Ukraine targets Russian soldiers threatening Europe’s largest nuclear power plant | The mighty 790 KFGO

By Natalia Zinets

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine is targeting Russian soldiers who fire on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant or use it as a base for firing, as G7 nations, fearing a nuclear disaster, have called on Moscow to withdraw its central forces.

Ukraine and Russia have swapped charges over multiple bombing incidents at the Zaporizhzhia facility in southern Ukraine. Russian troops captured the station early in the war.

“Every Russian soldier who shoots at the factory, or shoots using the factory as cover, must understand that he becomes a special target for our intelligence agents, for our special services, for our army,” the President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in an evening speech.

Zelenskiy, who gave no details, repeated that Russia was using the plant as nuclear blackmail.

The plant dominates the southern bank of a vast reservoir on the Dnipro River. Ukrainian forces controlling towns and cities on the opposite bank came under intense Russian bombardment.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak accused Russia of “hitting the part of the nuclear power plant where the energy that supplies southern Ukraine is generated”.

“The goal is to disconnect us from (the factory) and blame the Ukrainian military for this,” Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is seeking to inspect the plant, has warned of a nuclear catastrophe unless the fighting stops. Nuclear experts fear the fighting could damage the plant’s spent fuel pools or reactors.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has called for the creation of a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia facility, which is still run by Ukrainian technicians.

Kyiv has said for weeks that it is planning a counteroffensive to retake Zaporizhzhia and neighboring Kherson provinces, most of the territory seized by Russia after its Feb. 24 invasion and still in Russian hands.

Russian and Ukrainian forces earlier battled for control of Chernobyl, the still-radioactive site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, also raising fears of disaster.

THE DIPLOMATIC CRISIS DEEPENED

Russia’s invasion, which it calls a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its smaller neighbor, has pushed Moscow-Washington relations to a low point, with Russia warning it could sever ties.

The United States led Ukraine’s Western allies to provide it with weapons to defend itself and punitive sanctions against Moscow.

A senior Russian official said on Friday that Moscow had told Washington that if the US Senate passes legislation designating Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism”, diplomatic relations would be seriously damaged and could even be severed.

On Saturday, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official warned that any US seizure of Russian assets would completely destroy bilateral relations, TASS reported.

“We warn the Americans of the adverse consequences of such actions that will permanently damage bilateral relations, which is neither in their interest nor in our interest,” said Alexander Darchiev, head of the ministry’s North American department. It was unclear which assets he was referring to.

Darchiev said American influence over Ukraine has grown to the point that “Americans are increasingly becoming a direct party to the conflict.”

The United States and Europe, fearing being drawn directly into war, have refused Ukraine’s request to establish a no-fly zone to help protect its skies from missiles and warplanes. Russian fights.

UKRAINIAN GRAIN VESSELS

Two more ships carrying grain left Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Saturday, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said, bringing to 16 the number of ships due to leave under a UN-brokered deal aimed in part alleviate a global food crisis.

Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry said on Saturday that 16 ships carrying 450,000 tonnes of agricultural products had left Ukrainian seaports since early August under the agreement, which guaranteed safe passage for ships.

The agreement, signed by Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the UN in July amid warnings of possible outbreaks of offamine, allowed grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to resume after having been blocked for five months because of the war.

Zelenskiy said that in less than two weeks, Ukraine managed to export the same amount of grain from three ports as it did by road for the whole of July.

“It has already reduced the severity of the food crisis,” he said on Saturday.

Ukraine hopes to increase its maritime exports to more than 3 million tons of grain and other agricultural products per month in the near future.

Ukraine and Russia are major grain exporters. The blockade of Ukrainian ports has trapped tens of millions of grain in the country, raising fears of severe food shortages and even epidemics of famine in some parts of the world.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets in Kyiv and at Reuters bureaus; Writing by Michael Perry; Editing by William Mallard)

Mary I. Bruner