March 30, 2023

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Ukraine calls for a demilitarized zone around the bombed nuclear plant

Ukraine calls for a demilitarized zone around the bombed nuclear plant

  • Ukraine and Russia blamed each other for the strikes on the Zaporizhzhya plant
  • Kyiv warns of a Chernobyl-style disaster unless the region is secured
  • The international mission urges transplantation by the end of August
  • Russia says it is ready to enable the UN observer visit from the station
  • UN’s Guterres says any attack on nuclear plant is ‘suicide’

Kyiv (Reuters) – International alarm over the bombing of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear complex mounted at the weekend, with Kyiv warning of the danger of a Chernobyl-style catastrophe and calling for the zone to be demilitarized.

The UN Secretary-General called for UN nuclear inspectors to be allowed into the plant as Kyiv and Moscow blamed each other for the bombing in the southern region captured by Russian invaders last March and now targeted by Kyiv for a counterattack.

“Any attack (on) a nuclear plant is suicidal,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at a press conference Monday in Japan, where he attended a peace memorial ceremony in Hiroshima on Saturday to mark the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing. .

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Petro Kotin, head of the Ukrainian state nuclear energy company Energoatom, called for the deployment of a team of peacekeepers to the Zaporizhzhia site, which is still managed by Ukrainian technicians. Read more

“The decision that we are asking for from the international community and all our partners … is to withdraw the invaders from the station’s land and to establish a demilitarized zone on the station’s land,” Cotten said on television.

He added that “the presence of peacekeeping forces in this area and the transfer of control over it and then control of the station also to the Ukrainian side would solve this problem.”

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Yevni Tsympalyuk, Ukraine’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, accused Russia of trying to cause blackouts along the Ukrainian electricity grid in the south by targeting the plant. He called for an international mission led by the United Nations to be sent to the factory by the end of this month.

“We will use all possible diplomatic channels to bring the IAEA and the United Nations closer to carrying out this task. We really need it urgently as soon as possible…” Tsympalyuk told reporters in Vienna, where the IAEA is based.

After that, the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Moscow’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency as saying that Russia was ready to facilitate the IAEA’s visit to the reactor complex.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the Ukrainian attacks damaged the 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.

Ukraine blamed Russia for the attacks in the factory area and said it destroyed three radiation sensors, with two workers taken to hospital with shrapnel wounds. Reuters was unable to verify either side’s account of what happened.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, in contact with reporters, said the bombing was “extremely dangerous” and added: “We expect countries that have absolute influence on the Ukrainian leadership to use this influence in order to rule out the continuation of such bombing.”

The Ukrainian Kotin noted that the danger of shells falling on spent containers of spent nuclear fuel with high radioactivity is very serious. If two or more containers are broken, it is “impossible to assess the scale of this disaster.”

The world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster occurred in 1986 when a reactor exploded at the Chernobyl complex in northwestern Ukraine. Russian forces occupied the factory shortly after the invasion on 24 February before withdrawing in late March.

Guterres said IAEA staff need to get to Zaporizhia “to create conditions for stabilization”.

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

Elsewhere, an agreement to scrap a Ukrainian food export ban 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 and is intended to help ease the war-induced rise in global food prices.

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.

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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.

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. Written by Stephen Coates and Mark Heinrich; Editing by Simon Cameron Moore and Nick McPhee

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.