Ten days after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia declared the annexation of four Ukrainian provinces, his government is stepping up efforts to bind those territories more tightly to Moscow.
Workers at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility, which Russian forces control, are being pressured to sign contracts with the Russian nuclear energy company, in defiance of Kyiv, a United Nations official said. And pro-Russian authorities in the southern Ukrainian province of Kherson said on Saturday that they had set up a hotline for civilians seeking to leave the contested area — but only if they wanted to go to Russia.
The Russian moves showed that despite failing to gain momentum on the battlefield with widespread bombardments of Ukrainian cities and towns over the past week, Mr. Putin intends to shrug off international condemnation and press ahead with efforts to link the occupied provinces to the Russian state.
Mr. Putin signed far-reaching legislation on Oct. 5 to formalize the annexation, despite the fact that his forces did not actually control all of the territory, a move that was widely condemned as a violation of international law. Now, Russia is taking preliminary steps to cement the annexation with facts on the ground.
At the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility, Ukrainian engineers who have continued to operate the plant under the watch of Russian soldiers managed to restore power to the facility late Friday, reducing worries about an accident at one of the war’s most sensitive sites.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a statement that the plant’s employees had come under “unacceptable pressure” to sign contracts with the state-owned Russian nuclear energy company, Rosatom, which would flip their allegiance from Ukraine to Russia.
That pressure adds to the stresses on the workers that Ukrainian officials have been warning about for months; they say that Russian soldiers have subjected the already fatigued staff to harsh interrogations and torture.
Holding the plant gives Moscow a military advantage as well as significant leverage over Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. The Russian authorities could also, in theory, connect the facility to their own grid, funneling power south to Ukrainian territory it seized.
Despite Russia’s claims that it has nationalized the plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency views the plant as Ukrainian, since the U.N. charter does not recognize illegal annexations, the agency said.
In what Mr. Grossi called a “much-needed development,” the plant’s engineers managed to restore backup power, ending the plant’s reliance on diesel generators. Most nuclear power plants consider diesel generators a last line of defense to be used only in extreme circumstances.
The Zaporizhzhia plant is not providing electricity to Ukraine’s grid, given that its reactors are shut down, but it needs its own power source for safety reasons.
Mr. Grossi said that efforts to restart one of the reactors would begin on Saturday in a process that would take several days.
In the southern Ukrainian province of Kherson, which Moscow now considers part of Russia, the pro-Russian authorities announced the creation of a hotline on Saturday for residents seeking to evacuate the contested area, building on days of calls by Russian proxy leaders for civilians to leave. The Ukrainian government considers those proxy leaders traitors.
The deputy head of the pro-Russian administration in the region, Kirill Stremousov, said in a post on Telegram that to “avoid casualties” among the civilian population, the local administration “strongly recommends taking the opportunity of a humanitarian trip for recreation and recovery to the Russian Federation.”
The post listed a hotline number with a Russian country code for organizing such trips.
Russia’s deputy prime minister, Marat Khusnullin, said on Saturday that several thousand children had left the region and were now “resting in children’s camps.”
It was not immediately possible to reach the number or to verify whether Russia had helped civilians leave the province.
Many civilians have fled Kherson on their own in recent weeks, often for territory controlled by Ukraine.
Still reckoning with the fallout from its decision to agree with other oil producing states to cut oil output, a move that Washington criticized as helping Russia, Saudi Arabia announced on Friday that it would provide $400 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
The cuts announced this month by the group of oil producing companies known as OPEC Plus angered President Biden, who has vowed to reassess the United States’ relationship with the kingdom, and U.S. lawmakers, some of whom have called for more drastic action, like halting arms sales. The United States said that the cuts could push up oil prices, adding cash to Russia’s war chest and undermining efforts by the U.S. and Europe to isolate Moscow.
The cuts also weaken efforts to limit Moscow’s income from oil sales and could add to surging inflation in the West.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, spoke with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on Friday and offered the aid to “alleviate the human suffering of the Ukrainian people,” according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
Mr. Zelensky wrote on Twitter that Saudi Arabia would provide financial aid to Ukraine, but he did not specify the amount or the timing.
President Biden responded on Friday to Russia’s latest bombardment of civilian population centers in Ukraine by authorizing another $725 million in weapons and military equipment for Kyiv, bringing the total of American security assistance to Ukraine to $17.6 billion since the war began.
The Pentagon said in a statement that the package would include munitions and military vehicles. The State Department said it would also include military education and training.
It will not, a Pentagon official said, include much in the way of new capabilities to defend against Russian strikes from the air, though that may come soon. Western officials have been under pressure to speed up the delivery of air defense systems to Ukraine since a barrage of Russian missiles battered cities across the country this week.
Instead, the aid will be directed primarily to restocking ammunition for weapons systems that Ukrainian troops have been using successfully in their counteroffensive, such as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS.
Mr. Zelensky said early Saturday that he was “sincerely grateful” to Mr. Biden for the new package. “We will receive, in particular, much-needed rounds for HIMARS and artillery,” the Ukrainian leader wrote on Twitter.
Additional reporting was contributed by Mike Ives, Victoria Kim and Helene Cooper.