A team from the United Nations nuclear watchdog IAEA is on its way to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, after Russia agreed to secure their safety. This comes after weeks of Russia and Ukraine accusing each other of attacks near the plant that have raised the risk of a major nuclear accident.
Russian media reports Monday that Moscow said it welcomes the IAEA’s visit to Zaporizhzhia. The inspectors are expected to enter the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant from the Ukrainian side, but Russia will ensure its safety on the territory occupied by the Russian army. When asked about the possibility of creating a demilitarized zone around the plant, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it was “not under discussion.”
The plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power facility, was captured by Russian troops in March but is still run by Ukrainian staff. “We must protect the safety and security of Ukraine’s and Europe’s biggest nuclear facility,” tweeted Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The IAEA team led by Grossi will visit the plant on the Dnieper River near the frontlines in southern Ukraine on a day this week that has not been disclosed. The IAEA also tweeted that the mission would include the assessment of physical damage, evaluating the different conditions in which the staff are working at the plant and “determine functionality of safety and security systems.”
Both the United Nations and Ukraine have called for a withdrawal of military equipment and personnel from the nuclear plant to make sure it no longer is a target.
Over the weekend, bombing continued in the Donbas region and in cities near the Zaporizhzhia plant. Several attacks on Saturday night cut off the electricity in Nikopol, reported Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the Oblast region. The town of Zaporizhia also came under fire overnight. Both Ukraine and Russia continue to blame each other for the attacks.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant had been reconnected to the Ukrainian power grid and is operating normally after being disconnected last week, Ukrainian operator Energoatom said over the weekend. However "the infrastructure of the plant has been damaged, and there is a risk of hydrogen leakage and radioactive spraying," the energy company warned.
Russians Accused Of "Rebuilding” Mariupol Theater To Cover Up Massacre
\u201cConstruction equipment is seen in front of the Mariupol theater in this satellite image taken by Planet on August 24, 2022. An image taken on the ground, presumably on August 15, also shows the crane in front of the building. \n\n1/2\u201d— Benjamin Pittet (@Benjamin Pittet) 1661764054
The Mayor of Mariupol Petro Andruschenko wrote on his Telegram account that Russian occupation authorities in the Ukrainian port city have started reconstruction works of the local theater that was targeted in March in one of the worst civilian massacres of the war.
Russian authorities claim that the building has a "historical value" in an apparent effort to cover up all traces and evidence of its bombing in March that is believed to have killed dozens, if not more, locals who were using the Drama Theater as shelter.
"In fact, the Drama Theater has neither historical nor architectural value … like all typical structures of the Soviet period. The only historical value right now is linked to the two bombs that fell. And it is that historic value that they are trying to destroy," writes Andriuschenko.
Mariupol’s theater was serving as a shelter for more than 600 civilians when it was hit by heavy bombings on March 16 which has sparked an investigation into war crimes committed by Russian forces.
Moscow Recruitment Campaign Is Not Enough To Win The War
Representatives of the Russian Baltic Fleet
Vladimir Putin's latest decree to increase combat power is unlikely to impact the war, says UK's Ministry of Defense. Russian forces are currently up to 1.15 million personnel and aim for an additional 140,000, yet it is unclear how they would reach that goal: "Very few new contract servicemen are being recruited; and conscripts are technically not obligated to serve outside of Russian territory" reports the MoD's latest update.
The recruitment drive would make up for Russian military losses since the beginning of the conflict, which is estimated to be 70,000 to 80,000 troops, killed or injured. Currently, only Russian men aged 18 to 27 are subject to conscription, and many can avoid it through medical exemptions or by entering university.
Russia has not declared a national mobilization and is instead relying on propaganda through ads and mobile recruitment centers. In Putin’s new push, according to several sources, authorities would even be seeking recruits in prisons, offering inmates freedom and large payments.
Second Ukrainian Suspect In Dugina Killing
The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said Monday it has identified an unnamed member of a Ukrainian subversive group as a participant in the murder earlier this month of Darya Dugina, Russian political analys and close Putin ally Aleksandr Dugin, Russian news agency TASS reported.
Russian authorities had already identified Ukrainian Natalia Vovk as a suspect in the plot.
According to the latest statement, FSB investigators believe the bomb was assembled in a garage in southwest Moscow, and both terrorists arrived in Russia in transit through Estonia. The FSB also published a video allegedly showing all of their actions in preparation for the murder. Darya Dugina might also be a wrong target, as during the explosion she was driving the car of her father.
Despite these discoveries made during the investigation, the most interesting fact is that after the 400 grams of TNT exploded and the car caught fire after the paramedics arrived at the scene could not identify the body because of the severe fire damage, Dugina was entombed in an open casket and she looked just fine, as the photographs show.
EU Summit To Debate Ukraine Troop Training And Russian Tourist Ban
European Union defense and foreign ministers are meeting in Prague this week to discuss EU military training missions for Ukrainian forces, as well as a look into the ban of Russian tourists entering the EU.
Josep Borell, the bloc’s foreign policy and security chief, issued a statement saying that the military training program would be based in countries neighboring Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Baltic countries are pushing for an EU-wide ban on visas for Russian tourists. However, Germany and other members are rejecting the proposal as they fear it might breach EU rules and cut off escape routes for Russians opposing the Kremlin.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said his country, along with Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Finland, all the countries sharing a border with Russia, may act on their own to block tourists if the European Union does not approve the bloc-wide ban.
Death Confirmed Of New Zealand Soldier In Ukraine’s Foreign Legion
New Zealand Defense Force confirmed the death of New Zealander soldier Dominic Abelen, 28, who was killed after joining Ukraine’s foreign legion. The solider was on leave without pay from his country’s army when he was killed on Aug. 25. Sources told The Guardian that after serving in New Zealand’s army for 10 years, Abelen had decided to enlist with Ukraine’s foreign legion, and had not informed his commanding officers.
New Ships Leaving Odessa, Total Food Exports Top 1 Million Tons
Grain shipment leaves Odessa
Six new ships carrying food left the Ukrainian port of Odessa under last month’s UN-backed grain deal. According to the United Nation’s Coordinator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the total of exported grains has now crossed the 1 million-tons mark.
Last month, an agreement between Turkey, the UN, Russia, and Ukraine was signed in Istanbul to resume grain exports from Ukrainian Black Sea ports. "We are ready to increase our volumes to three million tons per month to prevent global food shortage," Turkey’s news agency Anadolu quotes Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov as saying.
Ericsson, Dell And Nokia Exit Russia
Ericsson office in Moscow
Three more major tech companies are ceasing their activities in Russia amid the conflict with Ukraine. Dell, Nokia and Ericsson have successively announced they will shut down their operations in the country and close their offices.
Ericsson had already sent 400 employees on paid leave in April and had suspended its business "indefinitely," but the company will now close shop after completing its obligations to customers. Nokia also had already pulled out in April, but has not said when its exit will be complete nor if the 2,000 employees will be compensated. The computer firm Dell announced the end of all Russian operations on Saturday.
Over the past six months, more than 1,000 companies have curtailed their operations in Russia. Among them, giants such as Starbucks, McDonald's, Netflix or Apple have ceased all activity, sometimes at great financial cost.