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Key developments

Ukraine set up a crisis center to deal with the possible emergency situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP) in southern Ukraine.

A total of 24 ships of grain and other foodstuffs have left Ukraine under a grain deal signed last month in Türkiye.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has discussed conditions for the safe operation of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

14:29 2022-08-19
Zelensky discusses peace in Ukraine with UN chief, Turkish president
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attend a joint news conference following their meeting in Lviv, Ukraine August 18, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday discussed prospects for ending the Russia-Ukraine conflict with visiting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Ukrainian government-run Ukrinform news agency reported.

At a joint press conference after their meeting in Ukraine's western city of Lviv, Zelensky said that Kyiv is ready for peace talks with Moscow only after the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.

For his part, Erdogan said Türkiye will provide all necessary support to resume negotiations to end the conflict.

The peace talks between Ukraine and Russia could be based on the agreements achieved in March in Istanbul, Erdogan said, adding that Türkiye is ready to be a mediator in the negotiations.

During the press conference, Guterres called for demilitarization at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. The plant, one of the biggest nuclear power plants in Europe, has been under the control of Russian military forces since early March.

"Military equipment and personnel must be withdrawn from the plant. Further deployment of forces or weapons at the facility must be avoided," Guterres added.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict started on Feb. 24.

Ukrainian and Russian negotiators held the latest round of face-to-face peace talks in Istanbul, Türkiye, on March 29.

09:06 2022-08-19
Ukrainian president, UN chief meet on grain exports, situation
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) meets with visiting United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Ukraine's western city of Lviv, Aug 18, 2022. [Photo/Ukrainian presidential office/Handout via Xinhua]

KYIV - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday met with visiting United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to discuss grain exports from Ukraine and the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP), the presidential press service reported.

At the meeting in Ukraine's western city of Lviv, Zelensky hailed the UN's positive role in resuming grain exports from Ukraine and stressed Kyiv's readiness to guarantee global food security.

Zelensky and Guterres agreed to continue the coordination on the grain initiative implementation and emphasized the importance of increasing the number of vessels exporting foodstuffs from Ukraine.

The parties also talked about the UN's role in ensuring security at the Zaporizhzhia NPP and stressed the need for the demilitarization of the plant.

Another topic of the discussion was the release of Ukrainian military personnel and medics taken captive during the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Guterres arrived in Ukraine on Wednesday. Later on Thursday, Zelensky and Guterres are set to hold a tripartite meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On July 22, Ukraine signed a deal with Türkiye and the UN in Istanbul to resume food and fertilizer shipments from Ukrainian ports to international markets via the Black Sea. The same agreement was signed by Russia.

Last week, Ukraine and Russia exchanged accusations over a strike on the Zaporizhzhia plant, which is one of the largest atomic power complexes in Europe and generates a quarter of Ukraine's total electricity.

On Aug. 11, Ukraine called for an international mission under the leadership of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), involving UN experts, to visit the plant to assess the threats to nuclear safety.

10:32 2022-08-18
Three more ships leave Ukraine under grain deal

KYIV -- A fleet of three vessels, together carrying 33,000 tons of corn, wheat and sunflower oil, departed from Ukraine on Wednesday, the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority said.

So far, a total of 24 ships have left Ukraine under a grain deal signed last month in Türkiye.

Also on Wednesday, five vessels entered Ukrainian ports for loading, which are expected to supply more than 70,000 tons of wheat, bran, sunflower oil and corn to international markets.

Ukraine has set a target to handle about 100 vessels per month in its Black Sea ports, which would allow exporting some 3 million tons of grain and other foodstuffs.

On July 22, Ukraine and Russia separately signed a deal with Türkiye and the United Nations in Istanbul to resume food and fertilizer shipments from Ukrainian ports to international markets via the Black Sea.

On Aug. 1, the first cargo vessel carrying grain left the Ukrainian port of Odesa for the port of Tripoli in Lebanon.

10:11 2022-08-18
Ukraine sets up crisis center over situation at Zaporizhzhia NPP
In this photograph taken on August 13, 2022 a local resident works in a garden in Vyschetarasivka as Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (Background-R) is seen across the Dnipro river. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV -- Ukraine set up a crisis center to deal with the possible emergency situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP) in southern Ukraine, the government-run Ukrinform news agency reported on Wednesday, citing the country's Energy Minister Herman Galushchenko.

The crisis headquarters that was created on the base of Ukraine's state-run nuclear energy operator Energoatom will work round the clock to monitor the situation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP, Galushchenko told reporters.

The new government body will involve representatives of Ukrainian ministries, departments and institutions, Galushchenko said.

Last week, Ukraine and Russia exchanged accusations over a strike on the Zaporizhzhia plant, which is one of the largest atomic power complexes in Europe and generates a quarter of Ukraine's total electricity.

On Aug. 11, Ukraine called for an international mission to the plant under the leadership of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to assess the threats to nuclear safety.

09:23 2022-08-17
Russia, UN discuss power plant safety
An apartment building in the Ukrainian city of Nikopol bears the scars of the conflict on Monday. KOSTIANTYN LIBEROV/AP

MOSCOW-Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has discussed conditions for the safe operation of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

In a phone call, Shoigu and Guterres also discussed initiatives to ease conditions for exports of Russian food products and fertilizers, the ministry said in a statement.

"In close cooperation with the agency and its leadership, we will do everything necessary for the IAEA specialists to be at the station and give a truthful assessment of the destructive actions of the Ukrainian side," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The plant, Europe's biggest nuclear facility, was captured by Russian troops at the beginning of March, not long after Moscow launched its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Since the end of July, Zaporizhzhia has been the target of a number of military strikes, with both Moscow and Kyiv accusing each other of being behind the shelling.

The fighting at the plant has triggered fears of a possible nuclear catastrophe and was the subject of an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council last Thursday.

The authorities in Ukraine, where parliament on Monday extended martial law for a further three months, have said for weeks they are planning a counteroffensive to recapture Zaporizhzhia and neighboring Kherson Province.

On Tuesday, during a speech at the Moscow international security conference, Shoigu reiterated that Russia had no need to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Shoigu also said that Ukrainian military operations were being planned by the United States and Britain, and that NATO had increased its troop deployment in Eastern and Central Europe "several times over".

Even as the biggest conflict in Europe since 1945 grinds on, an arrangement enabling shipments of grain from Ukraine has held up.

The ship Brave Commander has left the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi, carrying the first cargo of humanitarian food aid bound for Africa from Ukraine since Russia's military operation began in February, Refinitiv Eikon data showed on Tuesday. The Turkish Defense Ministry said five ships left Ukrainian ports carrying corn and wheat.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday accused Washington of seeking to prolong the conflict in Ukraine.

"The situation in Ukraine shows that the US is trying to prolong this conflict. And they act in exactly the same way, fueling the potential for conflict in Asia, Africa and Latin America," Putin said in remarks as he addressed the opening of the security conference in Moscow.

Ren Qi in Moscow contributed to this story.

Agencies - China Daily

08:54 2022-08-17
Ukrainian leader to meet UN chief, Turkish president this week: Ukrainian media
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will meet United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported Tuesday, citing UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

The meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday in Ukraine's western city of Lviv. The agenda of the meeting has not been revealed.

On Friday, Guterres is due to visit a seaport in Ukraine's southern city of Odesa. On July 22, Ukraine signed a deal with Türkiye and the UN in Istanbul to resume food and fertilizer shipments from Ukrainian ports to international markets via the Black Sea.

The same agreement was signed by Russia. Since the deal came into force on Aug 1, a total of 563,317 metric tons of grain and other foodstuffs have been shipped from Ukraine to several countries as part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. 

10:59 2022-08-13
Ukrainian president proposes extending martial law, general mobilization
File photo shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attending a press conference devoted to his two years in office in Kyiv, Ukraine, May 20, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

KYIV -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday proposed to the parliament to prolong the current martial law and general mobilization in the country for another 90 days, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported.

Two separate drafts on extending the martial law and general mobilization have been submitted to the parliament for consideration, according to the parliament's website.

The Ukrainian parliament imposed a martial law after the start of the conflict with Russia on Feb 24 and extended it three times since then.

The general mobilization of the population was introduced in Ukraine on Feb 24 and was prolonged in May for another three months.

The laws on the martial law and general mobilization in Ukraine are due to expire on Aug 23. 

07:30 2022-08-13
UN envoy airs Ukraine nuclear concerns
By MINLU ZHANG at the United Nations
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Energodar, Ukraine, as seen on March 8, has been subjected to shelling during the conflict. KONSTANTIN MIHALCHEVSKIY/SPUTNIK

A Chinese ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday reiterated his concerns over the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine, calling for efforts to minimize the possibility of the leakage of radioactive materials.

"China has been closely following the issue of the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine and is deeply concerned by the recent shelling on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant," Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN, said at a UN Security Council briefing on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Zhang said that according to the information obtained by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, from Ukraine's nuclear regulator, the shelling did not pose an immediate threat to nuclear safety.

"Nevertheless, the shelling did cause damage to the physical integrity of the plant, its safety and security system, power supply and personnel safety, which sounded a nuclear alarm to the international community," he said.

Ukraine and Russia have exchanged accusations over strikes on the plant in southern Ukraine. The facility is one of the largest atomic power complexes in Europe and generates a quarter of Ukraine's electricity. It has been under the control of Russian forces since March and has been the scene of military strikes in recent days.

Ukraine's Energoatom agency said the complex was struck five times on Thursday, including near where radioactive materials are stored. Russian-appointed officials said Ukraine shelled the plant twice, disrupting a shift changeover, Russia's TASS news agency said.

"The safety and security of nuclear sites must not be subjected to trial and error," said Zhang. If a large-scale accident were to occur at Zaporizhzhia, the consequences would be even more devastating than that of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, according to Zhang.

The leakage of massive quantities of radioactive materials caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the resulting nuclear-contaminated water have far-reaching consequences for the marine environment, food safety and human health, thereby sparking widespread concern, he said.

"China does not want to see the same risks playing out again," the envoy said.

In Thursday's meeting, Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the IAEA, called for a cessation of military activity around the plant. He referred to the situation as "a grave hour" and said that IAEA inspectors must be allowed to examine the complex "as soon as possible".

As shelling continued near the site, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday said he was "gravely concerned" that the hostilities might lead to a disaster.

Agencies contributed to this story.

09:09 2022-08-12
Finland and Estonia leaders call for Russian visa ban amid Ukraine row
By JULIAN SHEA in London

The leaders of Finland and Estonia have called on European Union countries to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens while the conflict in Ukraine persists.

Currently, EU airspace is closed to Russian planes, but Russia shares land borders with both countries and its second-largest city, St Petersburg, is just 300 kilometers from the Finnish capital Helsinki, so Russians can travel there and then on to other European cities.

Visas issued by Finland are valid across most of Europe's Schengen zone travel area, which comprises 22 EU member states plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, allowing free movement of goods and people without border checks.

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin told state broadcaster YLE that while the conflict continues, Russians should not be allowed to "live a normal life".

Her Estonian counterpart Kaja Kallas supported that stance with a tweet saying "visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right".

Currently, there is still a short-stay visa agreement in place between the EU and Russia, which has been partly suspended but not abandoned altogether.

In a Washington Post interview earlier this week, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on EU countries to deny all Russian tourist access, saying they should be made to "live in their own world until they change their philosophy".

Like Estonia, Latvia borders Russia and was previously part of the Soviet Union. It has already banned almost all visas for Russians, but Marin said the Finnish cabinet was discussing whether it could act independently, and thought that an EU-wide policy would be more effective.

"Is Finnish legislation up-to-date enough that we could introduce our own national sanctions in such a very exceptional situation? But I would personally like to see European solutions to this question as well," she said.

"I would believe that in future European Council meetings, this issue will come up even more strongly. My personal position is that tourism should be restricted."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to the suggestions by saying: "I think that over time, common sense will somehow manifest itself, and those who made such statements will come to their senses.

"The irrationality of such reasoning goes beyond all limits and can only provoke a negative reaction…any attempt to isolate the Russians or Russia has no chance of succeeding," he added.

09:04 2022-08-12
Chinese envoy addresses risks at Ukraine nuclear facilities
By MINLU ZHANG at the United Nations
A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine Aug 4, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

A Chinese ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday reiterated his concerns over the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine, calling for efforts to minimize the possibility of the leakage of radioactive materials.

"China has been closely following the issue of the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine and is deeply concerned by the recent shelling on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant," Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN, said at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

Zhang said according to the information obtained by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from Ukraine's nuclear regulator, the shelling did not pose an immediate threat to nuclear safety, and the radiation level remained normal.

"Nevertheless, the shelling did cause damage to the physical integrity of the plant, its safety and security system, power supply and personnel safety, which sounded a nuclear alarm to the international community," he said.

Ukraine and Russia have exchanged accusations over strikes on the plant in southern Ukraine, which is one of the largest atomic power complexes in Europe and generates a quarter of Ukraine's electricity. It has been under the control of Russian forces since March and has been the scene of military strikes in recent days.

"The safety and security of nuclear sites must not be subjected to trial and error," said Zhang. If a large-scale accident were to occur at Zaporizhzhia, the consequences would be even more devastating than that of the Fukushima nuclear accident, according to Zhang.

The leakage of massive quantities of radioactive materials caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the resulting nuclear-contaminated water have far-reaching consequences for the marine environment, food safety and human health, thereby sparking widespread concern, he said. "China does not want to see the same risks playing out again."

"We call on the parties concerned to exercise restraint, act with caution, refrain from any action that may compromise nuclear safety and security, and spare no effort to minimize the possibility of accidents," the envoy said.

"China always supposes the IAEA's active role in promoting nuclear safety and security and performing its safeguard duties in strict accordance with its mandate," said Zhang.

In Thursday's meeting, Rafael Grossi, director-general of the IAEA called for a cessation of military activity around the plant. He referred to the situation as "a grave hour" and said that IAEA inspectors must be allowed to examine the complex "as soon as possible".

Zhang said he hopes the existing obstacles can be cleared as soon as possible for Grossi and the IAEA team of experts to visit the Zaporizhzhia plant and that they will be able to conduct their work without impediment.

The security risks posed by the conflict to nuclear facilities are looming large throughout the Ukraine crisis, said Zhang. "Only by defusing the situation and restoring peace at an early date, can we fundamentally remove nuclear risks, reduce misjudgment, and avoid accidents.

"Once again, we call on all parties concerned to resume negotiations as early as possible, seek a solution to the Ukraine crisis in a cool-headed and rational fashion, address each other's legitimate security concerns, and build a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture, so as to achieve common security," he said.

As shelling continued near the site, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday said he was "gravely concerned" the hostilities might lead to a disaster.

"I have appealed to all concerned to exercise common sense and reason and not to undertake any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear plant," he said in a statement.

09:08 2022-08-11
Russia hits back at 'provocative' move
Children play in what has become known as the symbolic cemetery of cars, some painted by local artists, in the Ukrainian city of Irpin on Tuesday. SERGEY SUPINSKY/AFP

MOSCOW-A senior Russian diplomat said on Tuesday that a decision by Moscow to declare a freeze on US inspections of its nuclear arsenals under a key arms control treaty was triggered by Washington's push for a quick visit by inspectors.

In comments released by the Foreign Ministry, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said the United States called for the inspection, under the New START nuclear arms reduction pact, knowing that it would not let Russia carry out reciprocal inspections.

Ryabkov's comments came amid the increased flow of arms for Ukraine from Western countries, with stepped-up US support announced on Tuesday.

Russia had said on Monday that it would not allow its weapons to be inspected under the treaty for now because of travel restrictions imposed by Washington and its allies.

Ryabkov said the US announcement of an inspection on Russian territory delivered to Moscow while a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference was underway, had been the trigger for Russia to withdraw its cooperation.

"In the current circumstances, such a move looked like an outright provocation," he said.

He said Russia had believed the US wanted to work out a way to maintain two-way verification efforts despite the difficulties created by US sanctions and travel restrictions imposed in response to Moscow's "special military operation" in Ukraine.

The New START treaty, signed in 2010, limits the US and Russia to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.

US President Joe Biden said on Aug 1 that his administration was ready to "expeditiously" negotiate a framework to replace New START, which is due to expire in 2026, if Moscow demonstrated its willingness to resume work on nuclear arms control.

On the additional military support for Ukraine, the US State Department has approved $89 million in assistance to help Ukraine equip and train 100 teams to clear land mines and unexploded ordnance for a year, an official said on Tuesday.

French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also reaffirmed their commitment to support Ukraine, the French presidential palace said on Tuesday.

Ukraine has received 50 Turkish-made Kirpi armored vehicles, Yuriy Mysyagin, deputy head of the Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence of Ukraine's legislature, said on Tuesday on Telegram.

Agencies via Xinhua

08:59 2022-08-11
12 vessels authorized to depart Ukrainian ports for grain export: UN official
A vessel in the second caravan of ships transporting grain from Ukraine passes through the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Türkiye, Aug 7, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

UNITED NATIONS - Under the Black Sea Initiative, 12 vessels have been authorized to depart the Ukrainian ports, a United Nations official coordinating the grain export deal said on Wednesday.

These ships contain "over 370,000 metric tons of grain and other food stocks", Frederick Kenney, interim coordinator for the UN at the Joint Coordination Center for the Black Sea Initiative, told a regular press briefing held at the UN headquarters in New York via video link from Istanbul, Türkiye.

The Ukraine grain export deal is off with a very good start, said Kenney, noting that a big "uptick" in applications for transit is expected.

"We still have much work ahead of us to ensure that the implementation of the initiative translates into real results to address food insecurity around the globe and to stabilize global food markets," he said.

On July 22, Russia and Ukraine signed a deal with Türkiye and the United Nations to allow food and fertilizer exports from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea.

14:34 2022-08-10
Ammunition explodes in airfield in Crimea

Aviation munitions went off at an airfield in western Crimea on Tuesday, causing no casualties so far, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

Several aviation munitions were detonated at a storage area on the territory of the Saki airfield near the settlement of Novofedorovka, the ministry said, adding that the blast caused no damage to aviation equipment. The ministry said measures are being taken to extinguish the fire and uncover the cause of the explosion. 

07:17 2022-08-09
Biden authorizes largest weapons package to Ukraine
A Ukrainian soldier covers an armored vehicle with branches in Donbass on April 12, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

WASHINGTON - The administration of US President Joe Biden announced Monday that the United States will provide Ukraine with $1 billion worth of additional security assistance, the largest one-time weapons package since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

According to a statement by the Department of Defense, the package - the 18th tranche of presidential drawdown since August 2021 - included additional munitions for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), 75,000 rounds of 155 mm artillery ammunition, 20 120 mm mortar systems and 20,000 rounds of 120 mm mortar ammunition, as well as munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS).

Washington will also deliver to Kiev 1,000 Javelins, hundreds of AT4 anti-armor systems, 50 armored medical treatment vehicles, anti-personnel munitions, explosives, demolition munitions and demolition equipment, the statement said.

The just-announced aid brings total US commitment of security assistance to Ukraine to approximately 9.8 billion dollars since Biden took office, according to the Pentagon.

09:45 2022-08-08
2nd caravan of grain ships from Ukraine arrive in Istanbul
A vessel in the second caravan of ships transporting grain from Ukraine arrives at the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Türkiye, Aug 6, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

ISTANBUL - The second caravan of ships transporting grain from Ukraine arrived at the shores of Istanbul, according to the Turkish Defense Ministry on Saturday.

Panama-flagged Navistar, which sailed from the Ukrainian port of Odesa to Ireland with 33,000 tons of corn, arrived in Istanbul at around 2:00 pm local time (1100 GMT).

The Malta-flagged vessel Rojen, and Turkish-flagged Polarnet, both sailed from Chornomorsk port and bound for Britain and Türkiye respectively, arrived later.

According to the ministry, the inspection on Navistar was completed by a joint committee of specialists while the other two ships are due for inspection later.

The ships are checked for the integrity of their cargo before they can move on.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had discussions on Saturday with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov over the phone about the latest situation of grain shipments.

A statement by the Turkish Defense Ministry emphasized the satisfaction with the accelerating process of grain shipments and the levels of cooperation and coordination achieved by the Joint Coordination Center.

The first grain-laden ship Razoni passed through Istanbul's Bosphorus Strait on Aug 3, marking the first large export of the newly harvested Ukrainian grain to international markets after Türkiye, Russia, and Ukraine signed a landmark UN-backed deal on July 22.

Ukraine still has some 20 million tons of grain in silos waiting for shipment, according to the Turkish state-run Anadolu agency. 

09:16 2022-08-08
Ukraine, Russia trade accusations over nuclear plant strike
In this file photo taken on April 27, 2022 shows a general view of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV/MOSCOW - Ukraine and Russia exchanged accusations on Sunday over a fresh strike on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

Zaporizhzhia is one of the largest atomic power complexes in Europe and generates a quarter of Ukraine's total electricity. It has been under the control of Russian forces since March and has been the scene of military strikes in recent days.

Ukraine's state-run nuclear energy operator Energoatom accused Russian forces of shelling the power plant, saying the latest rocket attacks on Saturday hit the area next to the plant's dry storage facility, where 174 containers with spent nuclear fuel were stored in the open air.

Energoatom said it is impossible to properly monitor the radiation situation at the site because three radiation monitoring detectors around the facility were damaged.

On Sunday, the TASS news agency reported that the administration of Energodar city, which is home to the nuclear power plant, blamed the Ukrainian army for the overnight attacks.

The city said Ukrainian troops launched a strike against the plant using the 220-mm Uragan multiple launch rocket system on Saturday night. The storage facility for spent nuclear fuel was in the affected area.

It added that the submunitions and the rocket engine fell within 400 meters of the operating power unit.

09:31 2022-08-05
3 more grain vessels set to sail from Ukraine on Friday
This handout picture taken and released by the Turkish Defence ministry press office on Aug 3, 2022, shows an inspection delegation member inspecting the Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni carrying 26,000 tonnes of corn from Ukraine, off the coast of north-west Istanbul. [Photo/Agencies]

ANKARA - Three ships loaded with grain and other food supplies that have been waiting in Ukrainian ports are scheduled to set sail on Friday, the semi-official Anadolu Agency reported on Thursday, quoting Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

Akar spoke on the phone separately with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov on Thursday to discuss the export of grain from Ukraine.

The first grain-laden cargo ship leaving the Ukrainian port under a UN-brokered deal anchored off Istanbul on the Black Sea and was inspected by a team of representatives from the recently established Joint Coordination Center (JCC) on Wednesday.

The Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni left Odesa early on Monday with 26,527 tons of corn and sailed for Lebanon after the inspection was completed on Wednesday.

The JCC was inaugurated in Istanbul last week. It has a total of 20 representatives from Ukraine, Russia, the United Nations, and Türkiye to monitor the implementation of the grain shipment process.

On July 22, Russia and Ukraine signed a deal with Türkiye and the United Nations to allow food and fertilizer exports from the Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, namely Odesa, Chornomorsk, and Pivdennyi.

The deal aims to allow safe passage for ships carrying grain to world markets amid concerns about food shortages due to the prolonged crisis in Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine are major global wheat suppliers. 

09:57 2022-08-04
Ukraine needs to export 50 mln tons of grain in 2022-2023 marketing year: industry body
FILE PHOTO: Workers storage grain at a terminal during barley harvesting in Odesa region, Ukraine June 23, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukraine needs to export some 50 million tons of grain in the 2022-2023 marketing year amid the need to store last year's crops and grain from the new harvest, an industry body said on Wednesday.

Ukraine is set to harvest 55-60 million tons of cereals and oilseeds this year, with domestic demand projected to be 20 million tons, the Ukrainian Agri Council said in a statement.

Ukrainian farmers have already reaped some 12 million tons of cereals this year from 30 percent of the planted areas, the statement said.

Currently, Ukraine has 18-20 million tons of grain in its silos from last year's harvest, according to the Ukrainian government.

On July 22, Ukraine and Russia separately signed a deal with Türkiye and the United Nations in Istanbul to resume grain shipments from Ukrainian ports to international markets via the Black Sea.

In the 2021-2022 marketing year, Ukraine earned 22.2 billion US dollars from the export of 61.52 million tons of cereals and oilseeds between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022, the state-run Ukrinform news agency reported in early July.

09:07 2022-08-04
Russia accuses US of direct role in Ukraine conflict
Workers on Tuesday remove debris from the site of a student hostel destroyed by shelling in Mykolaiv, near the Black Sea in southern Ukraine. OLEKSANDR GIMANOV/AFP

ISTANBUL/LONDON-Russia on Tuesday accused the United States of direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict while the first ship carrying Ukrainian grain to world markets since the beginning of the conflict anchored safely off the Turkish coast after a problem-free journey.

Russia said it was responding to comments by Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine's deputy head of military intelligence, about the way Kyiv had used US-made and supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, launchers based on what he called excellent satellite imagery and real-time information.

Skibitsky told Britain's Telegraph newspaper there was consultation between US and Ukrainian intelligence officials before strikes and that Washington had an effective veto on intended targets, though he said US officials were not providing direct targeting information.

Russia's Defense Ministry said the interview showed that Washington was entangled in the conflict despite repeated assertions that it was limiting its role to arms supplies because it did not want a direct confrontation with Moscow.

"All this undeniably proves that Washington, contrary to White House and Pentagon claims, is directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine," the ministry said in a statement.

The administration of US President Joe Biden "is directly responsible for all Kyiv-approved rocket attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure in populated areas of Donbas and other regions, which have resulted in mass deaths of civilians", the statement said.

At the United Nations, a Russian diplomat said on Tuesday that the conflict in Ukraine does not warrant Russia's use of nuclear weapons, but Moscow could decide to use its nuclear arsenal in response to "direct aggression" by NATO countries.

In Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday held a phone conversation with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to discuss assistance for Kyiv, the presidential press service reported.

At the talks, Zelensky informed Stoltenberg about the importance for Kyiv to get nonlethal military aid from NATO agreed upon during the alliance's Madrid summit in June.

In addition, Zelensky said that Ukraine is seeking to receive more heavy weapons from NATO member states.

Amid the fighting, Zelensky issued an order to all those remaining in the country's embattled Donetsk region to evacuate as soon as possible. The compulsory evacuation effort aims to take 200,000-220,000 people out of the eastern province by fall, officials said.

Safe passage

Meanwhile, a July 22 deal brokered by the UN to unblock the export of Ukrainian grain had initial success. Ankara said that the first loaded ship since the conflict began more than five months ago was safely anchored off Turkiye.

The vessel, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, was at the entrance of the Bosporus Strait, which connects the Black Sea to world markets, around 6 pm on Tuesday, some 36 hours after leaving the Ukrainian port of Odessa.

It was laden with 26,527 metric tons of corn.

"We hope that there will be some more outbound movement tomorrow," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

Dujarric said there were some 27 ships that were ready to go in the three Ukrainian ports covered by the export deal.

09:51 2022-08-03
Ukrainian president, NATO secretary-general discuss aid for Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday held a phone conversation with Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg to discuss assistance for Kyiv, the presidential press service reported.

At the talks, Zelensky informed Stoltenberg about the situation on the frontline in Ukraine and emphasized the importance for Kyiv to get non-lethal military aid from NATO agreed upon during the alliance's 2022 Madrid summit.

Besides, Zelensky said that Ukraine is seeking to receive more heavy weapons from NATO member states.

The parties also discussed the resumption of grain exports from Ukraine via the Black Sea ports and the prospects of NATO's assistance in humanitarian demining in Ukraine.

At the NATO summit in the Spanish capital on June 29-30, the members of the alliance agreed to provide support for Ukraine in multiple areas, including secure communications, cyber defenses and resilience, fuel, and medical supplies.

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