Nuclear plant shelling accuses Ukraine-Russia trade

KIEV—Kiev and Moscow on Monday exchanged responsibility for the weekend’s shelling of Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear facility, amid international alarm that the two countries’ battle for control of the nuclear power plant could spell catastrophe. and.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called any attack on a nuclear power plant an “suicidal act” and urged UN nuclear inspectors to enter Zaporizhia, Europe’s largest facility of its kind. asked for permission.

Russian invaders occupied southern regions of Ukraine, including Zaporizhia, in March without damaging the reactors. The area, which includes the city of Kherson, is now the target of a Ukrainian military counterattack.

Ukraine called for the demilitarization of the area around the complex and the access of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, “hostage by shelling the plant”.

Ukraine blames Russia for the weekend’s attacks around the complex, which is still run by Ukrainian engineers. It said three radiation sensors were damaged and two workers were injured by shrapnel.

As of Monday morning, the power station appeared to still be operating, said Petro Kotin, president of Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear power company Energoatom. He said 500 Russian soldiers and 50 heavy equipment, including tanks, trucks and armored infantry vehicles, were at the scene.

Ukrainian staff at the factory had nowhere to go, he added.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the accounts on either side.

Kotin warned of the danger of shelling six containers of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel and called on peacekeepers to run the Zaporizhzhia site. In an evening video shared online, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for new Western sanctions against Russia’s nuclear industry “for creating the threat of a nuclear disaster.”

Dr Mark Wenman, a nuclear expert at Imperial College London, downplayed the risk of a serious accident, saying Zaporizhia’s reactors were relatively robust and the spent fuel was well protected.

“It may seem worrying and fighting at nuclear facilities is illegal…the likelihood of a serious nuclear release is still small,” he said in a statement.

Work under the “Russian Gun”

Ukraine’s ambassador to the IAEA, Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, said Zaporizhzhia staff “worked under the barrel of Russian guns.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s defense ministry said the Ukrainian strike damaged power lines feeding the power plant, forcing it to cut the output of two of its six reactors to “prevent chaos.” said.

Guterres said IAEA officials need access to “create the conditions for stabilization.”

“Any attack on a nuclear power plant is a suicidal act,” he said at a press conference in Japan, attending Saturday’s Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony to mark the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing.

In 1986, a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl complex in northwestern Ukraine exploded, creating the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster. Shortly after his February 24 invasion of this year, Russian forces occupied the site and withdrew in late March.

Ukraine says it is planning a major counterattack around Kherson and has already recaptured dozens of villages.

Ukrainian forces are also fighting to retake an area in the north near Kharkiv, where Russian forces began shelling on Monday, the Ukrainian chief of staff said.

In the Donetsk region of Ukraine, where pro-Moscow separatists occupied territory after the Kremlin annexed Crimea to the south in 2014, Russia “used all available firepower … to inflict maximum losses on Ukrainian forces. to prevent them from strengthening other areas.” General staff added.

Washington has stepped up its financial aid and military spending to Ukraine, announcing $4.5 billion in budget support and $1 billion in weapons, including long-range rockets and armored medical transport vehicles. Overall, the US donated more than $18 billion of hers to Ukraine this year.

Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign ministry told the US it was suspending inspection activities under the START nuclear arms control treaty, but said Russia remained committed to the treaty’s provisions.

Grain exports pick up

Adding weight to a rare diplomatic success since the war began, the deal to unblock Ukrainian food exports and alleviate global shortages will see two ships carrying about 59,000 tons of corn and soybeans. Grain ships picked up the pace when they set sail from Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

A July 22 grain export deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations further added that the two parties had issued a procedure that included a 10-nautical-mile military exclusion zone for merchant ships carrying Ukrainian grain, according to documents seen by Reuters. backed up.

Before the invasion, Russia and Ukraine together accounted for almost one-third of world wheat exports.

Russia has said it is conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine to eliminate nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and the West describe Russia’s actions as a gratuitous war of aggression.