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Key developments

An IAEA team headed to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant on Aug 29.

At least 972 children in Ukraine have been killed or injured by violence since the conflict escalated nearly six months ago.

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.

09:25 2022-09-27
West's sanctions turn Ukraine conflict into 'global economic war'
Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends a special meeting of the European Council at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, May 30, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

BUDAPEST - The Western countries' sanctions against Russia have turned the "local" conflict between Russia and Ukraine into a "global economic war," Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban said here on Monday.

An increasing number of countries across the world is becoming "victim" of the conflict in Ukraine, Orban said at the opening of Parliament's autumn session.

He said that the United States and the European Union (EU) were supplying Ukraine with weapons and money, but Russia's reserves of material and men were "endless."

According to Orban, the "EU's bureaucrats" promised that the sanctions would hurt Russia and bring an end to the conflict, but none of that happened.

"European people have become poorer (because of the sanctions), while Russia has not fallen to its knees," he argued. "This weapon has backfired: with the sanctions, Europe has shot itself in the foot."

Orban also said that families across Europe were paying the price of the sanctions in their energy bills.

He said that through inflation and rising prices, European countries are now paying a "sanctions surcharge."

Orban also said he was convinced that if the sanctions ended, prices would go down very quickly. "Let's be blunt, if we remove the sanctions, prices would immediately drop by half, and inflation would also at least be halved."

He said he firmly believed that without the sanctions, the European economy would also "gain strength" and avoid the "threatening recession."

"We demand an immediate ceasefire and peace talks rather than prolonging and deepening" the conflict, he said, noting that Hungary's priorities were to preserve its security and its economic and national sovereignty.

09:25 2022-09-26
Hungarian chief diplomat calls Western sanctions 'complete failure'

BUDAPEST -- Sanctions on Russia are causing damage to Europe and it is a "complete failure," said Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto here on Sunday.

As a result of the European Union's (EU) sanctions imposed so far due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, European inflation is skyrocketing, utility costs, natural gas prices, and food prices have risen, and the continent's economy has entered recession, Szijjarto told public radio channel MR1.

"This was a complete failure, as it is now clear that these sanctions have hurt Europe much more than Russia itself and are causing enormous damage to the EU's economy," he said.

Szijjarto labeled a potential eighth sanction package as a "wrong direction" but noted that there are no final decisions on the matter yet, and not even a formal proposal has been prepared so far.

"We will not give our consent to any decision that would harm the Hungarian national interest. The security of our energy supply remains a red line, for us any sanctions that would endanger our energy supply are unacceptable," he said.

Szijjarto also voiced his opinion about the United States gaining from the EU's sanctions policy. "It is beyond dispute that the American economy is winning with these sanctions, while the EU's economy is headed for recession," said the minister.

"I consider dialogue and negotiation to be a value, it seems that not everyone agrees on that," Szijjarto said.

"If we close the communication channels, the diplomatic channels, we will permanently give up and lose the hope that this conflict will ever end," he added.

09:20 2022-09-26
'Protection' for all Russian territory: Lavrov
Food is distributed to the residents of Izyum, Kharkiv region, on Saturday. ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP

UNITED NATIONS — Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, on Saturday said regions in which referendums are being held would be under Russia's "full protection" if they are incorporated in line with the referendums.

Lavrov, addressing the United Nations General Assembly and the world's media in New York, talked of Russia's special military operation since February.

From Friday, referendums were conducted in four eastern regions: Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

"Following those referendums, Russia of course will respect the expression of the will of those people who for many long years have been suffering," Lavrov said at a news conference after he addressed the assembly.

Lavrov said Russian territory, including that "further enshrined "in Russia's constitution in the future, "is under the full protection of the state".

"All of the laws, doctrines, concepts and strategies of the Russian Federation apply to all of its territory," Lavrov said.

Russia has accused the United States and others of being parties to the conflict because they are sending weapons to help Ukraine.

Asked whether he could foresee future talks with the US to make Russia feel more secure about what it calls NATO encroachment, Lavrov said it was the West that had broken off previous discussions.

"We're not saying no to contacts. And when proposals to that effect come in, we agree. If our partners want to meet quietly so nobody finds out about it, that's fine because it's always better to talk than not to talk. But in the present situation, Russia is quite simply not going to make the first step."

Pro-Moscow authorities have made it clear that they consider the results of the referendums a foregone conclusion.

The state-run TASS news agency cited Denis Pushilin, head of the Donetsk area, as saying his priorities would not change once the region was part of Russia.

TASS quoted an unnamed source as saying Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, could debate a bill on the incorporation of the four regions as soon as Thursday, two days after the end of referendums.

The Interfax agency quoted a source saying the upper house could consider the bill the same day, and RIA Novosti, also citing an unnamed source, said President Vladimir Putin could be preparing to make a formal address to an extraordinary joint session of both houses on Friday.

Agencies Via Xinhua

09:12 2022-09-21
Kremlin dismisses mass-grave claims
Residents carry away donated bread in the town of Izyum in Ukraine's Kharkiv region on Monday. GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS

KUPIANSK, Ukraine-The Kremlin on Monday denied its forces were responsible for large-scale killings in eastern Ukraine and accused Kyiv of fabricating its discoveries of mass graves in the recaptured territory.

Ukraine recaptured Izyum and other towns in the east this month, crippling Kremlin supply routes and bringing fresh claims of Russian atrocities with the discovery of hundreds of graves.

"These are lies," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday. Moscow, he said, "will stand up for the truth in this story".

Ukraine said its troops have marched farther east, paving the way for a potential assault on Moscow's forces in the Donbas region as Kyiv seeks more Western arms.

"The occupiers are clearly in a panic," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address late on Monday, adding that he was now focused on "speed".

"The speed at which our troops are moving. The speed in restoring normal life," Zelensky said.

Western supplies

British Prime Minister Liz Truss will tell world leaders this week that the UK will next year match or exceed the 2.3 billion pounds ($2.63 billion) it committed to Ukraine in 2022, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

Her comments came as British politics returned to center stage on Tuesday after the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, with Truss flying to her first major summit in New York.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock vowed to support countries hardest hit by the fallout from Russia's special military operation in Ukraine as she headed to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

Some 150 leaders from around the world gathered in New York on Tuesday for the United Nations' massive annual summit, returning in person after two years of pandemic restrictions and video addresses.

In one of the largest exchanges in the seven-month conflict, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told US television that Russia and Ukraine have agreed to swap 200 prisoners. Erdogan made the announcement after talks last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a regional summit in Uzbekistan.

Erdogan did not provide full details about the swap, calling the people being exchanged "hostages" and not saying how many there were from each side.

"Two hundred hostages will be exchanged upon agreement between the parties. I think a significant step will be taken forward," Erdogan told PBS television late on Monday.

Agencies via Xinhua

09:03 2022-09-20
Ukraine's agricultural exports under grain deal reach 3.9m tons
Wheat grain is seen on the MV Brave Commander vessel from Yuzhny Port in Ukraine to the Horn of Africa as it docks at port of Djibouti in Djibouti August 30, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukraine's agricultural exports under a key grain deal reached 3.9 million tons, the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority said Monday.

So far, a total of 169 ships have left Ukraine's Black Sea ports for countries in Asia, Europe and Africa under the deal signed in July in Türkiye.

On Monday alone, four ships loaded with more than 178,000 tons of foodstuffs departed from the ports of Odesa and Pivdenny.

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 after the breakout of the Russia-Ukraine conflict left Odesa for the port of Tripoli in Lebanon.

10:02 2022-09-19
Nuclear plant reconnected to national grid, IAEA says
A satellite imagery shows closer view of reactors at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ukraine, August 29, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV/SAMARKAND-The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant was receiving power from the national grid once again, the UN's atomic agency said on Saturday after it was cut off from external power, raising the risk of an accident.

The plant had been cut from the national grid since September due to shelling.

"The restored 750-kilovolt line is now providing Europe's largest nuclear power plant … with the electricity it needs for reactor cooling and other essential safety functions," the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

Since being cut off from the grid, the station was relying on its own power supplies to operate the essential safety mechanisms.

Experts feared that the plant could run out of internal power.

The IAEA visited the power plant in early September, and several members of the IAEA team remained inside the plant on a permanent basis to monitor the situation.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal thanked the United States on Saturday for its support after Ukraine received a further $1.5 billion in international financial assistance.

"The state budget of Ukraine received a grant of $1.5 billion. This is the last tranche of $4.5 billion aid from the United States from@WorldBank Trust Fund," Shmyhal tweeted.

He said the funds would be used to reimburse budget expenditure for pension payments and social assistance programs.

President Vladimir Putin denied on Friday that Russia had anything to do with Europe's energy crisis, saying that if the European Union wanted more gas, it should lift sanctions preventing the opening of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Speaking to reporters after the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan, Putin said Russia would fulfill its energy obligations.

"The bottom line is, if you have an urge, if it's so hard for you, just lift the sanctions on Nord Stream 2, which is 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year. Just push the button and everything will get going," Putin said.

Nord Stream 2, constructed on the bed of the Baltic Sea almost in parallel to Nord Stream 1, was built a year ago, but Germany had decided not to proceed with it.

European gas prices more than doubled from the start of the year amid a decline in Russian supplies.

Russia said the West has launched an economic war and sanctions have hampered Nord Stream 1 pipeline operations.

The Russian gas company Gazprom said earlier this month that the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, Europe's major supply route, would remain shut as a turbine at a compressor station had an engine oil leak, sending wholesale gas prices soaring.

Agencies via Xinhua

 

 

10:04 2022-09-15
Reassurance for Kyiv in key EU speech
By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels

But von der Leyen silent on fresh aid, while stressing action on energy crisis

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers state of the European Union address to the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, France, September 14, 2022. [Photo/Agencies] 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged continued support for Ukraine and measures to tackle the continent's looming energy and economic crisis as she delivered her State of the European Union address on Wednesday.

Speaking in Strasbourg, France, and with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska present, von der Leyen announced that she was going to Kyiv later on Wednesday to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to talk about Ukraine's "seamless access to the single market, and vice versa".

But she did not announce any major new aid to Ukraine in her speech.

"Our union as a whole has risen to the occasion," she said of the EU's response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict in her address to the European Parliament, in a clear reference to the EU's seven rounds of sanctions against Russia and economic and military aid to Ukraine.

"And I want to make it very clear, the sanctions are here to stay. This is the time for us to show resolve, not appeasement," von der Leyen said.

'Not easy'

She noted that "the months ahead of us will not be easy. Be it for families who are struggling to make ends meet, or businesses, who are facing tough choices about their future."

She continued to push for the commission's proposals for member states to reduce their overall electricity consumption and stressed the importance of putting a cap on the revenues of companies that produce electricity at a low cost, adding that the EU has to decouple the dominant influence of gas on the price of electricity.

In her address, the former German government minister did not mention a proposed cap on prices of imported gas, something that she has been lobbying for in recent weeks.

Some EU member states, including Germany, have opposed the measure for fear of provoking Russia into a complete shutdown of gas supplies to Europe.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, whose country has increased gas supplies to the EU, said on Monday after a phone call with von der Leyen that he is "skeptical toward a maximum price on natural gas".

"A maximum price would not solve the fundamental problem, which is that there is too little gas in Europe," he said in a statement.

Iratxe Garcia Perez, a Spanish politician and leader of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, said: "We heard fancy words by von der Leyen, but the social dimension was neglected in her SOTEU address. We need a social resilience package to fight poverty and inflation."

Manon Aubry, a French politician and co-chair of The Left group in the European Parliament, criticized von der Leyen for not caring about people's livelihoods with the strains caused by rising prices. She mocked von der Leyen for finally paying attention to the issue of the mega profits raked in by some companies during the crisis; Aubry's group has long called for higher taxes on such earnings.

"It should not be just about fossil fuel companies, but all the companies that have benefited from the crisis-the shipping sector, the banking sector and the luxury goods sector," she said in the debate after von der Leyen's speech. "You didn't say much about climate today. We have the hottest summer in history in Europe," she said of the address.

A recent poll on YouGov conducted in five European countries showed that Europeans are concerned about the possibility of the energy crisis leading to social unrest.

The EU's 27 members are taking measures to cut energy consumption to tackle the crisis.

Paris announced a plan on Tuesday in response to a call by President Emmanuel Macron to cut energy consumption by 10 percent. The "energy sobriety" plan unveiled by Mayor Anne Hidalgo includes turning off the lights on the Eiffel Tower 75 minutes earlier than usual and switching off the lights for public buildings across Paris as early as 10pm. The plan will take effect on Sept 23.

09:13 2022-09-15
Putin, Scholz discuss nuclear plant
An elderly woman walks past a building partially destroyed by a missile strike in the center of Kharkiv on Tuesday. SERGEY BOBOK/AFP

MOSCOW/BERLIN-Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz discussed issues related to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine in a phone call on Tuesday, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Putin also told Scholz that "Russia is ready to deliver large quantities of grain to external markets and to provide needy countries with the fertilizer blocked in European ports at no charge", and he highlighted Russia's willingness to remain a reliable energy supplier, the Kremlin said.

The two leaders focused on developments around Ukraine in the context of Russia's special military operation, according to the Kremlin.

Putin described in detail the coordinated measures led by the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure the physical protection of the Zaporizhzhia plant.

In the 90-minute call, Scholz stressed the need for the safety of the plant and also appealed to Putin to continue to fully implement a grain export agreement backed by the United Nations, German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said.

During an exchange of views on the implementation of the grain deal concluded in Istanbul on July 22, Putin spoke of his concerns over the geographical imbalance in Ukrainian shipments of grain, saying "only a negligible share of which goes to the neediest countries", according to the Kremlin. Putin also said there has been no progress in removing obstacles to Russian food and fertilizer exports.

The two leaders agreed to maintain contact.

UN trade negotiator Rebeca Grynspan said on Tuesday that the UN is working to limit sanctions affecting Russia's exports of ammonia, a key fertilizer ingredient.

"The UN is pursuing all efforts to allow for a positive outcome on Russian ammonia exports to international markets," said Grynspan, the secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

According to the Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul, 129 ships carrying over 2.8 million tons of grain have left Ukrainian ports since the agreement was signed in July. Alongside the UN, Turkiye helped to broker the deal.

Meanwhile, all three of the backup power lines at the Zaporizhzhia plant have been restored, the UN nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday after the first of those lines went back up on Saturday.

"One of them, a 750/330 kilovolt (kV) line, is now providing the ZNPP with the external electricity it needs for cooling and other essential safety functions. The 330 kV and the 150 kV lines are being held in reserve," the IAEA said in a statement.

Agencies via Xinhua

10:10 2022-09-14
'Massive' strikes hitting front lines, Russia says
Children learn about safety at a session organized by the Ukrainian Emergency Service at a kindergarten in Odessa on Monday. OLEKSANDR GIMANOV/AFP

MOSCOW-The Russian military said on Tuesday it had launched "massive strikes" on all battlefield front lines in Ukraine.

"Air, rocket and artillery forces are carrying out massive strikes on units of the Ukrainian armed forces in all operational directions," the Russian defense ministry said in its daily briefing on the conflict.

The defense ministry said in a statement that it had launched "high-precision" strikes on Ukrainian positions around Sloviansk and Konstantinovka in the eastern Donetsk region.

The Kremlin, meanwhile, accused Ukraine's armed forces of abusing civilians in territory it had recaptured.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said that in the Kharkiv region, reports were emerging of the "outrageous" treatment of civilians.

"There are a lot of punitive measures … people are being tortured, people are being mistreated and so on," Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

Putin was shown on state TV on Monday chairing a meeting on the economy at which he said Russia was holding up well in the face of Western sanctions.

"The economic blitzkrieg tactics, the onslaught they were counting on, did not work," he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the West to speed up deliveries of weapons systems to aid military operations.

Washington and its allies have provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in weapons. In a video address late on Monday, Zelensky said Ukraine and the West must "strengthen cooperation".

Washington announced its latest weapons program for Ukraine last week, including ammunition for HIMARS anti-rocket systems, and has previously sent Ukraine NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems.

More than 73,000 people have been evacuated from the conflict-affected eastern and southern regions of Ukraine over the past month, Ukraine's Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories said on Monday. Of that number, about 16,000 civilians have been evacuated from the eastern Donetsk region as a part of the mandatory evacuation, the ministry said.

Besides, 50,000 people were evacuated from the Russia-held areas in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south to Kyiv-controlled territory, it said.

Ukraine started the mandatory evacuation from the Donetsk region in early August.

Zelensky was expected to speak with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Tuesday, two sources familiar with the plan told Reuters, as Ukraine presses the global lender for a full-fledged financing program.

09:13 2022-09-13
73,000 evacuated from conflict-hit areas in Ukraine in past month
People are seen at a tent in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 20, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

KYIV - More than 73,000 people have been evacuated from the conflict-affected eastern and southern regions of Ukraine in the past month, Ukraine's Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories said on Monday.

In particular, about 16,000 civilians have been evacuated in a month from the eastern Donetsk region as a part of the mandatory evacuation, the ministry said.

Besides, 50,000 people were evacuated from the Russia-held areas in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in southern Ukraine to Kyiv-controlled territory, it said.

Ukraine started the mandatory evacuation from the Donetsk region in early August.

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that the mandatory evacuation may be extended to other conflict-hit regions.

17:46 2022-09-11
Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant fully shuts down
Photo taken on Aug 22, 2022 shows the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. [Photo/Xinhua]

KIEV -- The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine has been entirely shut down, Ukraine's state-run nuclear energy operator Energoatom said on Sunday.

The functioning of the plant halted after the last power unit No 6 was disconnected from the power grid at 3:41 am local time (0041 GMT) on Sunday over safety concerns, Energoatom said in a report on Telegram.

The report said preparations are underway to cool the unit and switch to a cold state.

Energoatom has called for establishing a demilitarized zone around the plant, allowing for repairs and resumption of safe operations.

Zaporizhzhia, one of Europe's largest nuclear power plants, has been controlled by Russian forces since early March, while its Ukrainian staff continued to operate it.

In recent weeks, the site of the plant has been attacked by shelling, sparking international concerns about its safety.

14:26 2022-09-07
UN chief calls for demilitarized zone around Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant
Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres speaks during a UN Security Council meeting on the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine at the United Nations Headquarters on Sept 6, 2022 in New York City. [Photo/Agencies]

UNITED NATIONS - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called for a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, to prevent a nuclear catastrophe in the Chornobyl-affected nation.

Addressing a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the top UN official endorsed the recommendations made by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who inspected the occupied Zaporizhzhia plant last week and presented a report to the Security Council.

In the first instance, Guterres told the council that all military operations around the plant should cease.

"As a second step, an agreement on a demilitarized perimeter should be secured," he said. "Specifically, this would include a commitment by the Russian military to withdraw military personnel and equipment from that perimeter, and a commitment by Ukrainian forces not to enter."

"We are playing with fire and something very disastrous could happen. That is why in our report, we are proposing the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone confined to the periphery and the plant," Grossi told the council via video link.

The IAEA, UN's nuclear watchdog, urged an immediate end to shelling around Europe's largest nuclear power plant, according to the report.

"This requires agreement by all relevant parties to the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone" around the plant, it said.

The IAEA mission, headed by Grossi, worked at the plant from Sept 1-5, and Grossi told reporters on Friday that two of the agency's experts would remain permanently at the nuclear power plant.

08:33 2022-09-07
Chinese UN envoy calls for security of Ukrainian nuclear facilities
By MINLU ZHANG at the United Nations

A Chinese ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday reiterated support for the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and called for the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine.

Geng Shuang, China's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, told a UN Security Council briefing that thanks to the joint corporation of Russia and Ukraine, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi and his colleagues made a successful visit to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The trip helped "gain a comprehensive and objective understanding of the nuclear facilities' operation and damages, so as to take targeted actions", Geng said.

Last week, Grossi led a 14-member expert mission to the plant. Two of those experts have remained at the nuclear facility on a permanent basis to ensure its safety.

The UN nuclear watchdog on Tuesday released a report and said the experts will "carry out detailed and continuous work to assess the physical damage to the plant's facilities, determine the functionality of the main and backup safety and security systems, and evaluate the staff's working conditions, in addition to performing safeguards activities".

"China is pleased with this positive development and recognizes the efforts of Director General Grossi and the IAEA experts," Geng said.

But the shelling of the plant continues and it did not cease even after the IAEA arrived at the facility. "This is truly worrying," he said.

The Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine in 1986 has not faded into memory nor have the effects of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan in 2011, Geng said.

"The world cannot afford yet another nuclear disaster," he said.

"We once again call on the parties concerned to remain committed to humanity, scientific rationality, communication and cooperation; strictly abide by the convention on nuclear safety and other relevant international laws; earnestly safeguard the seven pillars proposed by Director General Grossi; avoid all actions that endanger the safety and security of nuclear facilities; and refrain from repeated tests on the edge of danger," said Geng.

"We support continued presence of the IAEA experts at the ZNPP and hope that the resident experts can provide continuous, steady and professional technical support to guarantee the safety and security of the nuclear facilities. We also encourage the IAEA to maintain its communication with the relevant parties," the envoy said.

Since the outbreak of the military conflict in Ukraine, the threat to the safety and security of nuclear power plants posed by armed conflicts has kept the world under the looming specter of a nuclear disaster, Geng said.

In the face of "countless lives and the well-being of generations, we cannot afford to take any chances or do nothing, but must do our best to minimize accidents", he said.

"The international community should step up diplomatic efforts to promote the early resumption of negotiations between the parties, achieve a cease-fire, arrest the fighting as soon as possible, and eliminate nuclear security risks at their source," Geng emphasized.

"We once again call on all parties to adopt a responsible approach to promote the de-escalation of the situation, work to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine, work together to build regional peace and tranquility, and jointly maintain global security and stability," said Geng.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Tuesday's briefing that Russia and Ukraine must stop all military activity that targets the nuclear plant site as well as attacks launched from its surroundings.

Any damage to the plant "could spell catastrophe, not only for the immediate vicinity, but for the region and beyond", Guterres said.

The IAEA report also called for establishing a "nuclear safety and security protection zone" around the Zaporizhzhia plant.

"While the ongoing shelling has not yet triggered a nuclear emergency, it continues to represent a constant threat to nuclear safety and security with potential impact on critical safety functions that may lead to radiological consequences with great safety significance," the report said.

Zaporizhzhia, one of Europe's largest nuclear power plants, has been controlled by Russian forces since early March, while its Ukrainian staff has continued to operate it.

In recent weeks, the plant site has been attacked by shelling, sparking international concerns about its safety. On Monday, the shelling caused a fire that led to the plant being disconnected from Ukraine's national power grid.

07:38 2022-09-06
Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant loses backup power line
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Chief Rafael Grossi explains a graph as he speaks to the press after the return an IAEA team from the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, at Vienna International Airport in Schwechat, Austria on September 2, 2022.[Photo/Agencies]

VIENNA - The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine is disconnected from its backup power line Monday but continues to receive the electricity it needs for safety from its sole operating reactor, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said, citing information from Ukraine.

The IAEA said in a statement that the backup power line, linking the Zaporizhzhia plant and a nearby thermal power station, was "deliberately disconnected" earlier in the day to "extinguish a fire, but the line itself was not damaged."

The reserve line had been used to deliver electricity from the Zaporizhzhia plant to the grid, as the plant had lost connection to all four main external power lines by Friday.

The IAEA said it was informed by Ukraine that the backup line will be reconnected once the fire has been extinguished. The plant's Ukrainian staff also plans to repair the main external power line that went down on Friday, but the process "would take several days."

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi led an expert mission to the Zaporizhzhia plant last week. Six of those experts remained at the facility after the mission completed a visit last Thursday.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog confirmed on Monday that four experts left the Zaporizhzhia plant earlier in the day as planned, and two others are staying to maintain a continuous IAEA presence, "enabling the agency to observe the situation there and provide independent assessments."

Grossi will issue a report Tuesday on the nuclear safety, security and safeguards situation in Ukraine, including the findings from the IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia plant. He will also brief the UN Security Council about the mission later that day, said the statement.

The Zaporizhzhia, one of Europe's largest nuclear power plants, has been controlled by Russian forces since early March, while its Ukrainian staff has continued to operate it.

In recent weeks, the site of the plant has been attacked by shelling, sparking international concerns about its safety. Ukraine and Russia have accused each other over the strikes.

09:13 2022-09-05
Zaporizhzhia plant loses power line
IAEA chief Rafael Grossi explains a graph to media at Vienna International Airport in Austria on Friday, after the return of an IAEA team from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. APA/AFP

VIENNA-The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Saturday that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine has once again lost connection to its last remaining main external power line, but the facility continues to supply electricity to the grid through a reserve line.

The agency's experts stationed at the Zaporizhzhia plant were told by Ukrainian staff members on Saturday that the facility's fourth, which is also the last one still operational, 750-kilovolt power line was down. A similar incident occurred last week amid shelling of the plant.

The three other main external power lines were lost earlier during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the IAEA has said.

The plant is now relying on a reserve line that links the facility to a nearby thermal power plant, to deliver electricity to the external grid. The reserve line can also provide backup power to the plant if needed, the IAEA said.

It also said only one of the plant's six reactors remained in operation.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said on Friday that six members of the agency's expert mission remained at the plant, including four who will leave next week and another two who will stay there as the agency's continued presence in the longer term.

The IAEA said the experts will "carry out detailed and continuous work to assess the physical damage to the plant's facilities, determine the functionality of the main and backup safety and security systems and evaluate the staff's working conditions, in addition to performing urgent safeguards activities on the site".

Grossi said he plans to issue a report on the safety of the nuclear power plant early this week.

The Zaporizhzhia plant, one of Europe's largest nuclear power plants, has been controlled by Russian forces since early March, but its Ukrainian staff have continued to operate it. Ukraine and Russia have traded accusations of recent strikes on the facility.

Meanwhile, the standoff over Russian gas and oil exports continues as Moscow vowed to keep its main gas pipeline to Germany shuttered, and G7 countries-United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States-announced a planned price cap on Russian oil exports.

"Russia (is) preparing a decisive energy blow on all Europeans this winter," said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his nightly address on Saturday, citing the Nord Stream 1 pipeline's continued closure.

Also on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan exchanged views on bilateral ties during a phone call.

Putin and Erdogan reaffirmed their commitment to expanding trade and economic relations between the two countries, including promoting joint strategic projects in the energy sector, the Kremlin said.

According to the statement, when discussing the situation in Ukraine, Erdogan stressed Russia's constructive role in organizing an IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Ankara, which has good relations with both Kyiv and Moscow, has been acting as a mediator between the two sides since early in the conflict.

Xinhua - Agencies

12:55 2022-09-03
G7 to impose price cap on Russia oil: US treasury secretary

WASHINGTON -- Finance ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) countries have agreed to impose a price cap on Russian oil, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement Friday, without specifying implementation details.

By committing to finalizing and implementing a price cap, the G7 will significantly reduce Russia's main source of funding for the conflict in Ukraine, while maintaining supplies to global energy markets by keeping Russian oil flowing at lower prices, Yellen said.

Today's action will help deliver a major blow for Russian finances and will both hinder Russia's ability to continue the fight in Ukraine and hasten the deterioration of the Russian economy, she said.

"I look forward to working with our G7 allies - as well as new coalition partners - as we move quickly to finalize the implementation of the price cap in the weeks to come," said Yellen.

Calling G7's plan completely absurd, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak on Thursday said Russia would not supply oil and petroleum products to those countries that support the price caps, warning the measure could destroy the global oil market.

Despite Western sanctions, Russia's revenue from oil exports in June increased 40 percent from the average level last year, according to a recent report from the International Energy Agency.

08:08 2022-09-03
IAEA to keep experts at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant
Photo taken on Aug 22, 2022 shows the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. [Photo/Xinhua]

VIENNA -- International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi said Friday that two of the agency's experts would remain permanently at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

Grossi told reporters upon arriving in Vienna after a visit to the facility that six of the 14-member IAEA mission remained at the Zaporizhzhia plant after the team completed a visit there on Thursday.

Four of the six experts will leave the plant next week, while the other two will stay there as the agency's continued presence in the longer term.

Earlier this week, Grossi led the IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia plant, which suffered strikes in recent weeks and raised international concerns about its safety.

The chief of the UN nuclear watchdog said at Friday's press conference that "We've seen what I requested to see, everything I requested to see" during the visit.

"We have seen military activity around the plant, and I was able to see -- myself and my team -- impact, holes, markings on buildings of shelling," he said, expressing concerns for the plant's physical integrity, power supply and personnel conditions.

Grossi said he expects to produce a report on the situation of the Zaporizhzhia plant early next week. He will also brief the UN Security Council on the issue next Tuesday.

The Zaporizhzhia plant, one of Europe's largest nuclear power plants, has been controlled by Russian forces since early March, but its Ukrainian staff has continued to operate it. Ukraine and Russia have traded accusations of recent strikes on the facility.

09:28 2022-09-02
IAEA chief leaves Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant
Photo taken on Aug 22, 2022 shows the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. [Photo/Xinhua]

KYIV -- International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi and some members of his delegation left the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP) in southern Ukraine on Thursday, the country's state-run nuclear energy operator Energoatom said.

"Currently, there are five representatives of the IAEA mission at the Zaporizhzhia NPP, who are unloading the equipment they brought, and they will continue working at the plant," Energoatom said on Telegram.

The IAEA inspectors are set to stay at the plant until Sept. 3, Energoatom said.

Later in the day, Grossi tweeted that his team completed a "first tour of the key areas" that they wanted to see in the plant.

The IAEA mission is "establishing a continued presence" at the nuclear facility, Grossi added.

The IAEA mission arrived at the Zaporizhzhia NPP earlier on Thursday.

The Zaporizhzhia NPP, one of Europe's largest nuclear power plants, has been controlled by Russian forces since early March, but its Ukrainian staff has continued to operate it.

In recent weeks, the site of the power plant has been attacked by days of shelling, sparking international concerns about the safety of the plant.

09:19 2022-09-01
Climate change, conflicts making grain crisis worse
By KARL WILSON in Sydney

Millions of people struggling for food every day are seeing their hopes dimmed by soaring grain prices and tight supplies amid the impact of climate change and continued Western sanctions over the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Wheat prices are likely to change unevenly and increase in much of the Global South, exacerbating existing inequalities, according to research modeling carried out by scientists from six countries.

A record 345 million people in 82 countries face acute food insecurity, said the World Food Programme. Up to 50 million people in 45 countries are on the edge of famine and risk tipping over without humanitarian support.

Among them, about 900,000 people are already facing catastrophic famine or famine-like conditions in parts of Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

Worse yet, the WFP is finding higher costs and more difficulties distributing wheat, wheat flour, vegetable oil, peas and corn to the needy due to supply chain problems caused by US-led sanctions over Russia this year.

David Beasley, executive director of the WFP, recently said, "When a nation that is the breadbasket of the world becomes a nation with the longest bread line of the world, we know we have a problem." He was referring to Ukraine, a big supplier of wheat and corn to the world.

The first shipment of Ukrainian grain for WFP operations, under the UN-brokered Black Sea Initiative, is heading to the drought-hit Horn of Africa, where severe hunger threatens more than 20 million people, the WFP said.

Beasley said it will take more than grain ships out of Ukraine to stop world hunger.

Even before the Ukraine crisis struck, the world was already facing an unprecedented, perfect storm because of regional conflicts, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qu Dongyu, director-general of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, has been concerned that the past five years have witnessed yet another spike in global levels of acute hunger. Between 2018 and 2021, the number of people in crisis situations who live in countries where conflict was the main driver of acute food insecurity increased by a staggering 88 percent, to over 139 million.

Loss of grain yields to extreme weather is believed to be a major contributor, and the heavy toll on food production globally can get worse, scientists said.

New research modeling by the scientists from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen shows that climate change will significantly alter the yield and price of wheat in the coming years, even if climate mitigation targets are kept under 2 C.

Karin van der Wiel, a climate scientist with the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and a co-author of a report published on Aug 19 in the journal One Earth noted that in countries such as Egypt, India and Venezuela, wheat yields are likely to drop-in some areas by more than 15 percent. But yields can increase in high-latitude regions in countries such as the United States and Russia, and in much of northern Europe.

Germany's grain harvest in 2022 remains "significantly below the average" since 2014 of above 45 million tons, though the almost 2 percent year-on-year increase to around 43 million tons this year will be reached despite an ongoing drought, the German Farmers' Association said.

Germany's Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture also said the consequences of the climate crisis are showing up in fields, vegetable plots, orchards and vineyards.

In low latitudes, "growth is often limited by lack of precipitation or excessive temperatures in a warmer climate", said Frank Selten, a climate researcher with the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

Trading in the grain then leads to higher prices, both in the net wheat importing countries due to high demand and in the net wheat exporting countries, because exports drive domestic prices upward, he said.

Citing India as an example of a wheat importing country, Selten said it "depends on imports for its food security at a high price point".Increasing shipments of grain and other foodstuffs is crucial, but it will not mean much if countries cannot afford them.

Tianyi Zhang, an agro-meteorologist with the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said: "With this change in yields, the traditional trade position of the wheat market could be deepened, and this may cause the wheat-importing regions located in low latitudes, such as Southern Asia and Northern Africa, to see more frequent and steeper wheat price spikes than wheat exporting countries.

"Not only could these changes mean that countries already facing food security issues pay even more for a pivotal food crop, but wheat prices on the global market could become more volatile and exacerbate existing inequalities."

Wheat prices already hit their highest level in several years in March.

"Helping improve the grain food self-supplies in developing countries is crucial for global food security," he said. Developed countries and international financial institutions must do more to ensure that developing countries can get more assistance in food supply.

Xinhua and Xu Weiwei in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

 

15:19 2022-08-31
Ukrainian president, IAEA chief discuss mission to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (4th L) meets with visiting International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi and representatives of the IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP) in Kiev, Ukraine, Aug 30, 2022. [Ukrainian Presidential Office/Handout via Xinhua]

KYIV - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday met with visiting International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi to discuss the IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP), the presidential press service reported.

At the talks, Zelensky and Grossi stressed the importance of sending the IAEA mission to the plant, noting that any incident at the facility would have global consequences.

Zelensky spoke highly of the IAEA visit to Ukraine, adding that the situation around the nuclear power plant is escalating.

"There are risks of incidents at the plant, failure of nuclear reactors, disconnection of Zaporizhzhia NPP units from our network," Zelensky said.

Zelensky voiced his belief that the IAEA mission to the facility led by Grossi would find ways to prevent security threats.

The Zaporizhzhia NPP is one of Europe's largest nuclear power plants. It has been controlled by Russian forces since early March, but its Ukrainian staff has continued to operate it. In recent weeks, Ukraine and Russia have traded accusations of strikes on the facility.

The IAEA mission to the plant is set to assess the plant's physical damage, determine its safety and security systems' functionality, evaluate staff conditions, and perform urgent safeguarding activities.

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