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Ukraine targets Russian soldiers accused of threatening nuclear power plant


by Natalia Zinets and Andrea Shalal

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky has warned Russian soldiers who fire on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant or use it as a firing base that they are now a “special target” for Ukrainian forces .

In addition, a shipment of food aid destined for Africa is preparing to leave Ukraine in the coming days, the first since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

Sources said the first grain ship to leave Ukraine under a UN deal was closing in on Syria.

Early in the war, Russian troops took control of the Zaporijjia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, which is still managed by Ukrainian technicians.

Fearing a nuclear disaster after new bombardments in recent days, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, called for the creation of a demilitarized zone. Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of being behind the shootings.

“Every Russian soldier who fires at the power plant, or who fires using the power plant as cover, must understand that he becomes a special target for our intelligence agents, for our special services, for our army,” Volodimir Zelensky said in a speech delivered on Saturday evening.

The Ukrainian president, who did not provide further details, reaffirmed that he considered that Russia was taking the plant hostage to engage in nuclear blackmail.

This power station dominates the southern bank of a vast reservoir located on the banks of the Dnieper River. Ukrainian forces controlling towns on the opposite bank came under intense Russian bombardment.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak accused Russia of having “hit the part of the nuclear power plant where the electricity that supplies southern Ukraine is produced”.

“The goal is to disconnect us from the plant and blame the Ukrainian army,” he added on Twitter.

Russian-appointed local official Vladimir Rogov wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian forces were shelling the plant.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which wants to inspect the plant, has warned of the risk of nuclear disaster if the fighting does not stop. Nuclear experts fear the blasts will damage spent fuel pools or reactors at the plant.

CEREAL CARGOES

As the fighting continues, cargo ships continue to depart from Ukraine as part of an agreement reached in late July under the aegis of the United Nations and Turkey to limit the impact of the global food crisis.

The UN-chartered vessel Brave Commander will leave for Africa in the coming days after finishing loading more than 23,000 tons of wheat in the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi, a UN official said on Sunday.

The ship, which arrived at a port near Odessa, will travel to Ethiopia via a grain corridor crossing the Black Sea.

“The world needs food from Ukraine. This is the start of what we hope will be normal operations for starving people around the world,” Marianne Ward, deputy director of the World Food Program, told reporters. for Ukraine. The aid agency purchased more than 800,000 tons of grain in Ukraine last year.

Separately, the first ship to leave Ukraine under the deal reached two weeks ago approached the Syrian port of Tartous on Sunday, according to two shipping sources. The Razoni was originally due to sail to Lebanon, but the buyer refused the cargo, fearing that the quality of the maize had deteriorated after several months on board.

FIGHTS

Kyiv has been announcing for weeks that it is preparing a counter-offensive to retake the neighboring provinces of Zaporizhia and Kherson, most of the territory which Russia seized after its invasion on February 24 and which it still controls.

Russia’s priority over the past week has likely been moving units to bolster its offensive in southern Ukraine, British military intelligence said on Sunday.

Russian-backed forces from the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic in the eastern Donbass region continued their assaults north of the city of Donetsk, the British Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence bulletin on Twitter.

The Ukrainian military command said early on Sunday that Russian soldiers had continued unsuccessfully to attack Ukrainian positions near Avdiivka, which since 2014 has become one of the outposts of Ukrainian forces near Donetsk.

Russia, in a daily briefing, said it had taken control of Udy, a village in the eastern Kharkiv region, which is under continuous shelling from Russian forces.

Reuters could not independently verify the parties’ claims about the military operations.

Russia calls the invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” aimed at demilitarizing and “denazifying” its neighbor.

(Reporting Natalia Zinets in Kyiv, Yoruk Isik in Istanbul, Andrea Shalal in Yuzhne, Maya Gebeily in Beirout, Jonathan Saul in London, with Reuters bureaus; writing by Michael Perry and Ingrid Melander, French version Jean-Michel Bélot)



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