Atomic agency chief briefly inspects Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant; Russian air attacks ‘have decreased’

Atomic agency chief briefly inspects Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant; Russian air attacks ‘have decreased’
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi (centre) and other IAEA members depart from a hotel in Kyiv to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ukraine, 31 August 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / ROMAN PILIPEY)

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi and some members of an inspection team left the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine after several hours there.

The Ukrainian state-run company that manages the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine said five of about a dozen inspectors in International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi’s mission were expected to stay on until Saturday. Grossi said in a tweet that his agency is “here to stay and will maintain a continued presence”.

Russia and Ukraine traded blame for shelling in the nearby Energodar area, underscoring international concern about the risk of a nuclear disaster at the plant Russia seized in March. It was the first time in the IAEA’s 65-year history that monitors crossed an active battlefront in order to carry out an inspection.  

In other developments, Russia is considering a plan to buy as much as $70-billion in yuan and other “friendly” currencies this year to slow the rouble’s surge. Meanwhile, Europe is considering various measures to intervene in energy markets rocked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Key developments 

On the ground

Ukraine’s air force conducted a number of strikes against Russian troops using jets, helicopters and drones this week, Oleksiy Hromov, a spokesman for the Ukrainian armed forces, said at a briefing. Most of the Ukrainian air attacks were aimed at Russian targets in the country’s south, including command posts, munitions and fuel depots, and air defence systems. Meanwhile, the situation in the Russian-occupied region of Kherson remains difficult because of heavy fighting, regional authorities said on their website. According to the UK’s latest intelligence update, Ukrainian forces have pushed the front line back some distance in places, exploiting relatively thinly held Russian defences.  

US demands ‘unfettered access’ for IAEA at nuclear plant  

The US is calling on Russia to let inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency stay as long as needed to inspect the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

“It’s important that those inspectors are given unfettered access and allowed to do their job — and to stay as long as they need to stay to be able to report back,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said in an interview on  Bloomberg Television’s Balance of Power.

Kirby also said Russia is grappling with maintaining a sizable and motivated army, after suffering significant causalities in its six-month-long invasion.

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin “is going to extraordinary lengths to try to recruit and retain soldiers for this fight, even to the point where he’s turning to prisons, and he’s upping their recruitment age well into the 50s”.

Ransomware attack has Montenegro reaching out to Nato partners 

Montenegro is getting support from the US and other allies in fending off cyberattacks against its information systems and electronic services at a time of political turmoil.

Dusan Polovic, Montenegro’s cybersecurity chief didn’t name Russia as the culprit, but state broadcaster RTCG cited sources at the Balkan nation’s security agency, ANB, as saying that Russia was behind the attack, prompting the government to ask the US and other Nato allies for protection.

Read more: Ransomware attack sends Montenegro reaching out to Nato partners

Ukraine’s winter grain planting may drop by half 

Ukraine’s planted areas for winter grains may fall by half this year after the Russian invasion deprived farmers of land, equipment and cash, according to the Ukrainian Agri Council lobby group.




Lithuania pursues regional plan to reduce Russian visitors 

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said that five countries bordering Russia will aim to have a solution on how to reduce the number of Russian tourists entering by land in the coming weeks.

“A visa doesn’t automatically mean a permission” of entry, Landsbergis told reporters in Vilnius. “The decision is made by border guards.”

Officials from Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland will meet next week to devise a regional mechanism to handle some 12 million Russians who currently hold a Schengen visa, Landsbergis said. Among the potential measures could be additional questions at the border crossings or allowing entry only to certain groups such as diplomats or for humanitarian purposes.

Read more: EU members back tougher visa rules for Russian tourists

Macron pitches diplomats on new coalitions 

French President Emmanuel Macron wants to build a new coalition of countries to help end the war in Ukraine, he told ambassadors during his annual speech to diplomats at the presidential palace.

“We must progressively build more coalitions, even imperfect, even incomplete,” Macron said. He cited China, India, South Africa, Algeria, Senegal, Indonesia and Ethiopia as potential partners who could side with Europe to avoid an expansion of the war that would oppose “the West against the rest”.

He suggested focusing diplomatic efforts on countries that abstained during UN votes in the spring and to help their agriculture sectors to shield them from the rising food prices. Outreach to build coalitions is likely to happen before leaders attend the Group of 20 summit gathering of the world’s largest economies in November in Bali, diplomats who watched the speech said.

Russian air attacks have decreased, says Ukraine  

Russia has reduced its use of air force in Ukraine’s airspace, Ukrainian State Border Guard Service officer Leonyd Baran said during a briefing.

The number of Russian air raids launched from inside Ukraine declined to five in August from 19 in July, he said. Ukraine has “effectively reduced to zero” the number of piloted military jets from Russia entering its territory, he added.

Russia also regularly fires missiles at targets inside Ukraine from its own airspace, as well as from Belarus, without entering Ukrainian airspace.

Ukraine blames Russia for $26bn in environmental damage 

Russia’s invasion caused $26-billion in damage to Ukraine’s environment and natural resources, Ukraine’s environment minister, Ruslan Strilets, said at the briefing. 

“The ministry has transferred more than 300 cases to law enforcement agencies for investigation and now continues to record all the losses in order to claim compensation from the Russian Federation through international courts,” Strilets said, adding that the largest losses were caused by burning of oil products, forest fires and rocket explosions.

Europe’s sanctions keep Gazprom from meeting obligations – Kremlin 

European sanctions have created “a tangle of problems” for Gazprom to fulfil its obligations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. 

“Gazprom is ready and wants to continue fulfilling its obligations, but the European side has created legal and technological hurdles that don’t allow Gazprom to work,” he said. There have been snags over repairs of Siemens turbines used in the pipeline.

Lukoil chairman dies after fall from hospital window 

Ravil Maganov, the chairman of Lukoil, died after falling from a window in a Moscow hospital, according to Russian media reports.

Lukoil was the only Russian oil producer to call for a “fast resolution of the military conflict” in Ukraine in early March, just after Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour entered its second week. Maganov died following “a severe illness”, the company said in a statement.

Maganov committed suicide, Tass news agency said Thursday, citing an unidentified law enforcement official with knowledge of the matter. The 67-year-old was in a hospital after a heart attack and was also taking antidepressant drugs, the report said.




Russia mulls over buying $70bn in yuan, ‘friendly’ currencies 

Russia is considering a plan to buy as much as $70-billion in yuan and other “friendly” currencies this year to slow the rouble’s surge, before shifting to a longer-term strategy of selling its holdings of the Chinese currency to fund investment. 

The proposal is among a slew of measures that would amount to an effective repudiation of more than a decade of economic policy as the Kremlin overhauls its strategy amid sweeping sanctions imposed by the US and its allies over Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Europe considers energy price cap, windfall tax 

Europe is considering various measures to intervene in the energy market, including price caps, reducing power demand and windfall taxes on energy companies as surging prices threaten the economy and push more households toward poverty. 

The bloc’s energy ministers are due to discuss how to respond to the crisis at an emergency meeting next week. More and more governments are demanding a tool to limit the spike in electricity prices, though views on how it should be designed vary.

Europe considers energy price cap, windfall tax amid Russia risk 

Ukraine looks to degrade Russia’s ‘situational awareness’ – UK  

Ukraine’s armed forces continued offensive operations in the south of the country on Tuesday and Wednesday, with “intensive long-range strikes against Russian command and logistics locations across the occupied zone”, the UK defence ministry said in an update. 

Russia’s military “prioritises strong ground-based air defences — the radar coverage which enables this is a critical capability in its Ukraine operation”, the UK said, underlining the importance of the week’s action.  

Solutions sought to reduce Russian tourist flow 

The Baltic states will aim to impose regional restrictions for Russian visitors entering the European Union by land, as will Poland and Finland, according to two EU diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity. Officials from these countries intend to meet and discuss the measures as soon as next week, the diplomats said.

The countries “will aim to find solutions in coming weeks that would allow to significantly reduce the flows of the Russian tourists”, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in a statement.

Ukraine’s forces restrict Russian moves – Nato official 

Recent action by Ukrainian forces in the south of the country has affected Russia’s ability to move north and south across the Dnipro River, but it’s not yet possible to confirm the extent of the Ukrainian advances, a senior Nato official said.

Ukrainian troops have conducted focused strikes on lines of communication, bridges and railroads, targeting components the Russians would need to provide additional forces to join those that moved into the western Kherson region to be the front line of defence, said the official, who asked not to be identified discussing the military situation.

Russian supply lines are being disrupted, if not severely challenged, as a result of the stepped-up Ukrainian operations, the official said. DM


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