- Zaporizhzhia power plant cut off from grid but operating safely – IAEA
- Zelenskiy warns of near nuclear ‘catastrophe’ day before report
- Kyiv cites battlefield gains, including city of Kherson province
- European markets hit hard by closure of Russian gas pipeline
KYIV, Sept 5 (Reuters) – Power to a critical nuclear power plant in Ukraine was virtually cut off on Monday for the second time in two weeks as Kyiv accused Moscow of pushing the war to the brink of nuclear disaster, a day before The UN nuclear watchdog was to publish an assessment of the Zaporizhzhia power plant. .
Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of risking disaster by bombing near the plant, which officials say disrupted power lines and knocked out the only remaining reactor of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant .
The International Atomic Energy Agency, citing information provided by Ukraine, said the plant’s emergency power line was cut to put out a fire but the line itself was undamaged and would be reconnected.
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The plant has enough electricity to operate safely and will be reconnected to the grid once emergency power is restored, the monitoring agency said in a statement before releasing its full findings in a more comprehensive report on Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned on Monday of a near “radioactive disaster” and said the bombings showed Russia “doesn’t care what the IAEA will say”.
“Once again – already for the second time – because of Russian provocation, the Zaporizhzhia station was placed one step away from a radioactive disaster,” he said in his nightly video message.
Nuclear concerns add to the ongoing energy struggle between Moscow and the West since Russian troops invaded Ukraine in late February as the wider military conflict continues.
European markets went into freefall on Monday as Russia closed its main gas pipeline to Germany. Meanwhile, Kyiv made its boldest claim to battlefield success in its weeklong counteroffensive against Russian forces in the south.
The six-reactor Zaporizhzhia power plant in southern Ukraine has become the focal point of the six-month dispute after Moscow took control of the facility in March, even as Ukrainian engineers continue to operate, raising the specter of a nuclear accident.
Ukraine’s nuclear company Energoatom said the plant’s last working reactor block had been disconnected from the Ukrainian grid after Russian shelling disrupted power lines.
Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed official in the Zaporizhzhia region, said Ukrainian shelling damaged a containment vessel next to the second reactor, but its operation was unaffected.
After days of silence over their new offensive, Ukrainian officials uploaded an image of three soldiers raising a flag over a town in Kherson province, a southern region occupied by Russia since the early days of the war.
The image of the flag attached to a pole on a rooftop, allegedly in Vysokopyllya north of Kherson, was released as Zelenskiy announced on Sunday that Ukrainian forces had captured two towns in the south and one in the east without identifying them.
After months of punitive Russian artillery assaults to the east, Ukraine has finally begun its long-awaited counterattack, its biggest since pushing Russian forces from the outskirts of Kyiv in March.
Ukraine had kept most details of its new campaign secret, banning journalists from the frontline and offering little public comment in order to preserve tactical surprise.
Russia said it had repelled the assaults in Kherson, but in a rare acknowledgment of the Ukrainian counter-offensive, the TASS news agency quoted a Moscow-based official in the region as saying plans for a referendum on joining Russia had been suspended due to the security situation.
In a Monday evening update, Ukraine’s General Staff said its forces had pushed back Russian forces in an unspecified area near Kramatorsk – a key town in the eastern Donetsk region – while Russian forces had bombed a dozen towns in the south.
Still, Zelenskiy warned European countries that they could face a cold winter.
On Monday evening, a missile strike by Russian forces destroyed an oil depot in the Kryvorizsky district of the Dnipropetrovsk region, the region’s emergency authorities announced on Facebook following nearby Russian missile strikes.
Moscow blames the disruption of equipment repairs and maintenance caused by Western sanctions for stopping the flow of gas through Nord Stream 1, its main pipeline to Germany. Russia was supposed to reopen the pipeline on Saturday, but it is now closed indefinitely.
“Gas supply problems have arisen because of the sanctions imposed on our country by Western states, including Germany and Britain,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.
Europe and the United States say that Russia uses the energy as a weapon, but add that they collaborate to ensure the supply. Read more
European countries have also rolled out billions of euros in aid that last week helped push gas prices in Europe down to record lows.
But news over the weekend of Nord Stream’s extended shutdown sent prices soaring again on Monday, with the main European benchmark up more than 35%, raising fears of a gloomy winter for consumers and businesses across the continent.
Germany’s DAX stock index fell more than 2%, the euro fell below 99 US cents for the first time in decades, and the pound was not far from mid-1980s lows by against the dollar when Liz Truss was announced as the next British Prime Minister.
Russia’s Peskov has vowed retaliation for the latest Western move to cap the price of Russian oil exports from December, aimed at cutting Moscow’s main source of revenue.
In Russia, which has effectively banned independent media since President Vladimir Putin launched his “special military operation” on February 24, a judge on Monday revoked the license of the liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta, one of the last unofficial voices. Read more
The decision was “a political success, without any legal basis”, said its editor, Dmitry Muratov, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for the newspaper’s fight for freedom of expression.
A Russian court has also sentenced a former journalist to 22 years in prison for treason after prosecutors said he leaked state secrets. His supporters say the deal is retribution for him by exposing the details of Russia’s international arms deals.
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Reporting by Tom Balmforth, Max Hunder and Ron Popeski; written by Peter Graff, Philippa Fletcher and Susan Heavey; edited by Tomasz Janowski and Alistair Bell
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