- PAVEL POLITYUK, MUVIJA M and ELIZABETH PIPER
Bombing struck a high-voltage power line at a major Ukrainian nuclear power plant captured by Russia on Friday, prompting plant operators to disconnect a reactor as no radioactive leak was detected.
Ukrainian nuclear energy company Energoatom blamed Russia for damage to the Zaporizhzhia power plant, the largest in Europe. Earlier this week, the United Nations nuclear watchdog requested access to the plant, which Washington says Russia is using as a shield on the battlefield.
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 the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine on 4 August 2022. PHOTO: Reuters/ Alexander Ermoshenko
The Russian Defense Ministry has accused Ukrainian forces of bombing the factory, which was captured by Russian forces in early March at the start of the war, saying a radiation leak was only avoided by luck .
He said that as a result, the production capacity of one unit was reduced and the power supply to another was cut off. In addition, the nearby town of Enerhodar is experiencing problems with electricity and water supply, according to a statement from the ministry.
It was not the first time that military action has caused concern in Zaporizhzhia, where the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency has occasionally reported losing connection with surveillance systems that keep a traces of nuclear material.
Russia’s Enerhodar administration said in a statement that a fire had broken out and the electricity necessary for the safe operation of the reactors had been cut off. The factory continues to be run by its Ukrainian technicians.
Energoatom said the plant, located about 200 kilometers northwest of the Russian port of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine, was still operational and no radioactive discharge had been detected.
The decision was taken to disconnect a reactor from the grid due to damage to a 330-kilowatt high-voltage electricity distribution line connecting the plant to the thermal power plant, he said.
Further east, both sides claimed small advances as Russian artillery bombarded towns and villages over a wide area in a now familiar tactic.
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US Weapons Pack
The next arms package to Ukraine from the United States is expected to be $1 billion, one of the largest to date, three sources briefed on the matter told Reuters.
If signed in its current form, it will include ammunition for long-range weapons and armored medical transport vehicles, the sources said.
The package is expected to be announced as early as Monday and would be in addition to about $8.8 billion in aid the United States has given Ukraine since the Russian invasion on Feb. 24.
In other developments, three grain ships left Ukrainian ports on Friday and the first incoming cargo ship since the Russian invasion was to be loaded in Ukraine, marking new milestones in the Kyiv government’s efforts to revive its economy after five months of war.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meanwhile met Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who is cultivating a mediating role in the war, in the Russian city of Sochi.
“The international community cannot end the war in Ukraine by ignoring Russia,” said Fahrettin Altun, one of Erdogan’s top aides.
Turkey helped broker the deal which on Monday saw the first grain ship leave a Ukrainian port for foreign markets since the invasion.
The Turkish-flagged cargo ship Polarnet leaves the seaport of Chornomorsk after restarting the export of grain, amid the Russian attack on Ukraine on August 5. PHOTO: Reuters/Serhii Smolientsev
On Friday, two grain ships departed from Chornomorsk and one from Odessa carrying a total of around 58,000 tonnes of corn, the Turkish Defense Ministry said.
The Turkish bulk carrier Osprey Sflying the Liberian flag, was due to arrive in Chornomorsk on Friday to stock up on grain, the Odessa regional administration said.
Russia and Ukraine normally produce around a third of the world’s wheat, and the United Nations had warned that halting grain shipments through the Russian-dominated Black Sea could lead to famine in other countries, particularly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
“We hope that the security guarantees of our UN partners and Turkey will continue to work and that food exports from our ports will become stable and predictable for all market players,” said Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov.
Ukraine’s Seaports Authority said on Monday that 68 ships were docked in Ukrainian ports with 1.2 million tons of cargo on board, two-thirds of which was food.
Battle for the Fortress
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in what Putin called a “special military operation”, the conflict has turned into a war of attrition fought largely in the east and south of Ukraine.
Moscow is trying to take control of the largely Russian-speaking Donbass, made up of the provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk, where pro-Moscow separatists seized territory after the Kremlin annexed Crimea from the south in 2014.
Russian news agency TASS quoted separatist forces on Friday as saying they and Russian troops had taken full control of Pisky in the Donetsk region, a fortified village held by Ukrainian troops and close to the city of Donetsk, which is in the hands of Russian-backed separatist forces.
But Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said: “There is very little evidence of any movement here. They [the Russians] tried to move forward, but without success. »
Ukraine has turned the village into a stronghold, viewing it as a buffer against Russian-backed forces holding the city of Donetsk about 10 kilometers to the southeast.
TASS also said fighting was taking place in the town of Bakhmut, north of Donetsk and Russia’s next main target.
Arestovych said Ukrainian forces had recaptured two villages near Izyum in the Kharkiv region, which borders Russia, and were advancing towards a third.
Reuters could not verify the claims of either party regarding the evolution of the battlefield.
– With Reuters agencies