before the Ukrainian army recaptured it last week, the local governor said an additional 39 “burial sites” had been uncovered. It was unclear how many bodies were buried there, or how they had died. The youngest was born last year.

A destroyed Russian tank in Pisky Radkivsky, Ukraine, on Oct. 6, 2022. © Wojciech Grzedzinski/For The Washington Post A destroyed Russian tank in Pisky Radkivsky, Ukraine, on Oct. 6, 2022.

As the war lurches into its eighth month, and a Russian victory remains elusive and ill-defined, the unquestioned loyalty Putin has enjoyed may be slipping, intelligence officials said. But they cautioned that there is no indication that he is on the brink of being swept aside.

Yasmeen Abutaleb, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Beatriz Rios and Missy Ryan contributed to this report.

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