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Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
AP/PA Images Honour guard soldiers preparing to rise the Ukrainian national flag during State Flag Day celebrations in Kyiv today.
# Kyiv
Fears of Russian escalation in Ukraine as world leaders address Crimea summit
The Taoiseach said today he is “gravely concerned” about Russian military activity around the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.

LAST UPDATE | Aug 23rd 2022, 8:19 PM

THE US HAS warned that Russia could attack Ukrainian government facilities in the coming days as Moscow said it would show “no mercy” over an assassination it has blamed on Ukraine.

World leaders have reasserted their support for Ukraine on the eve of its independence day celebrations and the six-month anniversary of the beginning of Russia’s invasion.

The US State Department issued a security alert, saying it “has information that Russia is stepping up efforts to launch strikes against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and government facilities in the coming days”.

The warning came on the heels of Russia claiming that Ukrainian intelligence was responsible for a weekend car bombing outside Moscow that killed the daughter of a leading right-wing Russian political theorist. Ukraine denied involvement.

Hundreds of people lined up at a memorial service to pay tribute to Darya Dugina (29), the daughter of Alexander Dugin, a nationalist writer whom the media have dubbed “Putin’s brain” and “Putin’s Rasputin” due to his purported influence on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Dugina, a commentator with a Russian TV channel, died when the SUV she was driving blew up on Saturday night as she was driving home from the patriotic Tradition festival.

Her father, a philosopher firmly behind Putin’s decision to send troops into Ukraine, was widely believed to be the intended target.

During the memorial service held at a Moscow broadcasting centre, Dugin remembered his daughter’s last words to him at Saturday’s festival: “Father, I feel like a warrior, I feel like a hero. I want to be one, I don’t want any different fate. I want to be with my people, with my country.”

Russia’s accusations that Ukraine was behind Dugina’s killing heightened the apprehension in Ukraine.

The Kyiv regional government banned mass events in the capital from 22 to 25 August due to what it said was “the high probability” of Russian missile attacks on the city during the week of Independence Day, spokesperson Kateryna Datsenko said.

The intelligence division of Ukraine’s Defence Ministry also warned Kyiv residents to be cautious, especially on Independence Day and not to ignore air raid sirens.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy mentioned the threat potential over the weekend, when he said in a nightly address that “we should be aware that this week Russia may try to do something particularly nasty, something particularly cruel”.

Today, however, Zelenskyy stressed defiance rather than worry when he raised the national flag at a memorial.

“The blue and yellow flag of Ukraine will again fly where it rightfully should be. In all temporarily occupied cities and villages of Ukraine,” he said, including the Crimea Peninsula which Russia annexed in 2014.

One potential target fuelling a sense of foreboding is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, located in south-eastern Ukraine, where continued shelling and fighting in the area has raised fears of a nuclear catastrophe.

The Taoiseach said today he is “gravely concerned” about Russian military activity around the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.

Speaking virtually at the second summit of the Crimea Platform, Micheál Martin said: “The nuclear power plant and its surrounding area must return to exclusively civilian control of the Ukrainian authorities, supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned about the nuclear threat in general, particularly since Russia alluded to its massive nuclear arsenal early in the war.

Guterres demanded a halt to “nuclear sabre-rattling”, saying the world is at a “maximum moment of danger” and all countries with nuclear weapons must make a commitment to “no first-use”.

That did not prevent shelling close to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant early today.

Regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko said Russian forces fired on nearby Marhanets and Nikopol on the right bank of the Dnieper River, continuing weeks of relentless overnight shelling.

Another source of concern was the fate of Ukrainian prisoners of war. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said she was “concerned by reports that the Russian Federation and affiliated armed groups in Donetsk are planning — possibly in the coming days — to try Ukrainian prisoners of war”.

She said it is being labelled an “international tribunal” but that due process and a fair trial would not be guaranteed.

Leaders including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned Russia against further attempts to annex Ukrainian territory in the same way it did with Crimea.

“It has never been more important for us all to stand together,” Johnson said in a video address to the Crimea Platform conference in Kyiv.

Polish President Andrzej Duda attended in person, warning against any “appeasement” of Russia.

“There is no return to business as usual in relations with Russia,” he said.

And French President Emmanuel Macron vowed that the EU’s support for Ukraine would continue “for the long term”.

“There can be no weakness, no spirit of compromise, because it’s a matter of our freedom, for everyone, and of peace everywhere around the world,” he said.

Also today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Lavrov spoke by telephone to his French counterpart Catherine Colonna about an expected visit by independent inspectors to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, controlled by Russian forces since March.

Recent shelling and fighting around the giant facility has raised concerns of a nuclear incident comparable to Chernobyl, with Kyiv and Moscow accusing each other of targeting the plant.

The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi said the mission was “expected to take place within the next few days if ongoing negotiations succeed”.

Additional reporting by AFP

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