Russia and Ukraine trade blame over Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant shelling

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

Russia and Ukraine accused each other of shelling Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant in the Zaporizhzhia region as the world on Saturday marked the 77th anniversary of the first atomic bomb attack in the Japanese city of Hiroshima, with UN chief Antonio Guterres warning against nuclear arms build-up amid fears of another such attack in the context of war in Ukraine. Read about the day’s events as they unfolded on our live blog. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).


8:46pm: First Ukraine grain shipment’s arrival in Lebanon ‘postponed’

The first shipment of Ukrainian grain since Russia’s invasion will no longer arrive in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli on Sunday as planned, Ukraine’s embassy in Beirut said. “Tomorrow’s arrival of (the) Razoni ship is postponed,” the embassy told AFP in a message on Saturday. Updates regarding an arrival ceremony “will be sent later when we get information about (the) exact day and time of the arrival of the ship”, it added.

Asked why the arrival was postponed, an embassy spokesperson said: “I don’t have any other information at the moment.” An official following the shipment said the vessel might not even dock in Lebanon if the cargo’s owner manages to sell it elsewhere. “The ship will only go to Lebanon… if a trader buys the cargo,” the official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

6:55pm: UN’s nuclear watchdog chief condemns shelling at Zaporizhzhia plant

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) raised grave concerns on Saturday about the shelling the previous day at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, saying the action showed the risk of a nuclear disaster.

“I’m extremely concerned by the shelling yesterday at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond,” Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.

Grossi, who leads the United Nation‘s nuclear watchdog, urged all sides in the Ukraine conflict to exercise the “utmost restraint” around the plant.

6:22pm: Ukraine says it caught two spies who helped destroy infrastructure in Mykolaiv

Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) detained two men it accused of being Russian intelligence agents responsible for identifying targets for Russian missile strikes that wrecked shipbuilding infrastructure in the southern port city of Mykolaiv, the agency said on Saturday.

The two men “collected and transmitted intelligence to the enemy about important infrastructure facilities, fuel depots, the deployment and movement of personnel and equipment of (Ukraine’s) Armed Forces,” the SBU said in a post on messaging app Telegram.

As a result, the SBU said several shipbuilding enterprises and fuel depots were damaged or destroyed. The agency said both men were now being held in custody. It did not say when the infrastructure was hit.

4:03pm: Ukraine says it will receive tanks and planes from North Macedonia

North Macedonia has agreed to supply tanks and planes to Ukraine to help fend off Moscow’s ongoing invasion, senior Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said on Saturday.

“Many nations are showing more courage today than half of the G20. Like North Macedonia, giving Ukraine a (supportive) shoulder in the form of tanks and planes,” Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

The defence ministry of North Macedonia confirmed last week that it would supply Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine, but has said nothing about aircraft deliveries.

3:50pm: Ukraine pushes back against Amnesty report on soldiers’ tactics

Ukraine has pushed back against an Amnesty International report on Ukrainian soldiers’ use of schools and houses in front-line locations in their war with invading Russian forces.

“Some of the allegations made in this Amnesty International report are in a sense true … in some places close to the front lines, Ukrainian soldiers have based themselves in urban areas and used, for example, schools,” FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg explains.

“But what you’ve got to remember is that these Ukrainian forces are defending precisely those urban areas against Russian attempts to occupy them. So from the point of view of the Ukrainian military command, they don’t really have any alternative but to be present inside these towns and villages, and so the question is, where are the soldiers going to live?”

The Amnesty report says that “international humanitarian law says that these kinds of tactics are allowed if there is a compelling military need”, Cragg reports. 

“I think one can sum up Ukraine‘s response to this, and it’s been the response as well of numerous international law scholars, as being, simply, ‘of course there’s a compelling military need’.”



2:34pm: Ukraine says parts of Zaporizhzhia plant ‘seriously damaged’ in strikes

Parts of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant were “seriously damaged” by military strikes that forced one of its reactors to shut down, the plant’s operator said on Saturday. 

The Friday strikes on the plant in southern Ukraine – Europe’s largest atomic power complex – “seriously damaged” a station containing nitrogen and oxygen and an “auxiliary building”, Energoatom said on the Telegram messaging service.

The strikes damaged a power cable, forced one of the reactors to stop working and “there are still risks of leaking hydrogen and radioactive substances, and the risk of fire is also high”, Energoatom said. The shelling “has caused a serious risk for the safe operation of the plant”.

Kyiv has accused Russian troops of storing heavy weapons at the plant, which they occupy. Moscow, in turn, has accused Ukrainian forces of targeting it.

The EU hit out at Russia on Saturday over what it called “military activities” around the plant.

“The EU condemns Russia’s military activities around #Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” the bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, wrote on Twitter. “This is a serious and irresponsible breach of nuclear safety rules and another example of Russia’s disregard for international norms.”

Borrell insisted that the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, be given access to the plant. 

1:49pm: Turkey to pay for some Russian gas in roubles, says Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed that Turkey will start paying for some of its Russian natural gas imports in roubles. The announcement was initially made by Moscow late Friday after more than four hours of talks between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi.

The United States is leading international efforts to impose economic sanctions on Russia in response to its February invasion of Ukraine. But NATO member Turkey has tried to remain neutral in the conflict because of its heavy dependence on Russian energy.

1:23pm: Ukrainian unit digs in for Russian assault on Sloviansk

Ukrainian military personnel are fortifying their positions around the eastern city of Sloviansk in expectation of a fresh Russian attempt to seize the strategic point in the fiercely fought-over Donetsk province.

Sloviansk is considered a strategic target in Moscow’s ambitions to seize all of Donetsk, a largely Russian-speaking area in eastern Ukraine where Russian forces and pro-Moscow separatists control about 60 percent of the territory.

Only around 20,000 residents remain in Sloviansk, down from more than 100,000 before Russia’s invasion. The city has been without gas or water for months, and residents are only able to manually pump drinking water from public wells.

Seizing Sloviansk would put more of the province under Russian control, but it also would be a symbolic victory for Moscow. The city was the first to be taken by the separatists during an outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine in 2014, though it was later brought back under Ukrainian control.

9:52am: Head of Amnesty Ukraine quits over rights report

The head of Amnesty International‘s Ukraine office has resigned, accusing the rights organisation of parroting Kremlin propaganda in a controversial report that criticised the war-torn country’s military response to Russia’s invasion.

Amnesty sparked outrage in Ukraine when it released a report on Thursday accusing the military of endangering civilians by establishing bases in schools and hospitals, and launching counterattacks from heavily populated areas.

“If you don’t live in a country invaded by occupiers who are tearing it to pieces, you probably don’t understand what it’s like to condemn an army of defenders,” Amnesty’s Oksana Pokalchuk said on social media, announcing her resignation late Friday.

9:25am: Ukraine war set to enter new phase, says UK military intelligence

Russia’s war in Ukraine is about to enter a new phase, with most fighting shifting to a nearly 350-kilometre (217-mile) front stretching southwest from near Zaporizhzhia to Kherson, parallel to the Dnieper River, said British military intelligence in its latest daily assessment.

Russian forces are almost certainly amassing in the south of Ukraine, anticipating a counteroffensive or in preparation for a possible assault, the UK‘s ministry of defence said on Twitter.

Long convoys of Russian military trucks, tanks, towed artillery and other weapons continue to move away from Ukraine’s Donbas region and are headed southwest.

Battalion tactical groups (BTG), which comprise between 800 and 1,000 troops, have been deployed to Crimea and would almost certainly be used to support Russian troops in the Kherson region, the update said.

Ukraine’s forces are focusing their targeting on bridges, ammunition depots and rail links with growing frequency in the country’s southern regions, including the strategically important railroad spur that links Kherson to Russian-occupied Crimea, it said.

8:45am: Hiroshima vows nuke ban at 77th memorial

Hiroshima on Saturday remembered the atomic bombing 77 years ago as officials, including the UN chief, warned against nuclear weapons build-up as fears grow of another such attack amid Russia’s war on Ukraine.

“Nuclear weapons are nonsense. They guarantee no safety – only death and destruction,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who joined the prayer at the Hiroshima Peace Park.

“Three quarters of a century later, we must ask what we’ve learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled above this city in 1945,” he said. 

The US dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, destroying the city and killing 140,000 people. It dropped a second bomb three days later on Nagasaki, killing another 70,000. Japan surrendered on August 15, ending World War II and Japan’s nearly half-century of aggression in Asia.

Fears of a third atomic bombing have grown amid Russia’s threats of nuclear attack since its war in Ukraine began in February.

7:02am: Kyiv, Moscow trade blame over nuclear plant

Kyiv and Moscow accused each other of striking Europe’s largest nuclear site in Zaporizhzhia, causing a reactor stoppage.

Russian troops have occupied the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine since the early days of their invasion and Kyiv has accused them of storing heavy weapons there. Moscow, in turn, has accused Ukrainian forces of targeting the plant.

“Three strikes were recorded on the site of the plant, near one of the power blocks where the nuclear reactor is located,” Ukraine’s state-run nuclear power plant operator Energoatom said in a statement.

“There are risks of hydrogen leakage and radioactive spraying. The fire danger is high,” Energoatom said. It did not report any casualties.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

© France Médias Monde graphic studio