The United States has accused Russia of using Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant as a “nuclear shield” by stationing troops there, preventing Ukrainian forces from returning fire and exposing itself to a horrific nuclear accident.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was “deeply concerned” that the Zaporizhia plant, to which Russia was accused of firing rockets dangerously close in March, was now a Russian military base used from which attack nearby Ukrainian forces.

“Of course, the Ukrainians cannot return fire, lest there be a terrible accident at the nuclear power plant,” Blinken told reporters after Monday’s nuclear non-proliferation talks at the United Nations headquarters in New York. .

Russia’s actions went beyond using a “human shield,” Blinken said, calling it a “nuclear shield.”

At the New York talks, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mykola Tochytskyi said that “robust joint actions are needed to prevent a nuclear disaster” and called on the international community to “close the sky” over Ukrainian nuclear power plants with air defense systems.

The invasion of Ukraine ordered on February 24 by Russian President Vladimir Putin has sparked the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II, killing thousands of people, displacing millions and leaving large parts of Ukraine in rubble.

The war has also sparked a global food crisis, as Russia and Ukraine produce about a third of the world’s wheat, while Western sanctions on Russia, one of Europe’s main energy providers, have sparked a global energy crisis.


The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea since the Russian invasion five months ago left the port of Odessa for Lebanon on Monday after a safe passage agreement.

The exit was made possible after Turkey and the United Nations last month negotiated a grain and fertilizer export deal between Russia and Ukraine, a rare diplomatic breakthrough in a conflict that has turned into a protracted war of attrition.

The Razoni ship, flying the flag of Sierra Leone, will go to the Lebanese port of Tripoli after crossing the Bosphorus Strait, which joins the Black Sea, dominated by the Russian navy, with the Mediterranean. She carries 26,527 tons of corn.

But there are still hurdles to overcome before millions of tons of Ukrainian grain can leave its Black Sea ports, including removing sea mines and creating a framework for ships to safely enter the conflict zone and pick up shipments.

The United Nations has warned of the risk of multiple famines this year due to the war in Ukraine.

Known as the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine hopes to export 20 million tons of grain stored in silos and 40 million tons of the harvest that is underway, initially from Odessa and nearby Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk, to help clear silos for the new crop.

Russia called the departure of the Razoni “very positive” news but has denied responsibility for the food crisis, saying Western sanctions have curbed its exports and accusing Ukraine of laying underwater mines at the entrance to its ports.

Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of having placed the mines that are now floating in the Black Sea.

On Monday, in a sign of the deepening energy dispute between Russia and Europe, Russia said there was little it could do to help with urgent repairs to the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, its main connection to Europe, after further drops in production and Gazprom’s exports.

Gas from Russia covered about 40% of Europe’s needs before Russia sent troops to Ukraine. Russia cut gas supplies through Nord Stream 1 to just 20% capacity last week, saying a turbine sent to Canada for maintenance had not been returned and other equipment needed repair.


Russia invaded Ukraine in what it called a “special operation” to demilitarize its neighbor. Ukraine and Western countries have rejected it as an unfounded pretext for war.

After failing to capture the capital, kyiv, earlier in the war, Russia now aims to capture the eastern Donbass region of Donetsk and Luhansk, partially occupied by Russian-backed separatists before the invasion, and to capture more of the south, having already annexed Crimea to Ukraine in 2014.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych told the media that some 22,000 Russian troops were preparing to advance on the cities of Kriviy Rih and Mykolaiv, where a “sufficiently large” Ukrainian force was lying in wait.

In the Kherson region, which is mostly under Russian control, Ukrainian troops had liberated some 50 towns, said Yuri Sobolevsky, deputy head of the ousted Kherson regional council.

“Russian troops in the Kherson region are suffering considerable losses,” Sobolevsky wrote on Telegram.

Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield information.

Serhi Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region, which is almost entirely under Russian control, said foreign fighters were arriving to help Russian soldiers.

“We have observed that more and more private military companies arrive in the area, the Wagner group,” Gaidai told Ukrainian television, adding that these irregular forces were motivated by “money and looting.”

The Russian private military company Wagner is likely to have been given responsibility for sectors of the front line in eastern Ukraine, possibly because Russia faces an infantry shortage, the British Ministry of Defense said last week.

Gaidai said partisans were destroying infrastructure, including gas and water networks, in the battered towns of Luhansk to slow down the Russian army.

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