Thursday, November 30, 2023

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 176

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Erdogan wars of another ‘Chernobyl’

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday threw his country’s support behind Ukraine and warned of the danger of “another Chernobyl” disaster erupting at a nuclear power plant held by invading Russian forces.

“While continuing our efforts to find a solution (to the conflict), we remain on the side of our Ukraine friends,” Erdogan said after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, adding: “We are worried. We don’t want another Chernobyl”.

Turkey, Ukraine sign reconstruction agreement

Turkey and Ukraine have signed a document agreeing to help rebuild Ukraine’s infrastructure, including roads and bridges.

The document was signed by Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine Oleksandr Kubrakov and Minister of Trade of the Republic of Turkey Mehmet Mus.

The bridge connecting Bucha and Irpin destroyed at the beginning of the Russian invasion is considered to be the first major piece of infrastructure earmarked to be restored as part of the agreement.

Zelensky and Guterres meet Erdogan in Lviv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and UN chief Antonio Guterres have met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the western city of Lviv.

“The visit of the President of Turkey to Ukraine is a powerful message of support from such a powerful country,” Zelensky said in a statement, adding that they would discuss cereals exports and Zaporizhzhia.

As a potential power broker, Erdogan will use his first visit to Ukraine since the war started nearly six months ago to seek ways to expand the export of grain.

Ukraine’s nuclear plant must be demilitarised: UN chief

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Thursday for the demilitarisation of the vast nuclear power plant held by Russia in southern Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, and said he was gravely concerned by the situation in and around it.

Guterres, speaking to reporters after talks in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, stated that military equipment and personnel should be withdrawn from the plant and called for efforts to ensure it is not the target of military operations.

“The facility must not be used as part of any military operation. Instead, agreement is urgently needed to reestablish Zaporizhzhia’s purely civilian infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area,” he added.

Zelensky calls on UN to ‘ensure security’ of nuclear plant

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the United Nations to ensure security at the Zaporizhzhia power plant, where increased fighting has raised fears of a nuclear incident.

“The UN must ensure the security of this strategic object, its demilitarisation and complete liberation from Russian troops,” Zelensky said in a statement after meeting UN chief Antonio Guterres in Lviv.

The Ukrainian leader also criticised “deliberate” Russian attacks on the facility.

Nuclear weapons use possible only in ’emergency circumstances’: Russia

Russia’s foreign ministry has announced that Moscow would only use its nuclear arsenal in “emergency circumstances” and that it has no interest in a direct confrontation with NATO and the United States.

Speaking at a media briefing, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ivan Nechaev said nuclear weapons would be used solely as a “response” measure.

“Russian military doctrine allows a nuclear response only in response to the threat of mass destruction, or when the very existence of the state is threatened,” he continued, adding, “That is, the use of a nuclear arsenal is possible only as part of a response to an attack in self-defence and only in emergencies.”

Russia says it may shut down Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant if shelling continues

Russia’s defence ministry has said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine may be shut down if Ukrainian forces continue shelling the facility, something Kyiv has denied doing.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters that Moscow was taking measures to ensure safety at the complex and denied it had deployed heavy weapons in and around the plant.

In a briefing, Igor Kirillov, head of Russia’s radioactive, chemical and biological defence forces, noted the plant’s backup support systems had been damaged as a result of shelling.

Kirillov added that in the event of an accident at the plant, radioactive material would cover Germany, Poland and Slovakia.

The Zaporizhzhia plant was seized by Russian forces in March. It remains close to front lines, and has repeatedly come under shelling in recent weeks. Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for attacks on the plant.

Russia says 3 MiG warplanes with hypersonic missiles moved to Kaliningrad region

Russia’s defence ministry said that three MiG-31E warplanes equipped with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles have been relocated to its Kaliningrad region, Interfax reported.

Russian state-owned news agency RIA cited the ministry as saying that the MiG jets would be on round-the-clock duty.

Kaliningrad, a Russian Baltic coast exclave located between NATO and European Union members Poland and Lithuania, became a flashpoint after Lithuania moved to limit goods transit to the region through its territory, with Russia promising retaliation.

Ukrainian military says it repelled Russian assaults in east

Ukraine has repelled assaults by Russian forces across the front lines in the eastern Donetsk region, the military’s General Staff announced on Thursday.

“[Russia] led an offensive in the Mykolaivka-Vyimka direction, was unsuccessful, withdrew,” the General Staff said of Moscow’s push toward the key city of Kramatorsk.

The bulk of the fighting had been concentrated around the town of Bakhmut, which has remained under heavy Russian artillery fire, it added.

“The occupiers launched an offensive in the directions of Volodymyrivka–Soledar, Pokrovske–Bakhmutske, Pokrovske–Bakhmut, Klynove–Bakhmut, Semihiria–Zaitseve, Semihiria–Kodema and Holmivskyi–Zaitseve,” the General Staff said, adding, “The invaders did not achieve any positive results in any of the offensive directions and withdrew with losses.”

Russian forces also had limited success west of Donetsk city, near Avdiivka, it added.

Russian forces maintained a defensive posture in the south of Ukraine, specifically around Kherson region, the General Staff said.

“The enemy continues to focus its efforts on establishing full control over the territories of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, maintaining the temporarily captured areas of the Kherson oblast and parts of the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Mykolaiv oblast, creating favorable conditions for resuming the offensive in certain directions, as well as blocking Ukraine’s maritime communications in the Black Sea,” it noted.

UN nuclear watchdog ready to visit to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant: Ukraine

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said a team of international experts is prepared to visit the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, following a call with the chief of the nuclear watchdog.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi “is ready to lead an IAEA delegation to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

“I emphasized the mission’s urgency to address nuclear security threats caused by Russia’s hostilities,” he added.

The IAEA has requested access to the plant in southeastern Ukraine as fighting around the facility intensified over the past few weeks. Both Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of threatening nuclear terrorism, particularly around the plant, which Russia has controlled since March. The European Union and 42 countries this week urged Russia to immediately withdraw forces from the plant, while the IAEA has warned that attacks on the facility risk a potential radiation leak.

Russia says ‘no heavy weapons’ deployed at Ukraine nuclear plant

Russia’s defence ministry said that its forces did not have heavy weapons deployed at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, accusing Kyiv of preparing a “provocation” at the station.

“Russian troops have no heavy weapons either on the territory of the station or in areas around it. There are only guard units,” the ministry announced in a statement.

Pointing to accusations that Russian forces have been shelling Ukrainian positions from territory of the nuclear power station, the ministry noted Kyiv was planning a “provocation” during a visit to Ukraine by UN chief Antonio Guterres that would see Moscow “accused of creating a man-made disaster at the plant”.

It added Ukraine was deploying forces in the area and planned to launch artillery raids on the plant from the city of Nikopol on Friday, when Guterres is due to visit Odesa.

One more grain ship leaves Ukraine: Turkey

One more ship carrying grain has left Ukraine’s Chornomorsk port, Turkey’s defence ministry announced, bringing the total number of vessels to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports under a UN-brokered grain export deal to 25.

The Belize-flagged I Maria was loaded with corn, it said, adding that four other ships will arrive in Ukraine’s ports to be loaded with grain.

UN chief to meet Zelensky and Erdogan in Lviv

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ukrainian city of Lviv, with grain exports and concerns about the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to top the agenda.

The trilateral meeting marks Erdogan’s first in-person discussion with Zelensky since Russia began its war on February 24, although the Turkish leader has met Russian President Vladimir Putin twice in recent months.

A spokesman for Guterres stated that the UN chief, Zelensky and Erdogan will discuss the grain deal, as well as “the need for a political solution to this conflict”.

The three leaders will hold a joint news conference after their meetings in Lviv, an important transit point for Ukrainian refugees heading west to Europe.

Guterres, who arrived in Lviv on Wednesday afternoon, plans on Friday to visit the Black Sea port of Odesa, where grain exports have resumed under a UN-brokered deal aimed at easing a worsening global food crisis.

NATO says ‘urgent’ need to inspect Ukraine nuclear plant

It is “urgent” the UN’s atomic watchdog be allowed to inspect the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine that is under Russian military control, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said.

Russia’s seizure of the plant “poses a serious threat to the safety and the security of this facility [and] raises the risks of a nuclear accident or incident”, he told reporters in Brussels.

“It is urgent to allow the inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency and to ensure the withdrawal of all Russian forces,” he stated.

The Russian military control of the facility “endangers the population of Ukraine, of neighbouring countries and of the international community”, Stoltenberg added.

“Russian troops … now use the ground around the nuclear power plant as a staging area, as a platform, to launch artillery attacks on Ukrainian forces, and this is reckless, it is irresponsible,” he continued.

Six dead in Russian shelling of Ukraine district of Kharkiv: Regional governor

Russian shelling of a residential district in the Ukraine city of Kharkiv killed six people and injured 16, regional governor Oleh Synehubov has said.

“Unfortunately, the number of dead and wounded in the shelling of Saltivka district has risen to six dead and 16 injured,” Synehubov wrote on Telegram.

President Volodymyr Zelensky deplored the attack on Telegram, noting that “this is a devious and cynical strike on civilians with no justification, showing the powerlessness of the aggressor”.

“We cannot forgive. We will avenge it,” he added.

Russia sees 38 percent rise in energy export earnings this year: Report

Higher oil export volumes, coupled with rising petrol prices, will boost Russia’s earnings from energy exports to $337.5bn this year, a 38 percent rise from 2021, according to an economy ministry document seen by the Reuters news agency.

The jump in revenues, if it materialises, will help shore up Russia’s economy in the face of waves of Western sanctions.

First wartime UN food aid for Africa reaches Bosphorus

The first wartime shipment of UN food aid for Africa reached the Bosphorus Strait on Wednesday under a deal backed by Russia restoring Ukrainian grain deliveries across the Black Sea.

Marine traffic sites showed the MV Brave Commander taking its cargo of 23,000 tonnes of wheat across the heart of Istanbul after leaving Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Pivdennyi on Tuesday.

Turkish coast guards expect the Lebanese-flagged cargo vessel to reach the Sea of Marmara on the strait’s southern edge late on Wednesday before sailing to its final destination in Djibouti next week.

The grain will then be loaded onto trucks for delivery to war and famine-stricken Ethiopia under the UN World Food Programme (WFP) funded largely by the United States.

Zelensky: Russians must leave Zaporizhzhia plant

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said in nightly address that the Russian military must withdraw from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant “without any conditions”.

Zelensky added that Ukrainian diplomats and scientists “are now working on sending an IAEA mission” to the plant and “only absolute transparency and controllability can guarantee a gradual return to regular nuclear safety”.

Ukrainian authorities performed disaster response drills following repeated shelling at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest of its kind in Europe.

Both sides accuse the other of attacks in the vicinity of the facility in recent days and engaging in what they call “nuclear terrorism”.

As part of the emergency drills, Ukrainian first responders donned full protective gear and then dealt with a man pretending to be a victim. After the team carried out a radiation scan they laid the patient on a stretcher, covered him in shiny silver film and then put him into an ambulance.

The first responders were themselves then checked for radiation before being hosed down and disposing of their gear. The drills will be repeated in the coming days, authorities announced.

Ukraine aide calls for Crimea bridge to be ‘dismantled’ after blasts

A senior Ukrainian official has called for Moscow’s main bridge connecting the Kremlin-controlled Crimea to the Russian mainland to be “dismantled,” in the wake of several attacks on the peninsula.

The 19-kilometre (12-mile) bridge inaugurated in 2018 by Russian President Vladimir Putin is Moscow’s key military and civilian land corridor to the peninsula, which it grabbed from Ukraine in 2014.

“The bridge is an illegal object,” presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said on social media.

It “must therefore be dismantled. Not important how – voluntary or not”, he added, implying the Kerch bridge could become a military target for Ukrainian forces.

Ukraine expects biggest convoy of ships to load since grain export deal

Ukraine has announced it expects five ships to arrive at its Chornomorsk Black Sea port on Wednesday to be loaded with more than 70,000 tonnes of agricultural products.

The convoy would be the largest so far under a UN-brokered deal to assure the safe passage of ships exporting grain.

The Ukrainian sea ports authority said in a statement that the new cargoes would include wheat, corn and sunseed oil.

The sea ports authority added that 24 ships carrying food had left Ukrainian ports so far during the 17 days of the grain corridor operation under the Initiative for the Safe Transportation of Grain and Foodstuffs.

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