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Zaporizhzhia plant temporarily cut off from power grid, says Kyiv

Update : 26 Aug 2022, 09:34

The last regular line supplying electricity to Ukraine's Russian-held Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is working again after being cut earlier on Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement.

"Ukraine told the IAEA that the ZNPP ... at least twice lost connection to the power line during the day but that it was currently up again," the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog said, adding that information on the direct cause of the outage was not immediately available.

The nuclear plant was disconnected from the national power supply earlier on Thursday for the first time in its history, the Ukrainian state operator Energoatom said.

Energoatom said the plant was disconnected from Ukraine's national supply system after the last power line was twice disconnected by fires at ash pits in an adjacent thermal power plant.

Three other power lines were earlier damaged by Russian shelling, the operator said. As a result, the two of the plant's six reactors still functioning "were disconnected from the network."

Energoatom said that "automation and security systems" are in order, and "start-up operations are under way to connect one of the power units to the grid."

The Zaporizhzhia plant — Europe's largest nuclear facility — has been occupied by Russian troops since March.

It has remained on the frontlines ever since, and, in recent weeks, Moscow and Kyiv have traded blame over shelling around the complex in southern Ukraine.

Ukrainians are nervous about the fate of Europe's largest nuclear power plant in a country that already is home to the worst atomic accident in the world, the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.

Fighting near the facility has elevated concerns that a catastrophe at the plant could put parts of Ukraine or even Europe under a radioactive cloud. Kyiv asserts Russia is storing weapons and launching attacks from Zaporizhzhia.

Ukraine is between a rock and a hard place in that it cannot disconnect from the very power plants it relies on to keep the lights on and some semblance of normal in a country hit by Russian strikes, whether missiles or artillery fire.

Earlier on Thursday, the IAEA said it was "very, very close" to being granted permission to tour the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

Here's a roundup of some of the other key developments regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine on August 25.

Kyiv says children among 25 dead after strike on station
As Ukraine marked its 31st Independence Day from the former Soviet Union under heavy Russian shelling, a missile attack on a rail station killed 25 people, setting a passenger train on fire.

Missiles also struck north of Kyiv, the capital.

Ukraine's Independence Day also coincided with the six-month anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion.

In video remarks to the UN Security Council Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said rockets hit a train in the small town of Chaplyne, roughly 145 kilometers (90 miles) west of Russian-occupied Donetsk in the central Dnipropetrovsk region.

His aide Kyrylo Tymoshenko later said Chaplyne had been shelled twice by Russian forces. In the first missile strike, a boy was struck dead in his home and 21 people were later killed as rockets hit the train station where five train cars caught fire.

Five of the dead were recovered from one of the railway cars, while search and rescue operations were still taking place, Zelenskyy said in his nightly address. Authorities raised the casualty count by morning as more of the dead were recovered from the blasts' locations.

More than 50 were injured in the blasts.

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Ukraine Independence Day marred by attack
The Russian defense ministry said Thursday it had bombed the station, but claimed Ukrainian soldiers were the target.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the attack on Twitter, writing, "Russia's missile strike on a train station full of civilians in Ukraine fits a pattern of atrocities. We will continue, together with partners from around the world, to stand with Ukraine and seek accountability for Russian officials."

North of Kyiv, the Vyshgorod region was hit six times, though no one was killed, according to regional official Oleksiy Kuleba.

Russia uses cluster bombs 'extensively' in Ukraine, report says
Russia has widely used cluster bombs in Ukraine, causing hundreds of civilian casualties and damaging homes, schools and hospitals, a monitoring body said Thursday.

Hundreds of cluster munition attacks by Russian forces have been documented, reported, or are alleged since Russia invaded Ukraine, the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) said.

The CMC's annual report on the use of such weapons around the world also said Ukrainian forces appear to also have used cluster munitions at least times.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine have joined the convention prohibiting the use, transfer, production and stockpiling of cluster bombs. The convention has 110 states parties and 13 other signatories.

"Russia's extensive use of internationally-banned cluster munitions in Ukraine demonstrates a blatant disregard for human life, humanitarian principles and legal norms," said one of the report's editors, Mary Wareham.

The 100-page report comes as parties to the convention prepare for a 10th annual meeting from August 30 in Geneva.

Another co-editor, Marion Loddo, told DW the weapons were so indiscriminate they had limited military use.

"There is clearly no military need and that's why we have the convention banning those weapons."

Putin orders increase in force numbers
Russian President Vladimir Putin has decreed Russia's military bolster the size of the military by 137,000.

Left unexplained was how Putin's decree would lead to an increase in the number of volunteers or conscripts enlisting to partake in the invasion of Ukraine Russians only know of as their country's "special military operation."

The Kremlin has so far rejected suggestions the call up reflects a broader mobilization or a pivot towards a war economy.

$1 billion in Russian goods entering US ports every month
While US President Joe Biden had vowed to "inflict pain" and deliver "a crushing blow" to Vladimir Putin and the Russian economy through restrictions on the few items Russia does export beyond energy, approximately $1 billion (€1 billion) in Russian goods gets into the US every month.

Goods such as vodka, diamonds and gasoline have been sanctioned, but other items like wood, metals and rubber have been arriving at US ports despite the trade restrictions, the AP reports.

Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, more than 3,600 shipments from Russia have arrived at US ports. It is however a decline from the same period the previous year when 6,000 shipments from Russia arrived.

Ambassador Jim O'Brien, the chief of the State Department's Office of Sanctions Coordination, told AP, "When we impose sanctions, it could disrupt global trade. So our job is to think about which sanctions deliver the most impact while also allowing global trade to work."

The US, the UK and the EU all imposed different sanctions against Russian companies and suppliers, which can create tremendous confusion for those involved in imports and exports.

In one case, the AP found that one company selling metal to the Russian military to make fighter jets like those conducting bombing sorties over Ukraine manages to still sell millions of dollars' worth of metal to US and European firms.

Some US importers said they had no choice or substitute material to draw from. Most American school furniture and hardwood floors are from Russian birch wood, for instance.

Konstantin Sonin, a Russian economist at the University of Chicago, said, "It is a general rule: when you have sanctions, you'll have all kinds of murky schemes and illicit trade. Still, sanctions make sense because even though you cannot kill 100% of revenues, you can reduce them."

Russian Patriarch Kirill scraps plan to meet Pope Francis next month
Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russia's Orthodox Church, canceled a scheduled appearance at an interfaith event in Kazakhstan next month where it was expected that he would meet Pope Francis.

In the past, Kirill has shown support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, using spiritual and ideological levers to do so. Kirill has called the war a "metaphysical" battle with the West and has blessed Russian soldiers. He has suggested Russians and Ukrainians are one people at a time Russia stands accused of brutalizing and forcibly deporting Ukrainian civilians into Russia.

The meeting, previously scheduled for some time between September 13 and 15 during the dates of the interfaith conference, would have been only the second meeting between the heads of the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches since the schism in 1054.

Kirill previously met Pope Francis in 2016 in Cuba.  Francis has denounced the war without pointing a finger at Russia in an effort to keep open the possibility for dialogue with Moscow.

On Wednesday, Francis condemned the car bombing in Moscow of the daughter of Kremlin ideologue Aleksander Dugin earlier in the week. Francis referred to her as a "poor girl" among "innocents" who are among the casualties of the "insanity of war."

Ukraine strenuously objected to those characterizations of a young woman whose tone and tenor in life struck the same ultra-nationalist notes as her father.

French transport minister wants probe of TotalEnergies over report
Clement Beaune, France's transportation minister, told France2 television that an investigation is needed after a report in newspaper Le Monde revealed French energy giant TotalEnergies is supplying jet fuel to Russia's military via a joint venture with a Russian firm, Novatek.

On Wednesday, the paper reported that TotalEnergies had a hand in supplying Russian military aircraft with gas condensate to produce jet fuel which may have been used in the planes currently flying sorties as part of Russia's bombing campaign against Ukraine.

TotalEnergies has held onto its Russian assets despite criticism for doing so. The firm however denied supplying the Russian military and was unaware of possible jet fuel production by business partners.

Beaune was the first government official to comment on the controversial report. Le Monde claimed gas condensate supplied by the joint venture with Novatek, Terneftegaz, had found its way to two Russian air force bases. TotalEnergies owns a 49% stake in Terneftegaz.

Intelligence experts question Russian narrative regarding car bomb incident
While Russian authorities were quick to place blame on Ukraine for a car bomb that killed Darya Dugina, the daughter of a prominent pro-Kremlin ideologue, intelligence experts are second guessing the Russian FSB's claim that Ukraine played a role.

The FSB's official narrative suggests a Ukrainian woman who later fled to Estonia is responsible for the explosion in the heart of the Russian capital. Kyiv has rejected this and diminished Dugin's stature in Ukraine in the process.

A senior member of Ukrainian intelligence told AFP, "Nobody in Ukraine even really knows about Dugin. Who would have something against his daughter? Killing her makes no sense."

Logistically, Gerald Arboit, an international intelligence expert at the CNAM research institute in Paris, said the FSB's claims are operationally absurd.

"For this type of attack you'd need reconnaissance, to follow her, and then call in a team to carry it out — you'd need two or three people to booby-trap a car," Arboit said, adding, "One person alone couldn't do it all."

Ukraine wants to try Putin and top aides at special war tribunal
Ukrainian officials are making plans to try Russian President Vladimir Putin and top military leaders for war crimes at a special international tribunal focused on Russia's "crime of aggression."

Andrii Smirnov, the deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, is the lead in the effort which seeks to define aggression according to the 2010 Rome Statute, which adapts the parallel concept of "crime against peace" used against Nazis and Hirohito's functionaries at the end of World War II in Germany and Japan.

The International Criminal Court (ICC), located at The Hague in the Netherlands, is already investigating war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. For the last twenty years, the ICC has tried crimes against humanity and genocide, but officials from great power states as opposed to developing nations have evaded the court's justice.

In Western Europe, support for the idea is building, with the European Parliament calling for a special international tribunal for crimes of aggression on May 19.

 

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