The bombing of power lines hit the Ukrainian nuclear plant, the blame on the two trade sides

  • Technicians shut down reactor at Europe’s largest nuclear plant
  • Three grain ships leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports
  • Turkey’s Erdogan meets Putin in Russia
  • Fighting in the eastern centers over a fortified village

Kyiv (Reuters) – The bombing of a high-voltage power line on Friday hit a major Ukrainian nuclear power plant seized by Russia, prompting plant operators to disconnect a reactor even though a radioactive leak was not detected.

Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom has blamed Russia for the damage to its Zaporizhzhia power plant, the largest in Europe. Earlier this week, the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency appealed for access to the station, which Washington says Russia is using as a shield on the battlefield. Read more

The Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukrainian forces of bombing the plant, which Russian forces seized in early March in the first phase of the war, saying the radiation leak was only avoided by luck.

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As a result, she said, one unit’s generating capacity went down and another unit’s power supply was cut off. A ministry statement said the nearby city of Inerhodar was experiencing problems with electricity and water supply.

This was not the first time that military action had raised concern in Zaporizhia, where the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency has occasionally reported loss of contact with monitoring systems that track nuclear materials.

The Enerhodar administration, set up by Russia, said in a statement that a fire broke out and electricity necessary for the safe operation of the reactors was cut off. The plant is still managed by Ukrainian technicians.

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Energoatum said the plant, about 200 km northwest of the Russian-controlled port of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine, was still operating and no radioactive discharges had been detected.

She added that a decision was taken to disconnect one reactor from the grid due to damage to a 330-kilowatt high-voltage electrical distribution line connecting the station to the thermal station.

To the east, both sides announced slight advances while Russian artillery bombarded towns and villages across a wide area in a tactic now familiar.

American Weapons Pack

Three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that the arms package coming to Ukraine from the United States was expected to amount to one billion dollars, the largest deal to date. Read more

The sources said that if the agreement is signed in its current form, it will include ammunition for long-range weapons and armored medical transport vehicles.

The package is expected to be announced on Monday and will add to about $8.8 billion in aid the United States has provided to Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24.

In other developments, three grain ships left Ukrainian ports on Friday and the first incoming cargo ship since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was scheduled to load, marking further steps in the Kyiv government’s efforts to revive its economy after five months of war.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is mediating the war, in the Russian city of Sochi.

“The international community cannot end the war in Ukraine by ignoring Russia,” said Fahrettin Altun, a top aide to Erdogan.

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Turkey helped negotiate the deal, which on Monday saw the first grain ship out of a Ukrainian port for foreign markets since the invasion.

Two grain ships set off on Friday from Chornomorsk and one from Odessa carrying a total of about 58,000 tons of corn, the Turkish Ministry of Defense said.

The Odessa regional administration said the Liberian-flagged Turkish bulk carrier Osprey S is expected to arrive in Chornomorsk on Friday to load it with grain.

Russia and Ukraine normally produce about a third of the world’s wheat, and the United Nations has warned that halting grain shipments through the Russian-dominated Black Sea could lead to famine in other countries, particularly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

“We expect that the security guarantees of our partners from the United Nations and Turkey will continue to operate, and food exports from our ports will become stable and predictable for all market participants,” Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kobrakov said.

On Monday, the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority said that 68 ships docked in Ukrainian ports with 1.2 million tons of cargo on board, two-thirds of which are food.

Battle for a strong fist

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in what Putin called a “special military operation,” the conflict has settled into a war of attrition largely fought in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Moscow is trying to control the largely Russian-speaking Donbass region, which consists of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, where pro-Moscow separatists seized territory after the Kremlin annexed Crimea to the south in 2014.

On Friday, Russia’s TASS news agency quoted the separatist forces as saying that they and Russian forces had taken complete control of Pesky in Donetsk region, a fortified village controlled by Ukrainian forces and located near the city of Donetsk which is in the hands of Russian-backed separatist forces.

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But Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Aristovich said: “There is little evidence of any movement here. They (the Russians) tried to advance but failed.”

Ukraine turned the village into a stronghold, viewing it as a buffer zone against the Russian-backed forces controlling the city of Donetsk about 10 kilometers to the southeast.

TASS also said the fighting was taking place in the city of Bakhmut, north of Donetsk, Russia’s next main target.

Aristovich said Ukrainian forces had recaptured two villages near Izyum in the Kharkiv region, which borders Russia, and were advancing toward a third village.

Reuters was unable to verify assertions by either side about developments on the battlefield.

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Nick McPhee, Angus McSwan, and Daphne Psalidakis; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Grant McCall

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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