- 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
- UN’s Guterres says any attack on nuclear plant is ‘suicide’
- Two Ukrainian grain ships leave ports, 12 since last week
(Reuters) – International alarm over the weekend’s artillery attacks on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear complex escalated on Monday, with Kyiv warning of the danger of a Chernobyl-style catastrophe and calling for the zone to be demilitarized.
The UN chief called for access to the factory, where Kyiv and Moscow blamed each other for the bombing of a southern region captured by Russian invaders in March and now targeted by Kyiv with 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.”
Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted the head of the Russian local administration as saying on Monday that despite the bombing, the Zaporizhzhya complex was operating “in normal.”
Ukraine blamed Russia for the renewed bombing in the station area on Saturday, saying it destroyed three radiation sensors, with two workers taken to hospital with shrapnel wounds.
This is the second time the station has been hit in as many days, after damage to the power lines serving the station.
The authorities of Russia’s Zaporizhzhya region said that Ukrainian forces bombed the site with multiple rocket launchers, causing damage to the administrative buildings and the storage area.
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 one of four reactors at the Chernobyl plant in northwestern Ukraine caught fire and exploded.
Guterres said the IAEA needed access to the Zaporizhzhya plant. “We fully support the IAEA in all its efforts in terms of creating conditions for stabilization of the plant,” he said.
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.
Chief Economic Adviser Ole Ustenko said in July that Ukraine hopes to export 20 million tons of grain in silos and 40 million tons of its new crop to help rebuild its devastated economy.
Grind battle for Donbass
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. She said that the Russians bombed Ukrainian positions near the heavily fortified settlements of Pesky and Avdiivka, as well as other positions in the Donetsk province.
Kyiv said Russia is also trying to cement its position in southern Ukraine, where it is massing forces in an attempt to fend off a counterattack near Kherson.
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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Stephen Coates and Mark Heinrich; Editing by Simon Cameron Moore and Nick McPhee
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