The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant seen through barbed wire on an embankment in Nikopol, which Russia been shelling from the plant Dmytro Smolyenko/Ukrinform/ABACAPRESS.COM via PA Images

Kyiv calls for new sanctions against Russia and a demilitarised zone around nuclear power plant

The White House earlier called on Russia to cease all military operations around nuclear facilities in Ukraine.

LAST UPDATE | Aug 8th 2022, 10:55 PM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR Zelenskyy has raised the spectre of nuclear disaster after strikes on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant last week and called for more sanctions on Russia.

The Zaporizhzhia power plant in southeast Ukraine was occupied by Russia early in its invasion. Kyiv and Moscow have blamed each other for the attacks on the plant last week.

“The world should not forget about Chernobyl and should remember that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP) is the biggest in Europe. The Chernobyl disaster was an explosion of one reactor. Zaporizhzhia NPP has six reactors,” Zelensky said.

The Chernobyl power station in Soviet Ukraine was the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986.

“New sanctions are necessary against the terrorist state and the whole Russian nuclear industry for creating the threat of nuclear catastrophe,” he said in his nightly address.

Ukraine earlier called for the establishment of a demilitarised zone around the nuclear power station.

“What needs to be done is to remove occupying forces from the station and to create a de-militarised zone on the territory of the station,” said Petro Kotin, president of Ukraine’s nuclear energy company, Energoatom.

“The fact that they are there is the greatest danger going forwards, towards an accident with radiation or even to a nuclear catastrophe,” he said in a statement distributed by the agency.

The fighting at the plant has prompted the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to warn of “the very real risk of a nuclear disaster”.

Kotin said in the statement that Russia had deployed some 500 Russian troops and 50 pieces of military hardware at Zaporizhzhia and that the situation at the plant marked a “deterioration” over recent days.

“That there should be a peacekeeping mission including experts from the IAEA and other security organisations. Their presence and initially giving control to them and then to the Ukrainian side would have solved this problem,” he added.

The White House has also called on Russia to cease all military operations around nuclear facilities in Ukraine.

“Fighting near a nuclear plant is dangerous,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One during a flight to Kentucky, where President Joe Biden is to tour flood-damaged areas.

“And we continue to call on Russia to cease all military operations at or near Ukrainian nuclear facilities and return full control to Ukraine,” Jean-Pierre said.

Jean-Pierre said the United States is continuing to “closely monitor” the situation at the facility and radiation sensors have “thankfully” not shown any indications of an increase or abnormal radiation levels.

“We are also aware of the reports of mistreatment of the (plant) staff and we applaud the Ukrainian authorities and operators for their commitment to nuclear safety and security under trying circumstances,” she said.

The White House spokeswoman said the United States supports the efforts of the IAEA to assist Ukraine with nuclear safety and security measures.

The Kremlin has accused Ukrainian forces of firing on the Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant, warning of potential “catastrophic consequences” for Europe.

Ukraine earlier accused Russian forces of firing rockets at the facility. Last month, Kyiv said Russian forces were storing heavy weapons at the plant.

Kyiv ‘optimistic’ about grain shipments

Meanwhile, the first cargo ship to reach its final destination after departing from Ukraine under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv docked in Turkey today, Kyiv said, while a consignment due in Lebanon reported delays.

Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, was forced to halt almost all deliveries after Russia’s invasion, but Black Sea exports recently restarted under a deal brokered by the UN and Turkey.

The Turkish cargo ship – the Polarnet – that reached its final destination left the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk last week carrying 12,000 tonnes of corn.

It arrived in Turkey as scheduled after being inspected by the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) established in Istanbul under the international agreement signed last month, Kyiv said.

“This first successful completion of the implementation of the ‘grain deal’ means it is possible to be optimistic about future transportation,” Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov was quoted as saying in a statement by the ministry.

The statement did not give the ship’s destination, but the website gave its location as the port of Derince, Turkey.

The deal brokered by Turkey and the UN lifted a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports and set terms for millions of tonnes of wheat and other grain to start flowing from silos and ports.

The Razoni was the first ship to leave Ukraine under the deal.

It left the port of Odessa on 1 August carrying 26,000 tonnes of corn and was expected in Tripoli in Lebanon this weekend but has yet to reach the destination.

The Ukrainian embassy in Lebanon explained on social media that the consignment was delayed after the original buyer refused delivery, citing a five-month delay in shipment.

“The sender is therefore looking for another recipient. This may be in Lebanon or in another country,” it added in a statement on Twitter.

Eight ships have left Ukrainian ports since the agreement was signed, Kyiv said Monday, and it hoped that between three and five ships would be able to depart daily within two weeks.

$1 billion in military aid

The Pentagon today announced $1 billion in fresh military aid for Ukraine, including additional precision missiles for the Himars system that have helped Kyiv’s forces attack Russian troops far behind the front lines.

The package also includes more surface-to-air missiles for defense against Russian aircraft and rockets, more Javelin anti-armor rockets, and other ammunition, according to a statement from the US Department of Defense.

“These are all critical capabilities to help the Ukrainians repel the Russian offensive in the east, and also to address evolving developments in the south and elsewhere,” said Under Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl.

It took to $9.1 billion the amount of security assistance the United States has provided Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on 24 February.

“The United States stands with allies and partners from more than 50 countries in providing vital security assistance to support Ukraine’s defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russia’s aggression,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“We will continue to consult closely with Ukraine and surge additional available systems and capabilities, carefully calibrated to make a difference on the battlefield and strengthen Ukraine’s eventual position at the negotiating table,” Blinken said in a statement.

Separately, the World Bank announced $4.5 billion in aid for Ukraine paid for by the United States.

The funds will help Kyiv pay for services and pensions, key to easing economic impacts of the Russian invasion, the bank said in a statement.

“This economic assistance is critical in supporting the Ukrainian people as they defend their democracy against Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

The latest tranche of aid, most of which will be disbursed this month, is part of $8.5 billion in total US support “which is helping Ukraine’s government keep hospitals, schools, and other critical government services for the people of Ukraine.”

The World Bank said the funding goes to the Public Expenditures for Administrative Capacity Endurance in Ukraine (PEACE) project, part of the multi-billion-dollar package to help the country.

“Ukraine needs continued government services, including health, education, and social protection to prevent further deterioration in living conditions and poverty,” World Bank President David Malpass said.

The country is currently running a budget deficit that is growing by $5 billion every month, exacerbated by its inability to raise funds or to access financing on external markets.

Allies have rushed to pump Ukraine with aid, with the G7 and the European Union also announcing commitments of $29.6 billion in further money for Kyiv.

© AFP 2022

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