Zelensky says Russia seeking to sow fatigue over its invasion; IAEA to visit Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Zelensky says Russia seeking to sow fatigue over its invasion; IAEA to visit Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant
Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine's president, speaks via video link during the opening day of LaREF22 in Paris, France, on 29 August 2022. (Photo: Nathan Laine / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of trying to create a global sense of fatigue about its invasion, including by restricting the flow of gas to drive energy prices higher.

The European Union is working on “an emergency intervention and a structural reform of the electricity market” to drive down spiking power prices, according to Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the bloc’s executive arm. With power-plant outages further sapping supply, the EU’s energy ministers will meet in Brussels on 9 September to seek a bloc-wide solution.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi will lead an inspection of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, with the team expected to reach Kyiv on Monday evening. Zelensky warned at the weekend that the situation at the plant remained dangerous, even after two power units were reconnected to the grid following an outage. 

Key developments

On the ground

The Ukrainian army launched an offensive in numerous areas in the south of Ukraine, Natalia Humenyuk, a spokeswoman for the military’s southern command, said on Suspilne TV. The city of Energodar near the Zaporizhzhia plant was shelled late on Sunday, according to the Ukrainska Pravda news site, which also reported that Russia hit the city of Sarny in Ukraine’s western Rivne region with missiles, striking a military target. Russia hit Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv again, regional Governor Oleh Synyehubov said on Telegram, while in Donbas several Russian attempts to conduct assaults in the vicinity of Slovyansk, Bakhmut and Avdiivka were unsuccessful, Ukraine’s General Staff said on Facebook.

Ukrainian ex-legislator collaborating with Russia is murdered 

Oleksiy Kovalyov, an ex-legislator from Zelensky’s party who left Kyiv to help Russian occupation forces in Ukraine’s south, was murdered on Sunday, according to a statement by Russia’s Investigative Committee on Telegram.

Kovalyov, who ran an agriculture business in the Ukrainian city of Kherson, became deputy head of the Russian-installed authority in the region. Kovalyov, so far the highest-ranking collaborator with Russian forces to be murdered, died in an apparent gun attack at his home along with his partner, the committee said.

Zelensky warns of global fatigue over Russian invasion

Russia is trying to create a sense of global fatigue over its war in Ukraine, including by successfully pushing energy prices higher by restricting the flows of natural gas, Zelensky said.



EU plans emergency intervention to push down power prices  

The EU is planning urgent steps to force down soaring power prices, Von der Leyen said. “The skyrocketing electricity prices are now exposing, for different reasons, the limitations of our current electricity market design,” she said at the Bled Strategic Summit in Slovenia.

The unprecedented spike in power prices, which have soared almost 10-fold in the past year, has fuelled inflation and increased the economic burden on businesses and households recovering from the pandemic.

US officials, allies to meet in Germany

Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin is scheduled to host an in-person Ukraine Defence Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on 8 September, the US said in a statement. Austin has invited ministers of defence and senior military officials from around the world to discuss Russia’s attack on Ukraine and various security issues facing allies and partners.

New training mission plan aims to bolster Ukraine’s military  

The EU could offer Ukraine’s armed forces sniper, demining and officer training as part of a new mission the bloc’s foreign policy chief plans to propose to member states this week. Josep Borrell was due to suggest an EU training mission for Ukraine, with the aim of clinching political backing from defence ministers when they gathered in Prague on Monday evening.

While Ukraine’s needs are evolving, Kyiv has identified some specific training needs, including for medical, demining and sniper missions, as well as various kinds of officer training, according to a document obtained by Bloomberg.

EU to hold emergency talks as energy prices spike

The Czech Republic, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, called an extraordinary meeting of energy ministers to discuss a bloc-wide solution to the spike in power markets.

The meeting, which will take place in Brussels on 9 September, will debate concrete measures to tackle the energy crisis, according to Industry and Trade Minister Jozef Sikela. Czech officials are proposing to cap the price of natural gas used for power generation, Sikela said.

Record number of refugees return to Ukraine from Poland

More than 73,000 people left Poland for Ukraine on 27-28 August, a record for any weekend since Russia’s invasion in February, Polish border guards said on Twitter. The return of refugees intensified for the start of the new school year on 1 September. Most people who fled the war are women with children.

Poland has been a major destination for people fleeing the war. Since Russia’s 24 February invasion, 5.89 million people have entered Poland from Ukraine, while about four million crossed the border in the opposite direction.

European gas prices slump 

European natural gas prices plunged the most since March after Germany said its gas stores were filling up faster than planned and some traders took profits following the rally of recent weeks.

Zelensky offers spare gas capacity

The Ukrainian president offered excess capacity at the country’s gas-storage facilities for the EU to use to build supplies for the winter. Ukraine can also be a contributor to the energy transition, he said via a webcast at the ONS conference in Stavanger, Norway.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told the same conference that Norway aims to spend two billion kroner ($205-million) this year to ensure that Ukrainians can buy gas for the winter. The support will be distributed through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Russia to ensure IAEA security on territory it controls

Russia will ensure the security of a mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on the territory it controls in Ukraine, while it will be up to Kyiv to handle it on the other side of the front, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

“We’ve been waiting for this mission for a long time and consider it necessary,” he told a conference call. But he said there is “no discussion” of creating a demilitarised zone around the plant at the moment.

Ukraine expects clear IAEA statement

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he spoke to IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi on Sunday to discuss details of an inspection of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant this week.

“They have vast experience in inspecting nuclear power facilities across the world under the most difficult circumstances, but without exaggeration, this mission will be the hardest in the history of the IAEA given the combat activities undertaken by the Russian Federation on the ground and also the very blatant way that Russia is trying to legitimise its presence” at the plant, Kuleba told reporters in Stockholm on Monday. Ukraine expects a “clear statement of facts of violation of all nuclear safety protocols”, he added.

The Moscow-appointed occupation governor told state television earlier on Monday that his officials would show the IAEA delegation evidence of what he said was shelling by Ukrainian forces. Kyiv has denied firing in the area around the plant.

Sweden announces aid for Ukraine

Half of Sweden’s one billion-krona ($93-million) aid package to Ukraine will involve military support and the other half help for the economy and reconstruction, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said at a press conference in Stockholm on Monday as she received Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Sweden will also provide funds to the UN World Food Programme, allowing it to buy 30,000 tonnes of wheat from Ukraine and ship it to countries at risk of famine, she said.

“The goal is for Ukraine to regain total control over your territory, within its internationally recognised borders,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said.




Grain vessels to depart Ukrainian ports

Three commercial vessels carrying 72,985 tonnes of grain and food products were authorised to leave Ukraine on Monday, the Joint Coordination Centre said in an emailed statement. They are destined for Turkey, Romania and Egypt.

Zelensky sacks deputy National Guard commander  

The Ukrainian president dismissed Yaroslav Spodar as deputy commander of Ukraine’s National Guard, according to the Ukrinform site, which said that a decree that notified the dismissal was published on the presidential website on Sunday. It didn’t give any reason for the action.

Germany to reach gas-storage target early 

Germany’s economy ministry said gas-storage facilities were filling up faster than planned despite uncertainty over supplies through a key pipeline from Russia, and predicted that an October target of 85% capacity should already be reached early in September.

Germany has reduced its dependence on Russian gas from 55% before the war to about 30% now and is moving to find alternative sources while filling storage facilities ahead of winter. DM


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