France has welcomed 100,000 Ukrainian refugees since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began more than five months ago, Didier Leschi, director general of the French Office for Immigration and Integrain, said Thursday. The news came amid reports that President Volodymyr Zelensky is seeking an opportunity to speak "directly" with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help end the war. Follow FRANCE 24's liveblog for the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
10:49 France welcomes 100,000 Ukrainian refugees
France has welcomed 100,000 Ukrainian refugees since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began more than five months ago, Didier Leschi, director general of the French Office for Immigration and Integrain (Ofii), told AFP on Thursday.
"Since Wednesday evening, the 100,000 threshold" of people displaced by the conflict in Ukraine "has been passed", said Leschi, confirming information published in French daily Le Figaro.
9:08am: UN nuclear watchdog appeals for access to Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia power plant
The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog appealed for access to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, now controlled by Russian forces to determine whether it was a source of danger.
Contact with the Europe's largest nuclear plant, which is at Zaporizhzhia and is being operated by Ukrainian technicians, was "fragile" and communications did not function every day, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Rafael Grossi told Swiss paper Tages-Anzeiger.
"We can't afford faulty communication with the plant in areas relevant to safety. We know of allegations that live ammunition is stored in the plant, that there are attacks on the power plant," he said in interview published in German. "Frankly, if I don't have access, I can't determine that. There are contradictions between the accounts of the Russian and Ukrainian sides. I receive information, I also mention it in my situation reports, but I have no way of determining whether it corresponds to the facts."
A Russian-installed official in Ukraine said on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces had repeatedly used Western arms to attack the plant, which has two of six reactors operating and has been the subject of repeated warnings from Ukraine, the West and Russia.
8:15am: Russian troops shell towns near Kharkhiv
Ukrainian authorities in the East said that several towns have been shelled in the last hours, including in the region of Kharkhiv. In the Donetsk region, Kyiv has launched mandatory evacuations due to hard shelling. But many refuse, claiming they don't have anywhere else to go.
7:45: Ukraine warns of new Russian southern offensive
On the battleground, Russian forces were engaged in considerable military activity, firing from tanks, barrel and rocket artillery in several parts of Ukraine, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Thursday. Ukraine said Russia had begun creating a strike group in the Kryvyi Rih direction and that it could be preparing new offensive operations in southern Ukraine.
The steel-producing city of Kryvyi Rih, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky grew up, lies around 50 km (30 miles) from the southern frontline, between the Russian-occupied city of Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv.
2:00am: Zelensky reportedly seeking 'direct talks' with China to help end Ukraine war
Ukraine is seeking an opportunity to speak "directly" with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help end its war with Russia, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.
"It's a very powerful state. It's a powerful economy ... So (it) can politically, economically influence Russia. And China is [also a] permanent member of the UN Security Council," the report quoted Zelensky as saying.
12:34am: US Senate passes resolution ratifying Sweden and Finland's membership to NATO
The US Senate ratified the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO Wednesday, strongly backing the expansion of the transatlantic alliance in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The Senate voted 95 to 1 in favor of the two Nordic countries' accession, making the United States the 23rd of the 30 NATO countries to formally endorse it so far, after Italy approved it earlier Wednesday and France on Tuesday.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)