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216d ago / 8:34 AM UTC

Independent Russian radio network Echo of Moscow disbands

Independent Russian radio network Echo of Moscow has shut down after its board of directors voted to liquidate its station and news site on Thursday. 

The closure comes days after the station, one of Russia's last liberal news sources, was taken off air.

The country's prosecutor general had called for access to the station to be restricted over its coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

215d ago / 6:03 AM UTC

U.S. waives Covid test for Americans leaving Russia, Belarus

The United States is waiving a requirement for negative Covid-19 tests from Americans leaving Belarus or Russia to travel home, the State Department said Thursday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it would exercise its discretion to allow travel by U.S. citizens, permanent residents and holders of valid immigrant visas who were in either country by a Feb. 28 cut-off date.

Earlier, it made a similar waiver for Americans leaving Ukraine who had been in the country by Feb. 10. 

215d ago / 5:47 AM UTC

Fire out at Ukraine nuclear plant after Russian shelling

A fire that erupted in a training building at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant amid heavy Russian shelling was extinguished, authorities said Friday.

The State Emergency Service of Ukraine said in a statement that there were no victims in the blaze at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to an NBC News translation.

“Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia NPP, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe,” the foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said earlier on Twitter. “Fire has already broke out.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency said no "essential" equipment had been damaged and that there were no changes in radiation levels.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke with President Joe Biden and European leaders about what he described in a Telegram post as the potential "nuclear catastrophe" the shelling could unleash.

"If there is an explosion it is the end for all of us," he said. "The end of Europe."

In a summary of their call released by the White House, Biden urged "Russia to cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site."

215d ago / 5:01 AM UTC

Ukraine’s rail system a lifeline for refugees fleeing war with Russia

215d ago / 4:28 AM UTC

Boris Johnson to seek U.N. Security Council meeting

The office of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will seek an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting after Russian troops in Ukraine attacked a nuclear power plant and sparked a fire.

Johnson’s office says he spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the early hours of the morning. He says Britain will raise the issue immediately with Russia and close partners.

Johnson’s office says he and Zelenskyy agree Russia must immediately cease attacking and allow emergency services unfettered access to the plant. The two agree a ceasefire is essential.

“The Prime Minister said the reckless actions of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin could now directly threaten the safety of all of Europe,” Johnson’s office said in a statement. “He said (the United Kingdom) would do everything it could to ensure the situation did not deteriorate further.”

215d ago / 3:33 AM UTC

Russian negotiators say more talks will likely be held shortly

MOSCOW — Russian negotiators in talks with Ukraine say another round of talks will likely be held shortly.

Vladimir Medinsky, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adviser who led the Russian delegation in the talks Thursday in Belarus near the Polish border, said the parties’ “positions are absolutely clear, they are written down point by point,” including issues related to a political settlement of the conflict. He added without elaboration that “mutual understanding was found on part of them.”

He confirmed that Russia and Ukraine reached a tentative agreement to create safe corridors for civilians to exit besieged cities and observe local cease-fires in areas where they will be created.

Leonid Slutsky, a senior Russian lawmaker who was part of the Russian delegation in talks, said that the details of safe corridors will need to be worked out quickly. He said that the next round of talks could lead to agreements, some of which would need to be ratified by Russian and Ukrainian parliaments.

215d ago / 3:03 AM UTC
215d ago / 2:16 AM UTC

Biden speaks with Zelenskyy

Biden spoke with Zelenskyy on Thursday evening, a White House official said.

The call came amid reports about a fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeast Ukraine. The plant, Europe's largest, accounts for about one-quarter of Ukraine’s power generation.

"President Biden joined President Zelenskyy in urging Russia to cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site," the White House said in a readout of the call.

215d ago / 12:46 AM UTC

Russian troops are firing at Europe's largest nuclear power plant, Ukrainian official says

Ukraine's foreign minister said Thursday that Europe's largest nuclear plant in the country's southeast was taking fire from Russian troops. 

"Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia NPP, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe," the foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said on Twitter. "Fire has already broke out."

Kuleba added that if the plant, which holds six of the country's 15 reactors, explodes, it will be far worse than the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

In a video posted on Telegram, Andriy Tuz, a facility spokesperson, demanded that Russia stop shelling the plant and said there was a "real threat of nuclear danger," according to the Associated Press.

The development came one day after Mariano Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he was "gravely concerned" about the invasion of Ukraine.

"It is the first time a military conflict is happening amidst the facilities of a large, established nuclear power program," he said.

"I have called for restraint from all measures or actions that could jeopardize the security of nuclear and other radioactive material, and the safe operation of any nuclear facilities in Ukraine, because any such incident could have severe consequences, aggravating human suffering and causing environmental harm."

Read the full story here. 

216d ago / 12:19 AM UTC

Ukraine-Russia tentatively agree on establishing humanitarian corridors

A second round of talks between Ukraine and Russia ended Thursday with both sides tentatively agreeing to establish humanitarian corridors that would allow the safe evacuation of Ukrainian citizens and supplies to be delivered for those left behind. 

The two countries also agreed on possible temporary cease-fires in the areas established as humanitarian corridors. Little else was agreed upon Thursday. 

"I think this is a significant progress," Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s chief negotiator in the talks, told reporters. "Russia once again calls on all civilians to use these humanitarian corridors if the fighting continues or to do everything possible to stop the fighting.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office, said Wednesday more needs to be done to protect innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.

"The villages & towns where Russian troops’ columns are stationed immediately turn into places of looting, robbery, murder," he said in a tweet. "We need humanitarian corridors - food, medicine, ambulance, evacuation. We need active help of international organizations."

216d ago / 11:48 PM UTC

Biden administration offers temporary immigration relief to Ukrainians in U.S.

The Biden administration said Wednesday it would allow some Ukrainians already in the U.S. to seek temporary immigration protections, citing the deadly war Russia is waging against the country.

“In these extraordinary times, we will continue to offer our support and protection to Ukrainian nationals in the United States," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

Temporary Protected Status runs for 18 months. To be eligible, applicants must have continuously resided in the U.S. since March 1, 2022, DHS said. It will not apply to those who entered the country after March 1. The temporary immigration status, once conferred, protects people without documentation against deportation action, allowing them to stay and work in the U.S.

216d ago / 10:42 PM UTC

Kremlin-backed RT America lays off staff

RT America, the U.S. cable news network widely seen as one of Putin's mouthpieces in the West, plans to halt production and lay off its employees, according to a memo from T&R Productions, the production company that operated the channel.

Misha Solodovnikov, the general manager of T&R Productions, told employees that it will be "ceasing production" because of "unforeseen business interruption events." (NBC News obtained a copy of the memo. The news was first reported by CNN.)

“Unfortunately, we anticipate this layoff will be permanent, meaning that this will result in the permanent separation from employment of most T&R employees at all locations,” Solodovnikov wrote.

An RT America employee who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing concern about professional repercussions, said staff members were told they would receive two months of severance.

RT America is part of the Moscow-based RT network, which U.S. intelligence agencies have described as "Russia's state-run propaganda machine." In late 2017, T&R Productions registered as a foreign agent for the Russian government, according to a Justice Department release.

The channel aired a mix of news broadcasts, political commentary programs and talk shows hosted by the likes of William Shatner and Dennis Miller. (The shows featuring Shatner and Miller were produced by the independent media company Ora TV, which licensed content to RT America.)

NBC News reported this week that Miller would stop making his talk show because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to a source familiar with his thinking.

In an email this week, Shatner insisted that he was not involved in the decision to license his show to RT and said he stood with the people of Ukraine.