Day 164 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv and Moscow Accuse Each Other of Shelling the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant
Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:
Russian forces are massing in southern Ukraine, expecting a counteroffensive. The war is entering a new phase
It is almost certain that Russian forces are massing in the south of the country in anticipation of a Ukrainian counter-offensive or in preparation for a possible attack, is the main conclusion of today's British intelligence report on the war, published by the Ministry of Defense of Great Britain.
Long convoys of Russian military trucks, tanks, towed artillery and other weapons continue to leave Ukraine's Donbas region and head southwest. Equipment is also reported to be moving from Russian-occupied Melitopol, Berdyansk, Mariupol and from mainland Russia via the Kerch Bridge into Crimea.
The battalion tactical groups, which consist of 800 to 1,000 servicemen, are deployed in Crimea and will almost certainly be used to support Russian troops in the Kherson region, the report added.
On August 2, 2022, a new battalion tactical group was deployed to Crimea, and such are also being redeployed from Force Grouping East. It is very likely that they will be sent to Kherson region in the coming days.
Ukrainian forces have increasingly attacked bridges, ammunition depots and rail links in southern Ukraine. Among them is the strategically important railway line that links Kherson to Russian-occupied Crimea, and the military will almost certainly use a combination of blocking, damaging, destroying, restricting access, destroying and disrupting to try to affect Russia's capability to supply logistically.
Russia's war against Ukraine is about to enter a new phase, with the heaviest fighting shifting to a roughly 350-kilometer front line stretching southwest from the Zaporizhzhia region to Kherson, parallel to the Dnieper River, the report concluded.
Zelensky wants sanctions against Russia for shelling the Zaporizhzhia NPP
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for strict sanctions against Russia for shelling the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
The Ukrainian state company "Energoatom" blamed Russia for the damage at the Zaporizhzhia power plant. For its part, the Russian Defense Ministry blamed the shelling on Ukrainian forces, saying the radiation leak was only avoided by luck.
Shells hit a high-voltage power line at the Russian-occupied plant, prompting operators to shut down a reactor, although no radioactive leak was detected. The plant is still operated by Ukrainian technicians.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described what happened as an act of terrorism and called for the introduction of strict sanctions against Russia:
"This is the largest nuclear power plant on our continent, and any shelling of this object is a frankly audacious crime and an act of terrorism. Russia must be responsible for the very fact of creating a threat against it. And this is not only another argument in favor of recognizing it as a state sponsor of terrorism, but it is also an argument for imposing strict sanctions on the entire Russian nuclear industry - from Rosatom to related companies and individuals. It is a matter of pure security - the one who creates nuclear threats to other nations is not capable safely to use such technologies."
Russian forces are shelling the cities of Kharkiv and Nikopol, Ukrainian media reports
Meanwhile, fighting continues in the critical border region of Donbas, and three more ships with Ukrainian grain have left the ports that were blocked until recently.
According to the mayor of Kharkiv, Igor Terekhov, explosions could be heard throughout the city, but at the moment there is no information about casualties.
The local mayor Yevgeny Yevtushenko also announced the shelling of the city of Nikopol in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast
Earlier, the governor of Mykolaiv region announced the imposition of an unusually long curfew - from late Friday to early Monday morning - as authorities try to capture people collaborating with Russia.
Meanwhile, three ships carrying a total of more than 58,000 tons of corn were allowed to leave Ukrainian ports as part of a deal to unblock grain exports, a group including representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations said.
Turkey will start paying for gas in rubles and will work with Russia against "terrorism" in Syria
After four hours of talks, the leaders of Turkey and Russia agreed to transfer part of the payments for Russian gas in rubles and to continue to "act in coordination and solidarity in the fight against terrorism in Syria."
The news, announced by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, suggests that the two countries will "gradually switch to payments in national currencies." "This is indeed a new stage that opens up new opportunities, including for the development of monetary and financial relations," Interfax quoted Novak as saying.
Payment in rubles has become a requirement for "unfriendly" countries to receive gas from Russia under rules that took effect on April 1 and were introduced in response to unprecedented European and US sanctions over the war in Ukraine. Some countries in Europe - such as Bulgaria, Poland and Latvia - refused to comply with the requirement and the supply of gas to them was stopped.
According to TASS, Putin called the TurkStream gas pipeline "one of the most important arteries for supplying Europe with Russian gas", a sign that the role of the project has become more important: “European partners should thank Turkey for allowing smooth transit”.
Other topics were also discussed in Sochi: steps to increase trade exchanges and resolve pending economic and energy issues.
However, the Syrian issue was seen as high on the agenda for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he meets his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for the second time in two-and-a-half weeks. Erdogan is hoping to win approval for a new military operation in Syria against Kurdish fighters he sees as the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which would be difficult without the approval of Moscow, which has a military presence on the ground and with which Ankara coordinates its actions in the northern part of the country.
The joint statement by the two leaders did not explicitly mention either the gas or Russia's position on a possible Turkish operation in northern Syria, which would be the first since 2106.
According to the text, the leaders reaffirmed the importance of preserving the "territorial integrity" and political unity of Syria and their cooperation in the fight against terrorism. However, hours before Erdogan's talk with Putin, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov urged Turkey not to "destabilize" Syria with a new military operation, even though Russia considers its security concerns "well-founded."
Putin and Erdogan are also talking about the need to honor the Ukrainian grain export deal - struck with the help of Turkey and the United Nations - after the first ships left Ukrainian ports this week.
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