Vladimir Putin’s forces ‘undermining security and safety’ of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, says MoD

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 (AP)
(AP)

Russian forces have “likely undermined the security and safety” of Ukraine’s biggest nuclear power plant, UK defence chiefs warned on Friday.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed the Zaporizhzhia plant was probably being used by Moscow “to reduce the risk to their equipment and personnel from overnight Ukrainian attacks,”

Their assessment comes after the US said Russia is using the facility in the south east of the country, which it overran in March, as a military base to launch attacks on Ukrainian forces.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused President Vladimir Putin of using the facility as a “nuclear shield” by to protect his troops, while the head of the UN’s nuclear agency has said the situation is “completely out of control” and the facility needs an inspection and repairs.

“Following five months of occupation, Russia’s intentions regarding the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant remain unclear. However, the actions they have undertaken at the facility have likely undermined the security and safety of the plant’s normal operations,” the MoD said in its latest intelligence update on Twitter.

“Russian forces are probably operating in the regions adjacent to the power station and have used artillery units based in these areas to target Ukrainian territory on the western bank of the Dnipro river.

“Russian forces have probably used the wider facility area, in particular the adjacent city of Enerhodar, to rest their forces, utilising the protected status of the nuclear power plant to reduce the risk to their equipment and personnel from overnight Ukrainian attacks.”

Meanwhile in the battle for the east of the country, Ukrainian forces recaptured two villages around the city of Sloviansk, but had been pushed back to the town of Avdiivka’s outskirts after being forced to abandon a coal mine regarded as a key defensive position.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has hit back at Amnesty International after the human rights group in a report accused Ukraine of endangering civilians by basing troops in residential areas.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (Efrem Lukatsky/AP) (AP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (Efrem Lukatsky/AP) (AP)

Speaking in a video address last night, Mr Zelensky took a swipe at the organisation, claiming it was trying to “shift responsibility from the aggressor to the victim”.

While three further ships loaded with grain left Ukraine today as Kyiv called for the deal with Russia to allow exports to be expanded.

Turkey - which helped broker the deal to lift the Russian blockade of Black Sea ports to resume grain exports — said three vessels carrying a total of about 58,000 tonnes of corn had been authorised to leave.

They included the Maltese-flagged Rojen, carrying 13,000 tonnes of corn departed from Chornomorsk port bound for Britain. Another was bound to Ireland from Odesa,

The departure of the vessels comes after the first grain ship since the start of the war left Odesa on Monday.

It follows a deal between Ukraine and Russia, brokered by the UN and Turkey, to reopen Black Sea ports to resume grain exports — needed to alleviate a growing global food crisis.

The agreement cleared the way for Ukraine — known as the breadbasket of Europe — to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural goods that have been stuck in the ports.

Fighting along Ukraine’s eastern seaboard have prevented grain ships safely leaving — with Russia also accused of “weaponising” food by blocking exports.

As a result the UN warned of a global hunger crisis with a “real risk” of multiple famines this year.

Ukraine Ukraine’s Deputy Economy Minister told the Financial Times the grain deal should be extended to include other products, such as metals,

“This agreement is about logistics, about the movement of vessels through the Black Sea,” he said. “What’s the difference between grain and iron ore?”

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