US Says Russia Uses ‘Nuclear Shield’ on Ukraine, Risks Terrible Accident

  • US says Russia uses ‘nuclear shield’
  • The first grain ship leaves Ukraine
  • Ukraine says 22,000 Russian soldiers are ready to advance south
  • Foreign fighters enter Lugansk, says governor
  • Ukraine says to recover 50 cities in Kherson

UNITED NATIONS/KYIV, Aug 2 (Reuters) – The United States has accused Russia of using Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant as a “nuclear shield” by stationing troops there, preventing Ukrainian forces from returning fire and risking a terrible nuclear accident.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was “deeply concerned” that the Zaporizhzhia plant, which Russia was accused of firing projectiles dangerously close to in March, was now a Russian military base used to fire on nearby Ukrainian forces.

“Of course the Ukrainians cannot return fire to prevent a terrible accident involving the nuclear plant,” Blinken told reporters after talks on nuclear non-proliferation at the United Nations in New York on Monday. read more

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Russia’s actions went beyond the use of a “human shield,” Blinken said, calling it a “nuclear shield.”

At the New York talks, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mykola Tochytskyi said “robust joint actions are needed to prevent a nuclear disaster” and called on the international community to “close the sky” over nuclear power plants. of Ukraine with air defense systems.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 has sparked the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II, killing thousands, displacing millions and leaving much of Ukraine in rubble.

The war has also sparked a global food crisis, with Russia and Ukraine producing around a third of the world’s wheat, while Western sanctions on Russia, a major energy supplier to Europe, have sparked a global energy crisis.

FIRST GRAIN SHIP

The first ship to transport Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea since Russia invaded five months ago left the port of Odessa for Lebanon on Monday under a safe passage agreement.

The sailing was made possible after Turkey and the United Nations negotiated a grain and fertilizer export deal between Russia and Ukraine last month, an unusual diplomatic breakthrough in a conflict that has turned into a protracted war of attrition.

The Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni will head to the port of Tripoli, Lebanon, after passing through Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait that links the Black Sea, which is dominated by the Russian navy, with the Mediterranean. She transports 26,527 tons of corn.

But there are still hurdles to overcome before millions of tons of Ukrainian grain can leave its Black Sea ports, including clearing sea mines and creating a framework for ships to safely enter the conflict zone and pick up cargo. read more

The United Nations has warned of the risk of multiple famines this year due to the war in Ukraine.

Known as the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine hopes to export 20 million tons of grain stored in silos and 40 million tons of the current harvest, initially from Odessa and nearby Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk, to help clean the silos for the new harvest. .

Russia called the Razoni’s departure “very positive” news but denied responsibility for the food crisis, saying Western sanctions have curbed its exports and accusing Ukraine of laying underwater mines at the entrance to its ports.

Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of laying the mines that are now floating around the Black Sea.

Pointing to a deepening energy dispute between Russia and Europe, Russia said on Monday there was little it could do to help with urgent repairs to the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, its main gas pipeline to Europe, after further declines in production and exports. of Gazprom. read more

Russia’s gas covered about 40% of European needs before Russia sent troops to Ukraine. Russia cut gas supplies through Nord Stream 1 to just 20% of capacity last week, saying a turbine sent to Canada for maintenance had not been returned and other equipment needed repair.

RUSSIAN ADVANCE

Russia invaded Ukraine in what it called a “special operation” to demilitarize its neighbor. Ukraine and Western nations have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for war.

After failing to capture the capital, Kyiv, earlier in the war, Russia now aims to capture the eastern Donbas region, made up of Donetsk and Lugansk, partially occupied by Russian-backed separatists before the invasion, and to capture more of the southern, after having annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych told the media that some 22,000 Russian troops were preparing to advance on the towns of Kriviy Rih and Mykolaiv, where a “sufficiently large” Ukrainian force was waiting.

In the Kherson region, which is mostly under Russian control, Ukrainian troops liberated some 50 towns, said Yuri Sobolevsky, deputy head of the ousted Kherson regional council.

“Russian troops in the Kherson region are suffering considerable losses,” Sobolevsky wrote on Telegram.

Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield report.

Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region, which is almost entirely under Russian control, said foreign fighters were arriving to help Russian forces.

“We have noticed that more and more private military companies enter the area, the Wagner group,” Gaidai told Ukrainian television, adding that these irregular forces were motivated by “money and looting.”

The Russian private military firm Wagner is likely to have been assigned responsibility for sectors of the front line in eastern Ukraine, possibly because Russia faces an infantry shortage, Britain’s Defense Ministry said last week.

Gaidai said partisans were destroying infrastructure, including gas and water networks, in the battered cities of Lugansk to slow down Russian forces.

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Information from Reuters offices; Written by Michael Perry; Edited by Simon Cameron-Moore

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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