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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

From East And West, Two Ways To Scare Putin Off The Nuclear Option

Kyiv is accusing Russia of planning to blow up the occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in eastern Ukraine, which would cause incalculable horror, and extend beyond the borders of Ukraine. But it may be messages in Beijing and Washington that can dissuade Vladimir Putin even more than exposing civilians, including Russians, to nuclear fallout.

A woman looks across a field at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

Units 3 and 4 of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the largest and highest in capacity nuclear power facility in Europe, on June 28.

Pierre Haski


PARIS — Is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky crying wolf, or does he have bonafide information? On Saturday, during a joint press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Zelensky accused Russia of making preparations to blow up the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

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This is not just a subplot in a cruel war; it would be the unprecedented violation of an absolute taboo, the consequences of which would be incalculable and undoubtedly extend beyond the borders of Ukraine. It is the first time in history that a nuclear power plant has become a possible war target — and international law is powerless.

Since its occupation by the Russian army in March of last year, at the very beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant – let's not forget, it is the largest in Europe – has been a constant focus of attention. Concerns have been raised about its operation, its cooling system, and its use as a shield by Russian soldiers. But nothing comes close to the deliberate destruction of nuclear reactors.

Exchange of accusations

According to Ukrainian authorities, whether it is the President or military intelligence services, four out of six reactors, as well as the cooling pond, have been mined by the Russians. According to these Ukrainian sources, Russia has reduced its presence at the power plant, withdrawing some troops and experts from Rosatom, the Russian nuclear agency, who have been evacuated to Crimea.

Can Russia actually blow up a nuclear power plant?

Russia has denied any intention to detonate the power plant and, in turn, accuses the Ukrainians of seeking to sabotage it to blame Moscow. These accusations are equally unverifiable as those from Kyiv.

The question is what's credible. Can Russia actually blow up a nuclear power plant? It may seem absurd, but after the explosion of the Khakhovka dam last month that flooded an entire region, who can say what is truly beyond the realm of possibilities?

A worker in a protective suit and gas mask

A worker in a protective suit and gas mask during an exercise practicing for an accident at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southeastern Ukraine. June 29, 2023.

Albert Kosheliev / ZUMA

Deterrents, from east and west

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a UN agency based in Vienna, has been very active for over a year. Its Director-General, Rafael Grossi of Argentina, has personally engaged in efforts to resolve the Zaporizhzhia situation and temporarily place the power plant under international supervision. This, however, has thus far not been possible.

The only moderating influence on Putin in this matter could potentially come from China. It is the only issue on which Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken a firm stance regarding Ukraine: he has repeatedly emphasized that nuclear blackmail, be it civilian or military, should not be employed. We are reduced to hoping that he reiterates this position to his friend Putin, who increasingly relies on his relationship with China amidst sanctions.

It is also hopeful that Putin has been informed of the bipartisan resolution introduced last week in the U.S. Congress, the Graham-Blumenthal project. It stipulates that in the event of nuclear action against Ukraine, including civilian targets, Article 5 of NATO would be invoked. This means nothing less than NATO's entry into war. That too could be the decisive deterrent.

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How Parenthood Reinvented My Sex Life — Confessions Of A Swinging Mom

Between breastfeeding, playdates, postpartum fatigue, birthday fatigues and the countless other aspects of mother- and fatherhood, a Cuban couple tries to find new ways to explore something that is often lost in the middle of the parenting storm: sex.

red tinted photo of feet on a bed

Parenting v. intimacy, a delicate balance

Silvana Heredia

HAVANA — It was Summer, 2015. Nine months later, our daughter would be born. It wasn't planned, but I was sure I wouldn't end my first pregnancy. I was 22 years old, had a degree, my dream job and my own house — something unthinkable at that age in Cuba — plus a three-year relationship, and the summer heat.

I remember those months as the most fun, crazy and experimental of my pre-motherhood life. It was the time of my first kiss with a girl, and our first threesome.

Every weekend, we went to the Cuban art factory and ended up at the CornerCafé until 7:00 a.m. That September morning, we were very drunk, and in that second-floor room of my house, it was unbearably hot. The sex was otherworldly. A few days later, the symptoms began.

She arrived when and how she wished. That's how rebellious she is.

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