Attack on Ukraine’s nuclear plant prompts UN call for access

  • Kyiv and Moscow blamed the trade for the Zaporizhzhya plant strikes
  • Guterres: Any attack on a nuclear plant is a ‘suicide’
  • Factory in Russia-controlled area and operating normally – Moscow
  • Two Ukrainian grain ships leave ports, 12 since last week

(Reuters) – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Monday for international inspectors to be allowed into the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant after Ukraine and Russia traded accusations over the bombing of Europe’s largest nuclear complex at the weekend.

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

Yevgeny Palitsky, head of the Russian local administration, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying on Monday that, despite the bombing, the nuclear reactor complex was operating “in normal.”

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Russian forces captured the plant in southeastern Ukraine in early March, shortly after Moscow invaded its neighbor on February 24, but Ukrainian technicians still run the plant.

Ukraine blamed Russia for the renewed bombing of the station area on Saturday that destroyed three radiation sensors and injured a worker. This is the second time the plant has fallen in as many days after a power line was damaged.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a televised address on Sunday, accused Russia of launching “nuclear terrorism” that would call for more international sanctions, this time on Moscow’s sprawling nuclear energy sector.

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.

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The Russian Embassy in Washington described the damage, saying that Ukrainian artillery destroyed two high-voltage power lines and a water pipeline, but that vital infrastructure was not affected.

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

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.

The armed conflict near a Soviet-era nuclear power plant alarmed the world.

Guterres said the IAEA needed access to the station. “We fully support the IAEA in all its efforts in terms of creating conditions for stabilization of the plant,” he said.

The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, warned on Saturday that the latest attack “underscores the real danger of a nuclear catastrophe.”

Grain exports pick up steam

Elsewhere, 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 Turkish Defense Ministry said four ships that left Ukraine on Sunday are expected to dock near Istanbul on Monday evening, and will be inspected on Tuesday, while the first ship to set sail since the Russian invasion on Feb. 24 docked.

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

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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 conquest of Moscow, 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.

The country’s economic adviser, Ole Ostenko, said in July that Ukraine hoped to export 20 million tons of grain in silos and 40 million tons of its new crop to help rebuild its shattered 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 re-establish 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.

It developed into a war of attrition concentrated in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces are trying to take full control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, 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.

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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.

Interfax quoted a Russian-appointed official in Kherson as saying on Monday that Ukraine had again bombed the Antonevsky Bridge there, damaging construction equipment and delaying its reopening.

The bridge is one of only two crossing points for Russian troops into the lands they captured on the west bank of the main Dnipro River in the south.

It has been a major Ukrainian target in recent weeks, with Kyiv using high-precision missiles provided by the United States to try to destroy it in preparation for a counterattack.

Regional Governor Oleh Senhopov wrote in Telegram, in the northeast of the country, one person was killed and another wounded in a Russian missile attack on Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine.

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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.

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