UN nuclear watchdog warns of Ukrainian factory as Russia bombs dozens of cities


A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during the Ukraine-Russia conflict outside the Russian-controlled town of Enerhodar in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine August 4, 2022 .

Alexander Ermoshenko | Reuters

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency has expressed grave concern over the bombing of a nuclear power plant in Ukraine, as his military said Russian forces attacked dozens of frontline towns.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what President Vladimir Putin called a “special military operation“, the conflict has turned into a war of attrition fought mainly in the east. and southern Ukraine.

But fighting around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the south, captured by Russian forces at the start of the war but still run by Ukrainian technicians, raised fears of a wider catastrophe.

“I am extremely concerned by yesterday’s bombing of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which underscores the very real risk of a nuclear catastrophe,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement. communicated.

Both sides have accused each other of engaging in “nuclear terrorism”.

Ukrainian nuclear energy company Energoatom blamed Russia for the damage while the Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukrainian forces of bombing the plant.

The US accused Russia of using it as a “nuclear shield” while the Russian Defense Ministry said damage to the plant was only averted through the “skillful, competent and efficient actions” of its units.

Grossi, who heads the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, urged all parties to show “the utmost restraint”.

Shells hit a high voltage power line at the facility on Friday, prompting its operators to disconnect a reactor as no radioactive leak was detected.

While the world’s attention was focused on the nuclear power plant, the war continued in the east and south.

Russia is trying to take control of the largely Russian-speaking Donbass region in the east, made up of the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk, where pro-Moscow separatists seized territory after the Kremlin annexed Crimea to the south in 2014.

Ukraine’s military said on Saturday evening that Russian forces had shelled dozens of frontline towns and were trying to attack in six different areas of the Donetsk region, all of which failed to gain any territory and were held back. by Ukrainian forces.

Reuters could not verify the claims of either party regarding the evolution of the battlefield.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Saturday that over the past week his forces had “achieved powerful results” in destroying Russian logistics supplies and rear bases.

“Every strike on the enemy’s ammunition depots, on their command posts and on the accumulations of Russian equipment saves the lives of all of us, the lives of Ukrainian servicemen and civilians,” he said in a video address at the end of the evening.

More ships

British military intelligence said earlier that Russian forces were almost certainly massing in the south, anticipating a counter-offensive or in preparation for an assault, and the war was about to enter a new phase, most fighting moving nearly 350 km (217 miles) forward from near Zaporizhzhia to Kherson, parallel to the Dnieper River.

Ukrainian forces were focusing on bridges, ammunition depots and rail links with increasing frequency in its southern regions, including the strategically important rail spur that connects Kherson to Russian-occupied Crimea, he said. he declares.

In a positive development, Ukraine is beginning to resume grain exports, easing fears of a global food crisis, in an effort overseen by a joint coordination center in Istanbul staffed by Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and foreign personnel. ‘UN.

Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said a second caravan of four ships carrying Ukrainian agricultural products had left Black Sea ports. The first four ships left Ukraine last week as part of the deal.

Prior to the invasion, Russia and Ukraine together accounted for almost a third of world wheat exports.

Zelenskyy welcomed the resumption of exports, although he said risks remained.

“The threat of Russian provocations and terrorist acts remains. Everyone should be aware of this,” he said.

“But if our partners fulfill their part of the commitment and guarantee the security of supplies, this will really solve the world food crisis.”

Following an outcry over a human rights report by Amnesty International, which accused Ukraine’s armed forces of endangering civilians by basing troops in residential areas during the invasion, the head of her office Ukrainian resigned saying she had opposed its publication.

Amnesty’s report drew sharp criticism from the Ukrainian government, with Zelenskiy leading the denunciations, accusing the group “of trying to shift the blame from the aggressor to the victim”.

An Amnesty spokesperson said he was sorry to see the head of his office in Ukraine leave and that the group was preparing a new statement on the controversial report.

Ukrainian officials say they are taking all possible steps to evacuate civilians from frontline areas. Russia denies targeting civilians in what it describes as a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

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