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Live blog: Zelenskyy meets IAEA team over Ukraine nuclear plant

  • 30 Aug 2022

Ukraine's Zelenskyy meets with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who will head a planned mission to the Zaporizhzhia plant, as the war rolls into 188th day.

To avoid a disaster, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi has sought access for months to the Zaporizhzhia plant, which Russian forces have occupied since the early days of the six-month-old conflict. ( Reuters )

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Zelenskyy meets IAEA team over Ukraine nuclear plant

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has meet with a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ahead of its long-awaited visit to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

"We want the IAEA mission... to reach the plant and do everything possible to avoid the dangers" of a nuclear disaster, Zelenskyy said on Tuesday of the site which has been targeted by repeated shelling, according to a video released by the presidency.

"This is probably one of the top priority questions regarding the safety of Ukraine and the world today," Zelenskyy said, calling for the "immediate de-militarisation of the plant" and its transfer to "full Ukrainian control".

Ukraine seeks UNESCO cultural protection for Odessa

Ukraine's government will ask the UN's cultural watchdog to add the historic port city of Odessa to its World Heritage List of protected sites as Moscow's forces approach the city, officials have said.

"Odessa is in danger right now," Ukraine's Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko told AFP news agency after meeting with UNESCO director Audrey Azoulay in Paris on Tuesday.

Russian forces are within several dozen kilometres of Odessa, which blossomed after empress Catherine the Great decreed in the late 18th century that it would be Russia's modern gateway to the Black Sea.

UN ship arrives in Africa with grain for Ethiopia's hungry

A UN-chartered ship loaded with 23,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat destined for millions of hungry people in Ethiopia has docked in neighbouring Djibouti.

The UN's World Food Programme said on Tuesday the wheat from the grain-loaded ship the Brave Commander was being transported to its operations in Ethiopia.

"The food on the Brave Commander will feed 1.5 million people for one month in Ethiopia," WFP's regional director for East Africa, Mike Dunford, said in video footage provided by the agency from the port.

EU sends 5.5M potassium iodide pills to Ukraine amid radiation concerns

The EU has donated 5.5 million potassium iodide pills to Ukraine, the European Commission said, amid the threat of an explosion at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

With a total financial value of more than $500,000, pills will be sent “as a preventative safety measure to increase the level of protection around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” the EU executive body said in a press statement on Tuesday.

Potassium iodide tablets offer protection in case of exposure to high radiation levels at a nuclear explosion. It prevents the inhaled or swallowed radioactive iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid.

Russia investigate ex-lawmaker for "fakes" about army

Russian authorities have been investigating Ilya Ponomaryov, a former lawmaker turned Ukraine-based Kremlin critic.

Ponomaryov was accused of spreading "fakes" about the Russian army, TASS news agency cited a Moscow court as saying on Tuesday.

Ponomaryov has come under increased pressure in Russia since becoming the only lawmaker in the 450-strong lower chamber of parliament, the Duma, to vote against the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

EU ministers agree to examine Ukraine military training plan

The European Union's defence ministers have agreed to begin preparatory work on a plan for the bloc to train Ukrainian soldiers during an informal meeting in Prague.

"It's not just warfare, it's also about how the war is conducted, the training of the soldiers," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Tuesday after the talks.

Few details were disclosed but Borrell said the Ukrainian soldiers battling Russian attacks since February 24 should be trained in nearby EU member states.

Swiss police detain Pussy Riot members over anti-war tags

Swiss police have briefly detained three members of the Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot after they spray-painted a slogan against the conflict in Ukraine.

On Monday, "just before 11:00 pm, we were alerted that three people were 'tagging' a wall in Wabern," a village on the outskirts of the Swiss capital Bern police spokesman said on Tuesday.

Pussy Riot, famous for their opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin and their provocative concerts, are currently on a European tour.

'At least five dead' as Russian shelling hits central Kharkiv

At least five people were killed and seven wounded as Russian shelling hit the centre of Ukraine's second-largest city of Kharkiv, the mayor Igor Terekhov said on his Telegram account. 

The regional governor, Oleg Synegubov, gave a slightly lower death toll of four and said another four were injured.

"The Russian occupiers shelled the central districts of Kharkiv," Synegubov said on Telegram, as he warned residents to "stay inside the shelters".

EU to ramp up arms production, eyes Ukraine army training

European Union ministers debated ways to ramp up weapons production, boost military training for the Ukrainian armed forces and inflict heavier costs on Russia in Prague, Czech Republic, where EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is chairing two days of talks between the bloc’s defence and foreign ministers.

The aim among defence ministers is to work out how best to pool military materiel and resources, but also to bulk purchase ammunition and weapons like air defence systems.

The defence ministers appeared divided on a plan to hold a major training mission for Ukrainian forces as they arrived for an informal meeting. "It remains to be seen whether this is the right way to help," said Luxembourg Defence Minister Francois Bausch. "I am not so convinced."

Russia-backed official accuses Ukraine of fresh shelling of nuclear plant

Moscow-supported authorities in an occupied part of Ukraine accused Ukrainian troops of once again shelling the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the run-up to a planned visit by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency.

Writing on Telegram, Russian-appointed Zaporizhzhia regional official Vladimir Rogov said: "The reason for the shelling is the deliberate intention of the Kiev leadership to disrupt the IAEA mission".

WFP: Food aid vessel leaves Ukraine for Yemen

The second shipment of humanitarian food aid since Russia's assault left Ukraine for Yemen, the World Food Programme said in a statement.

The MV Karteria left from the Black Sea port of Yuzhny and will stop in Türkiye along the way for the grains to be milled into flour, the UN agency said.

US: Russia facing technical problems with Iran drones

Russia has faced technical problems with Iranian-made drones acquired from Tehran this month for use in its conflict with Ukraine, according to Biden administration officials.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the US intelligence assessment, did not detail the “numerous failures." They added that the US assesses that the delivery of Mohajer-6 and Shahed-series unmanned aerial vehicles over several days this month is likely part of a Russian plan to acquire hundreds of Iranian UAVs.

The Associated Press reported last week that Russia had recently obtained hundreds of Iranian drones capable of being used in its conflict against Ukraine despite US warnings to Tehran not to ship them. 

The Biden administration last month released satellite imagery indicating that Russian officials visited Kashan Airfield on June 8 and July 5 to view the Iranian drones.

Pentagon: Russia struggling to recruit soldiers

Russia is struggling to find more soldiers to fight in Ukraine, even tapping prisons.

A senior US defence official said on Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin's decree last Thursday was to increase the headcount of the country's army by about 10 percent to 1.15 million servicemen, starting January next year.

The Pentagon believes that "this effort is unlikely to succeed, as Russia has historically not met personnel and strength targets," the official said. "Russia has already begun trying to expand recruitment efforts," the official told journalists on the basis of anonymity.

"They've done this in part by eliminating the upper age limit for new recruits. Many of these new recruits have been observed as older, unfit and ill-trained," the official said.

Ukraine troops breach Russian defences near Kherson

Ukrainian troops mounting a counter-offensive have broken through Russian defences in several sectors of the front line near the city of Kherson, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

In a video interview on YouTube, Oleksiy Arestovych also said Ukrainian forces were shelling the ferries that Moscow is using to supply a pocket of Russian-occupied territory on the west bank of the Dnipro river in the Kherson region. 

"This is what we have been waiting for since the spring – it is the beginning of the de-occupation of Kherson region," local government official Sergey Khlan told Ukraine's Pryamyi TV channel.

For live updates from Monday (August 29), click here

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