Ukraine war: Zaporizhzhia bombed, more military aid, Swiss ‘no longer’ neutral
1. More shelling damages radiation sensors at Ukraine nuclear plant
Several radiation sensors at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia power plant were damaged on Thursday following more bombings.
“The situation is worsening, radioactive substances are located nearby and several radiation sensors have been damaged,” said Ukrainian operator Energoatom, reporting that the site had once again been hit earlier today.
Kyiv and Moscow blame one another for the strikes on Europe’s largest nuclear plant.
According to Energoatom, the attacks “damaged [a] sewage pumping station” and caused smoke to begin rising around the nuclear plant in southern Ukraine.
“At present, no contamination has been detected at the station and the level of radioactivity is normal,” said one Ukrainian official, pointing out that “several tons” of radioactive waste is stored at the site.
The strikes came ahead of a UN meeting on Thursday afternoon over Zaporizhzhia, called by Russia, who seized the site early on in the war.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged both sides to halt military activity around the nuclear power plant as soon as possible.
“I am calling on the military forces of the Russian Federation and Ukraine to immediately cease all military activities in the immediate vicinity of the plant and not to target its facilities or surroundings,” he said in a statement.
UN nuclear chief Rafael Grossi has previously warned that the situation at Zaporizhzhia “is completely out of control.”
2. Russia challenges Swiss claims to neutrality
Russia said on Thursday it no longer considers Switzerland a neutral country, refusing a Swiss offer to act as a go-between for Kyiv and Moscow.
Moscow said it had turned down a proposal by Switzerland to represent Ukrainian interests in Russia and Russian interests in Ukraine because it believes the country is taking sides.
Switzerland has a long history of neutrality, with the country often acting as an intermediary between countries with fractious relationships.
However, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ivan Nechayev said this was not possible in the current situation.
“We very clearly answered that Switzerland had unfortunately lost its status of a neutral state and could not act either as an intermediary or a representative,” Nechayev told reporters. “Bern has joined illegal Western sanctions against Russia.”
Switzerland has mirrored nearly all the sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU over its invasion of Ukraine.
3. German reservist on trial accused of spying for Russia
A German army reservist went on trial on Thursday in Duesseldorf, after being accused of providing sensitive military information to Russia.
Prosecutors alleged that the 65-year-old lieutenant colonel of the reserve force was actively working for Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency from 2014.
He has only been identified as Ralph G. in line with German privacy rules.
The German news agency DPA reported that the man, who works for an American company, supplied the GRU with information from public and non-public sources, including private contact details for high-ranking members of the German military.
He also provided the GRU with “an overview of the security and defence policies of the United States and its western allies,” according to the prosecutor.
Federal prosecutors alleged the defendant knew that he was dealing with Russian spies and that he was motivated to help them — seemingly for free — by his sympathy for Russia, DPA reported.
4. Extra 1.5 billion euros pledged for Ukraine
Western countries pledged on Thursday to give Ukraine another 1.5 billion euros in military aid at an international conference and said more is in the offing.
The money will go on enhancing weapon production, including artillery and ammunition, training Ukrainian soldiers and assisting efforts to demine areas in Ukraine.
“All the countries that came to Copenhagen came with the intention of supporting Ukraine,” said Danish Defense Minister Morten Bødskov at the end of the meeting between 26 countries.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the talks proved that Russian President Vladimir “Putin’s ambition (of the West losing its willingness to support Ukraine) has failed.”
“We are still determined,” he said.
All nations who came to have the conference in Denmark pledged to support training activities and there were some “concrete donations,” said Bødskov, adding the money would be used in 2022 and next year.
The exact amounts given to Ukraine by France, Germany and the United States have not been made public. But Denmark has announced it would provide an additional 110 million euros, bringing its total contribution to the Ukrainian war effort to nearly 417 million since the start of the Russian invasion.
Britain, which was co-hosting the meeting with its Scandinavian ally and Ukraine, pledged 300 million euros.
“Our partners know that we need funds and have declared themselves ready to support us financially,” said Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiï Reznikov.”It’s a marathon and for a marathon you need energy and honestly in this case the main energy is money,” he added.
The donor group is due to meet again in September.
5. Sanctions impacting Russia’s prized defence industry: UK MoD
Britain’s Defense Ministry claimed on Thursday that sanctions against Moscow are hurting Russian defence exports.
In an intelligence update, it said Western sanctions imposed on Russia were impacting the country’s defence industry, a sector Moscow has long taken pride in.
The update said that because of the war and sanctions, “its military-industrial capacity is now under significant strain, and the credibility of many of its weapon systems has been undermined by their association with Russian forces’ poor performance.”
Britain said that Moscow was already strained by the need to produce armoured fighting vehicles for its troops in Ukraine and hence “is highly unlikely to be capable of fulfilling some export orders,” in a sector it has long taken pride in.
Russia military credibility came under more pressure on Wednesday when Ukraine said nine Russian warplanes were destroyed i n a string of explosions at an air base in Russian-controlled Crimea that appeared to be the result of a Ukrainian attack.
Russia denied any aircraft were damaged in the blasts — or that any attack took place. But satellite photos clearly showed at least seven fighter planes at the base had been blown up and others probably damaged.
The defence industry is a strategically important sector and large employer in Russia.
Before the war, Russia was the second largest exporter of arms in the world, second only to the United States.