Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of shelling around Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

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Moscow and Kyiv traded fresh accusations on Saturday of shelling around the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, which has been a focus of international concern that fighting in the area could trigger a disaster. On Friday, Russia blocked the adoption of a joint declaration at a United Nations conference to review the Nuclear Non-Prolifeation Treaty, with Moscow denouncing what it said were “political” aspects of the text. Read our live blog to see how all the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).


5:16pm: Russia’s neighbour Kazakhstan halts arms exports amid Ukraine war

Kazakhstan, a neighbour and ally of Russia, has suspended all arms exports for a year, its government said on Saturday, amid conflict in Ukraine and Western sanctions against Moscow.

The former Soviet republic – which also has active economic ties with Kyiv – has avoided taking sides in the Ukrainian crisis while calling for its peaceful resolution. The Kazakh government did not give a reason in Saturday’s statement for the decision to halt arms exports.

Kazakhstan produces a wide range of military equipment including boats, armoured and artillery vehicles, machine guns, night vision goggles, grenades, torpedoes and protective gear. The government has not said these items were being exported.

1:13pm: Ukraine allows sailors to leave country in likely boost for grain shipments

Merchant sailors will be allowed to leave Ukraine if they receive approval from their local military administrative body, the Ukrainian prime minister said on Saturday, a move that could ease the process of shipping grain from the country’s ports.

Premier Denys Shmyhal said the decision had been approved by the cabinet on Saturday. The change would cover male crew members of sea and river vessels, as well as students who need to undertake practical training aboard ships, he added.

The decision is likely to ease a shortage of sailors able and willing to crew ships coming into and out of Ukraine to export grain via an internationally brokered corridor. Ukrainian men aged 18-60 have largely been barred from leaving Ukraine under a state of martial law imposed as the country battles the  Russian invasion. Women of all ages have been free to leave throughout the war.

12:56pm: Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of shelling around Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Moscow and Kyiv traded fresh accusations on Saturday of shelling around the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom energy agency said Russian troops again shelled the grounds of the plant complex in the last 24 hours. “As a result of periodic shelling, the infrastructure of the station has been damaged, there are risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive substances, and the fire hazard is high,” Energoatom said on Telegram.

Russia’s defence ministry accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the plant complex three times in the last 24 hours.   “A total of 17 shells were fired,” the ministry said in a communique.

11:34am: South Korea, Poland sign $5.8 billion tank, howitzer contract amid tensions with Russia

Two South Korean companies have signed a $5.76 billion contract with Poland to export tanks and Howitzers, Seoul’s arms procurement agency said on Saturday, after Warsaw agreed to ramp up arms imports amid tensions with Russia.

The contract, signed in Poland on Friday, is part of South Korea’s biggest ever arms deal, clinched last month with Poland, which has been seeking to beef up its military in the face of Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

Hyundai Rotem Co. will ship K2 Black Panther tanks, and Hanwha Defense, the defence unit of Hanwha Corp , will send K9 self-propelled howitzers to Poland, said the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).

The parties have not announced the value of the entire deal, which South Korean media estimated at up to 20 trillion won ($15 billion).

11:11am: Britain gives 6 undersea minehunter drones to Ukraine

Britain’s defence ministry said on Saturday it was giving six underwater drones to Ukraine to help clear its coastline of mines and make grain shipments safer.

Britain will also train dozens of Ukrainian Navy personnel to use the drones, the ministry said in a statement.

9:32am: Russia intensifies attacks in parts of eastern Ukraine, Britain says

Russia has probably stepped up attacks along the Donetsk sector of the Donbas region over the last five days in a move that could be aimed at sucking in Ukrainian troops and foiling a counter-attack, according to Britain’s defence ministry.

There has been intense fighting near the towns of Siverskand Bakhmut which are located north of the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk, the ministry said on its daily intelligence bulletin on Twitter on Saturday.

“There is a realistic possibility that Russia has increased its efforts in the Donbas in an attempt to draw in or fix additional Ukrainian units, amid speculation that Ukraine is planning a major counter-offensive,” the update added.

8:00am: Russia won’t stop war even if Ukraine drops NATO hopes, says Medvedev

A top ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Moscow would not stop its military campaign in Ukraine even if Kyiv formally renounced its aspirations to join NATO.

Former President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, also said in a French television interview that Russia was prepared to hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky subject to certain conditions.

Even before the February invasion, Moscow made clear Ukrainian membership of NATO was unacceptable to it.

“Renouncing its participation in the North Atlantic alliance is now vital, but it is already insufficient in order to establish peace,” Medvedev told LCI television in quotes reported by Russian news agencies.

Russia, he said, would continue the campaign until its goals had been achieved. Putin says he wants to “denazify” Ukraine.

Kyiv and the West say this is a baseless pretext for a war of conquest.

Russia and Ukraine held several rounds of talks after the invasion began, but they made no progress and there are few prospects for a resumption.

“This (talks) will depend on how events unfold. We were ready before to meet (Zelensky),” Medvedev said.

In his comments, he also said US weapons already supplied to Ukraine – like HIMARS multiple-rocket launchers – did not yet pose a substantial threat.

>> Can US-supplied HIMARS be a game changer for Ukraine?

But that could change, he said, if US sent weapons could hit targets at longer distances.

“It means that when this sort of missile flies 70 km, that is one thing,” he said. “But when it’s 300-400 km, that is another, now that would be a threat directly to the territory of the Russian Federation.”

5:33am: Russia blocks UN adoption of nuclear disarmament text

Russia on Friday prevented the adoption of a joint declaration following a four-week United Nations conference on a nuclear disarmament treaty, with Moscow denouncing what it said were “political” aspects of the text.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which 191 signatories review every five years, aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, promote complete disarmament and promote cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

 “Our delegation has one key objection on some paragraphs which are blatantly political in nature,” said Russian representative Igor Vishnevetsky, adding that Russia was not the only country to take issue with the text.

According to sources close to the negotiations, Russia was opposed in particular to paragraphs concerning the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, which is occupied by the Russian military.

The latest draft text had expressed “grave concern” over military activities around Ukrainian power plants, including Zaporizhzhia, as well as over Ukraine’s loss of control of such sites and the negative impact on safety.

 At the last review conference in 2015, the parties were also unable to reach an agreement on substantive issues.

 At the opening of this year’s conference, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the world faced “a nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War”.


© France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)