June 5, 2023

ZAPORZYZH, Ukraine — A third shipment of food left Ukrainian ports on Sunday as an explosion near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant raised the specter of a war that would unleash a nuclear catastrophe.

A convoy of four ships carrying more than 161,000 metric tons of corn, sunflower oil and other cargo left the port of Odessa on Sunday morning, according to Ukrainian authorities. It was the second multi-vessel convoy to leave Ukraine in three days under a UN-backed deal with Russia aimed at alleviating a global hunger crisis amid soaring food prices, in part due to Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

The war has trapped millions of tons of grain and other food items in the country.The agreement signed last month is the result of months of negotiations brokered by Turkey and the United Nations

A total of eight ships left the port of Odessa this month under the agreement, which the United Nations said was proof that the agreement was indeed working.

According to Ukrainian officials and ship-tracking data, the first inbound ship to Ukraine arrived in Odessa under the agreement, suggesting shipments may be able to continue.

“Our next step is to ensure [Ukrainian] The port handles more than 100 ships per month,” tweeted Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, who signed the deal last month.

An elderly woman looks out from her apartment in eastern Ukraine.


David Goldman/The Associated Press

Foodstuffs in shipments are vital to recipient countries, including Lebanon, while export earnings are vital to Ukraine’s troubled economy. At the same time, Russia faces declining export earnings due to sanctions and restrictions on its currency.

Russia’s oil and gas revenue, which has been used to finance its military operations in Ukraine, more than halved in July compared with April, from 1,797.7 million rubles in April, data released last week by the Russian Finance Ministry showed. 770.5 rubles. The ministry’s figures are expressed in rubles, while oil and gas are globally priced in dollars. The ruble/dollar exchange rate was around 83 rubles in early April, compared to 52 rubles/dollar in July.

Separately, hostilities are heating up in and around the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, located in the Russian-controlled city of Enel Khodar along the Dnieper River, an area that separates Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Both sides accused the other of shelling near the factory.

According to Kyiv, Russian troops have been firing rockets from factories in Ukrainian positions across the river for weeks. Shelling cut a high-voltage power line on Friday and prompted workers at the station to shut down one of its six reactors, according to Ukrainian regulators. A Ukrainian official also accused Russia of planting landmines at the plant.

On Saturday, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The IAEA condemned military activity near the power station and urged his team to be granted access to the plant.

“Any military fire against or from the facility would be tantamount to playing with fire and could have catastrophic consequences,” said Rafael Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

While Ukrainian authorities have informed the IAEA that there was no damage to the reactor and no leakage of radioactive material, Mr Grossi said the damage elsewhere on the site was worrying. After the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986, Ukraine was already the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident.

Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, was hit by rockets on Saturday.


Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine’s nuclear regulator Energoatom said on Sunday that about 500 Russian soldiers were at the nuclear power plant, where they fired rockets again from the site Saturday night, hitting a nearby spent nuclear fuel storage facility.

Three radiation monitors were damaged and about 800 square meters of window surfaces in the factory building were damaged by blast debris, the agency said on Telegram. A nuclear power plant employee was hospitalized with shrapnel injuries.

“This nuclear catastrophe was miraculously averted, but the miracle cannot last forever,” the Telegram post said.

Energoatom also took to Twitter to accuse Russia of trying to disconnect the nuclear power plant from the grid, which would plunge southern Ukraine into darkness.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an overnight speech that the threat to nuclear power plants justified sanctions against the entire Russian nuclear industry.

“Russian shelling of nuclear power plants is one of the most dangerous crimes against Ukrainians and all Europeans,” Mr Zelensky said.

Authorities in Energodar, a municipality in the western Zaporozhye region, told Russian news agency RIA Novosti that they said debris from a rocket launched by Ukrainian troops overnight fell within 400 meters of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant. The report could not be independently verified.

The incident is the latest in a string of incidents at the country’s nuclear facilities, including a previous fire by a Russian missile in Zaporozhye and a power outage at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which has reopened after Moscow withdraws its troops from northern Ukraine. control of the nuclear power plant.

Tensions over the nuclear power plant come as Ukrainian officials say they are preparing for a full-scale offensive to retake Kherson, the southern regional capital, which Russian forces captured early in the war. According to the Institute for War Studies, a Washington-based think tank, Moscow is working to strengthen its defensive positions in the south, while continuing to push ahead to capture the remaining Ukrainian-held territory in the eastern Donetsk region.

According to the British Ministry of Defence, some senior Russian officers have been removed from their posts since the start of the war due to the poor performance of the armed forces in Ukraine. Commanders of Russia’s eastern and western military districts may have lost command, while at least 10 Russian generals were killed on the battlefield, the ministry wrote.

“The cumulative impact on command consistency could lead to tactical and operational difficulties for Russia,” the ministry wrote.

write to Ian Lovett at ian.lovett@wsj.com and Jared Malsin at jared.malsin@wsj.com

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