A risky inspection and Russian oil boss dies – Ukraine round-up

The UN’s nuclear watchdog has finally gained access to the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine – but few details emerged on Thursday of what they had discovered.

The inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency spent a few hours at the plant, after a risky journey delayed by shelling near the site.

However, it’s not yet clear which parts of the facility they were able to visit, or whether they were able to interview the Ukrainian technicians who are still operating the station.

Zaporizhzhia is Europe’s largest nuclear plant. Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for shelling at the plant, prompting warnings an accident could cause a nuclear disaster.

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Top Russian oil executive falls to his death

Ravil Maganov was given a lifetime achievement award by President Vladimir Putin in 2019IMAGE SOURCE,KREMLIN
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Ravil Maganov was given a lifetime achievement award by President Vladimir Putin in 2019

A top Russian business executive has become the latest to die in mysterious circumstances.

Ravil Maganov, the chairman of Russia’s second-largest oil producer Lukoil, is reported to have fallen from a hospital window in Moscow.

The company confirmed his death, but said only that Maganov, 67, had “passed away following a severe illness”.

Russian media said he was being treated at Moscow’s Central Clinical Hospital and died of his injuries.

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Lukoil board called for the conflict to end as soon as possible, expressing its sympathy to victims of “this tragedy”.

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Fighting back in Donbas

On the ground, Ukrainian forces are trying to wrest the initiative from Russian troops before the arrival of winter.

A counter-offensive is already under way in the south, but the Ukrainians are now preparing to expand that in the east, to take back land lost in Donbas and around Kharkiv in the north.

The BBC’s Quentin Sommerville and camera-journalist Darren Conway went to the Donbas region, where they were given exclusive access to a unit of Ukrainian troops.

Svarog points out Russian positions

“I’m not told the destination beforehand, and a unit press officer asks me not to name the regiment. He removes identifying patches from the men we film,” our correspondent said.

“The shelling is constant, but at a distance. Instead, there is a more immediate threat: anti-personnel mines. I count five as we walk along a muddy path to the river.”

With strict Ukrainian reporting restrictions in place, information about the counter-offensive was scarce on Thursday.

However, a military expert told the BBC that Ukraine’s effort to recapture the key city of Kherson had a “good chance” of regaining control of the area without the need for direct fighting in the city itself.

Prof Michael Clarke, a former director of the Royal United Services Institute, described the Ukrainian push as a “big moment in this war”.

The University of Exeter academic said the events of recent days had made it clear Ukraine was pursuing an “ambitious offensive”, with attacks spread in a “wide arc” of about 100 miles (160km) in the surrounding area.

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‘I don’t know what schooling will look like’

Maryna with her nine-year-old son, Daniil
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Maryna (right) says her son Daniil now has trouble sleeping because of the war

For many families, the new academic year is part of the cycle of life. But this year, tens of thousands of people across Ukraine will be denied that normality, with just 40% of schools able to reopen fully.

Some children have been traumatised by the invasion – including Maryna’s nine-year-old son, Daniil, who has learning difficulties.

“He would scream, ‘Rockets! Rockets!’,” his mother recalls. “He still doesn’t sleep well. I shield him by embracing him and saying: ‘Mommy’s with you and she’ll never leave you.'”

Maryna is desperate for Daniil to return to the classroom as he struggles with speech.

“Many speech therapists left the city, I don’t know what schooling will look like and how they will rebuild this school. But we desperately need these specialists.”

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