Amid global concern, Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for attacks on nuclear plants

  • Kyiv warns of a Chernobyl-style disaster unless the region is secured
  • The two sides support the visit of the nuclear inspectors
  • UN’s Guterres says any attack on nuclear plant is ‘suicide’
  • Two Ukrainian grain ships leave ports, 12 since last week

Kyiv (Reuters) – International alarm over the weekend bombing of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear complex has mounted, with Kyiv and Moscow trading blame for the attacks as they seek to address fears their battle for control of the plant could lead to disaster.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has called an attack on a nuclear plant “something suicidal,” demanded that UN inspectors be allowed access. The largest complex of its kind in Europe, Zaporizhzhia is located in the southern region captured by Russian invaders in March and now targeted by Ukraine for a counterattack.

Kyiv appealed for the zone to be demilitarized and to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s atomic energy agency, to enter it. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it would also prefer to visit the International Atomic Energy Agency, which it accused Ukraine of obstructing it while trying to “take Europe hostage”. Factory bombing. Read more

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Ukraine blamed Russia for the weekend attacks in the area of ​​the complex, which is still run by Ukrainian technicians. She said three radiation sensors were damaged, with two workers taken to hospital with shrapnel wounds.

Reuters was unable to verify either side’s account of what happened.

Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s state nuclear energy company Energoatom, called for peacekeepers to be deployed and operational at the Zaporizhzhia site, with operational control handed over to Ukraine.

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He pointed out that the danger of missiles colliding with containers of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel, describing it as very serious. If two or more containers are broken, it is “impossible to assess the scale” of the resulting disaster.

“Such crazy behavior may leave the situation out of control and it will be Fukushima or Chernobyl,” Koten said.

Working under Russian guns

Yevni Tsymbalyuk, Ukraine’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Zaporizhzhya employees “work under the barrels of Russian rifles.” He called for an international mission led by the United Nations to be sent to the station by the end of August and accused Russia of trying to cause a blackout along the electricity grid in southern Ukraine by targeting the station. Read more

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said the Ukrainian attacks damaged high-voltage power lines serving the Soviet-era plant and forced it to cut production from two of its six reactors “to prevent disruption”. Read more

A Russian official in the Zaporizhia region said earlier that the facility was operating normally.

UN Guterres said agency staff needed to reach Zaporizhia “to create conditions for stabilization”.

“Any attack (on) a nuclear plant is suicidal,” he told a news conference in Japan, where he attended a peace memorial ceremony in Hiroshima on Saturday.

The world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster occurred in 1986 when a reactor exploded at the Chernobyl complex in northwestern Ukraine. Soon after the February 24 invasion of this year, Russian forces occupied that position, and withdrew from the area in late March.

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Ukraine said it was planning a major counterattack in the Russian-occupied south, apparently focused on the city of Kherson, west of Zaporizhzhya, and that it had already retaken dozens of villages.

Grain exports pick up steam

Nearby, an agreement to unblock Ukrainian food exports and ease global shortages accelerated as two grain ships sailed from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Monday, bringing the total to 12 since the first ship left a week ago. Read more

The last two departing ships were carrying nearly 59,000 tons of corn and soybeans and were bound for Italy and southeast Turkey. The four that departed on Sunday carried nearly 170,000 tons of corn and other foodstuffs.

The July 22 grain export deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations marks a rare diplomatic victory as fighting continues in Ukraine. The deal is intended to help ease soaring global food prices caused by the war.

Before the invasion, Russia and Ukraine together accounted for nearly a third of global wheat exports. The turmoil that has occurred since then has raised the specter of famine in parts of the world.

Ukraine said it hopes to export 20 million tons of grain in silos and 40 million tons of its new crop to help rebuild its devastated economy.

Russia says it is conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine to rid it of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and the West describe Russia’s actions as an unjustified imperial-style war to reassert control over a pro-Western neighbor lost when the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991.

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The conflict has displaced millions, killed thousands of civilians, and left cities, towns and villages in ruins.

Russian forces are trying to take full control of the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow separatists seized territory after the Kremlin annexed Crimea to the south in 2014.

“Ukrainian soldiers firmly maintain the defense, inflict losses on the enemy and are ready for any changes in the operational situation,” the Ukrainian General Staff said in an operational update on Monday.

The Ukrainian military said that Russian forces intensified their attacks north and northwest of the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk in Donbass on Sunday.

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Writing by Stephen Coates, Mark Heinrich, John Stonestreet; Editing by Simon Cameron Moore, Nick McPhee, Peter Graf

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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