- US says Russia uses ‘nuclear shield’
- First grain ship departs from Ukraine
- Ukraine says 22,000 Russian troops are ready for southern advance
- Foreign fighters enter Luhansk, governor says
- Ukraine says it will recapture 50 cities in Kherson
UNITED NATIONS/KIEV, 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 troops from firing back and causing a terrible nuclear accident risk.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was “deeply concerned” that the Zaporizhzhya factory, which Russia was accused of firing dangerously close to grenades in March, is now a Russian military base used to fire on nearby Ukrainian troops.
“Of course the Ukrainians cannot fire back, otherwise a terrible accident would happen to the nuclear power plant,” Blinken said Monday after talks on nuclear non-proliferation at the United Nations in New York. read more
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Russia’s actions went beyond using a “human shield,” Blinken said, calling it a “nuclear shield.”
During the talks in New York, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mykola Tochytskyi said that “robust joint actions are needed to avert a nuclear disaster” and called on the international community to “close the skies” over the Ukraine. nuclear power plants with air defense systems.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine has sparked Europe’s worst conflict since World War II, killing thousands, displacing millions and leaving large parts of Ukraine in ruins.
The war has also sparked a global food crisis, with Russia and Ukraine producing about a third of the world’s wheat, while Western sanctions against Russia, a major energy supplier to Europe, have sparked a global energy crisis.
FIRST GRAIN SHIP
The first ship to carry Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea since Russia invaded five months ago left the port of Odessa for Lebanon on Monday under a secure transit agreement.
Sailing was made possible after Turkey and the United Nations signed a grain and fertilizer export agreement between Russia and Ukraine last month — a rare diplomatic breakthrough in a conflict that has turned into a protracted war of attrition.
The Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni will set sail for the port of Tripoli, Lebanon, after passing through the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey that connects the Black Sea, which is dominated by the Russian navy, to the Mediterranean. It carries 26,527 tons of corn.
But there are still hurdles to overcome before millions of tons of Ukrainian grain can leave 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 because of the war in Ukraine.
Known as the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine hopes to export 20 million tons of grain in silos and 40 million tons of the current crop, initially from Odessa and nearby Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk, to help clear the silos for the new crop.
Russia called the departure of the Razoni “very positive” news, but it denies responsibility for the food crisis, says Western sanctions have slowed exports and accuses Ukraine of laying underwater mines at the entrances to its ports.
Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of laying the mines that are now floating around the Black Sea.
Russia signaled a deepening energy spat between Russia and Europe, saying on Monday it could do little to help with urgent repairs to the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, the main gas pipeline to Europe, after further declines in Gazprom’s production and exports. read more
Gas from Russia supplied about 40% of Europe’s needs before Russia sent troops to Ukraine. Russia last week cut gas supply through Nord Stream 1 to just 20% of capacity, saying a turbine sent to Canada for maintenance had not been returned and other equipment required repair.
Russia invaded Ukraine in what it called a “special operation” to demilitarize its neighbor. Ukraine and Western countries have dismissed this as an unfounded pretext for war.
After Russia failed to take the capital Kiev early in the war, Russia now wants to conquer the eastern Donbas region, made up of Donetsk and Luhansk, partially occupied by Russian-backed separatists before the invasion, and more. of the south, after it has already been annexed. Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych told media that about 22,000 Russian troops were preparing to advance towards the cities of Kriviy Rih and Mykolaiv, where a “sufficiently large” Ukrainian force was lurking.
In the Kherson region, which is largely under Russian control, Ukrainian forces had liberated some 50 towns, said Yuri Sobolevsky, deputy head of the ousted Kherson Regional Council.
“Russian troops in the Kherson region suffer significant losses,” Sobolevsky wrote on Telegram.
Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield report.
Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region, almost all of which is under Russian control, said foreign fighters arrived to help Russian troops.
“We have noticed that more and more private military companies are coming into the area – the Wagner group,” Gaidai told Ukrainian TV, adding that these irregular troops were motivated by “money and looting”.
The Russian private military company Wagner has likely been given responsibility for parts of the frontline in eastern Ukraine, possibly because Russia is struggling with a shortage of infantry, the British Ministry of Defense said last week.
Gaidai said partisans destroyed infrastructure, including gas and water networks, in the battered cities of Luhansk to slow down Russian forces.
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Reporting by Reuters agencies; Written by Michael Perry; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore
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