Ukraine war: EU accuses Russia of ‘irresponsible’ Zaporizhzhia nuclear safety breach
Here are five latest developments to know about in Russia’s war against Ukraine this Saturday.
1. EU accuses Russia of ‘irresponsible safety breach’ at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant
The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has condemned Russian military activities around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
The plant is occupied by the Russian army, and has been targeted by air strikes which both Moscow and Kyiv accuse the other of carrying out.
“This is a serious and irresponsible breach of nuclear safety rules and another example of Russia’s disregard for international norms,” he said via Twitter. He called for immediate access for the international atomic energy watchdog the IAEA.
There have been fears of a possible radiation leak amid the strikes.
One of the reactors at the plant has been shut down, Ukraine’s atomic energy company said on Saturday.
“As a result of the attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the emergency protection system was triggered on one of the three working reactors, which shut down,” Energoatom said in a message on Telegram.
The source said the bombing “severely damaged” a nitrogen and oxygen station and an “auxiliary building”. “There is still a risk of leakage of hydrogen and radioactive substances, and the risk of fire is also high,” it said.
“The bombing (…) has caused a serious risk to the safe operation of the plant,” Energoatom said, adding that it continues to produce electricity and that Ukrainian staff continue to work there.
Ukrainian authorities on Friday accused Russian forces of carrying out three strikes near a reactor at Zaporizhzhia, although Moscow has controlled that territory since the start of the invasion.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned Russia’s shelling of the plant in his regular address to the nation on Friday.
“Today, the occupiers created another extremely risky situation for everyone in Europe – they fired at the Zaporizhzhia NPP, twice in one day,” he said. “This is the largest nuclear power plant on our continent. And any shelling of this facility is an open, brazen crime, an act of terror.”
The Russian military has claimed that Ukrainian forces were behind the strikes, which caused a fire that was extinguished. On 21 July, Moscow accused Ukrainian forces of carrying out drone strikes around the plant.
Kyiv claims that Moscow is storing heavy weapons and ammunition on the territory of the plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces since March.
2. War in Ukraine set to enter new phase — UK military intelligence
Russia’s war in Ukraine is about to enter a new phase, with most fighting shifting to a nearly 350 kilometre front stretching southwest from near Zaporizhzhia to Kherson, parallel to the Dnieper River, British military intelligence said on Saturday.
Russian forces are almost certainly amassing in the south of Ukraine, anticipating a counter-offensive 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, rail links with growing frequency in its southern regions, including the strategically important railroad spur that links Kherson to Russian-occupied Crimea, it said.
3. Amnesty’s Ukraine chief quits in protest at ‘Russian propaganda’ report
The head of Amnesty International in Ukraine, Oksana Pokalchuk, has resigned after the NGO published a report blaming the Ukrainian armed forces for endangering civilians.
Kyiv reacted furiously to the report that accuses it of placing bases and weapons in residential areas — including schools and hospitals — as it has sought to repel the Russian invasion.
“I am resigning from Amnesty International in Ukraine,” Pokalchuk said in a statement on her Facebook page on Friday night, blaming the report for unwittingly serving “Russian propaganda”.
4. Mykolaiv imposes curfew to identify pro-Russian collaborators
The southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv began a strict two day curfew late Friday which authorities say will help them find and detain people they believe are helping Russia.
Regional governor Vitaly Kim said the curfew would help authorities find collaborators. It came as emergency workers battled fires caused by the latest shelling on the city, which lies close to Russian-occupied parts of the strategically important Kherson.
“Only last week they (law enforcement officers) arrested four people. And there are more at work. This is one of the reasons why a curfew will be imposed,” Kim said.
The southern frontline city of Mykolaiv has been under attack since the start of war, and recent weeks have seen a significant escalation in Russia’s shelling.
In the latest attack, Kim said Russian forces fired on the city from the direction of Kherson after lunchtime on Friday, causing extensive damage, killing an unspecified number of people and injuring at least nine.
Watching firefighters extinguish a blaze, 80-year-old local resident Ludmila Klimenko said the shelling was now happening all the time. “The school was burned over there, houses were damaged. And now over there two houses, I don’t know, they probably burned down completely,” she added.
The latest shelling came as Ukrainian forces are apparently scaling up attacks to reclaim territory in the Russian-occupied south.
5. UEFA fines Turkish club Fenerbahçe for pro-Putin chants
UEFA has fined Turkish club Fenerbahçe €50,000 for slogans chanted by some of its supporters in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a match against Ukrainian side Dynamo Kyiv in Istanbul on 27 July.
In its decision on Friday, football’s governing body in Europe also imposed a partial closure of the Turkish club’s stadium for its next European home game, shutting off at least 5,000 seats.
UEFA said in a statement that the measures were taken in response to “the throwing of objects and the transmission of a provocative message of an offensive nature, namely illegal chants”.
The incidents took place during a match in the second round of the Champions League qualifiers, won 2-1 by Dynamo Kyiv. After Ukrainian Vitaliy Buyalski scored a goal in the second half, several hundred Fenerbahçe fans chanted the Russian leader’s name, according to videos posted on social networks.
UEFA opened a disciplinary investigation into the “alleged bad behaviour” of the Turkish fans.
Fenerbahçe described the reaction from one section of the stands as “unacceptable” but alleged provocation from the opposing squad.
“Maligning all of our fans and attributing to Fenerbahçe Sports Club responsibility for an incident which in no way represents the attitudes or values of Fenerbahçe Sports Club is neither a fair nor an equitable approach,” the club said in a statement.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey, Vasyl Bodnar, condemned the chants the day after the match. “It is very sad to hear from Fenerbahçe fans words that support the murderer and aggressor who is bombing our country,” he said in Turkish on Twitter.
The pro-Putin slogans also caused an outcry on social networks, where many Turkish internet users called them “shameful”.
While quickly condemning the Russian offensive in Ukraine, Turkey has opted for neutrality between the two countries and has not joined the Western sanctions against Moscow.