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Shells hit power lines at Ukrainian nuclear power plant, fight in the east

  • Technicians shut down the reactor of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant
  • Three grain ships leave Ukrainian Black Sea ports
  • Turkey’s Erdogan meets Putin in Russia
  • The fighting in the east centers on the fortified village

KYIV, Aug 5 (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine blamed each other on Friday for bombing Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant as fighting raged again in the crucial Donbass border region and three other ships were leaving ports carrying previously blocked Ukrainian grain.

Shells hit a high-voltage power line at the Zaporizhzhia plant, prompting operators to disconnect a reactor when no radioactive leak was detected. The factory was captured by Russian forces in early March at the start of the war, but it is still run by its Ukrainian technicians.

Earlier this week, the United Nations nuclear watchdog requested access to the plant, which Washington says Russia is using as a shield on the battlefield. Read more

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Ukrainian nuclear energy company Energoatom blamed Russia for damage to the plant.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Moscow was responsible and accused him of committing “an open and shameless crime, an act of terror”, calling for sanctions against the entire Russian nuclear industry. Read more

The Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukrainian forces of bombing the factory, saying a radiation leak was only avoided by luck.

He said that as a result, the production capacity of one unit was reduced and the power supply to another was cut off. In addition, the nearby town of Enerhodar is experiencing problems with electricity and water supply, according to a statement from the ministry.

Energoatom said the plant, about 200 km (160 miles) northwest of the Russian port of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine, was still operational and no radioactive discharge had been detected.

Further east, both sides claimed small advances as Russian artillery bombarded towns and villages over a wide area in a now familiar tactic.

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, came under renewed shelling early on Friday, the mayor said. “All Kharkiv heard the sounds,” Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terehov said on Telegram. “Rescue teams are on site.

Details of casualties or damage were not immediately available.

The southern city of Mykolaiv was shelled on Friday evening and one person was killed, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said on Telegram. Twenty-two people were injured. Twenty-one private homes and five apartment buildings were damaged, the mayor said.

CEREAL SHIPMENTS

In other developments, three grain ships left Ukrainian ports on Friday and the first incoming cargo ship since the Russian invasion was to be loaded in Ukraine, marking new milestones in the Kyiv government’s efforts to revive its economy after five months of war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meanwhile met Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who is cultivating a mediating role in the war, in the Russian city of Sochi.

Turkey helped broker the deal which on Monday saw the first grain ship leave a Ukrainian port for foreign markets since the invasion.

On Friday, two grain ships departed from Chornomorsk and one from Odessa carrying a total of around 58,000 tonnes of corn, the Turkish Defense Ministry said.

The Turkish bulk carrier Osprey S, flying the flag of Liberia, was due to arrive in Chornomorsk on Friday to refuel with grain, the Odessa regional administration said.

Russia and Ukraine normally produce around a third of the world’s wheat, and the United Nations had warned that halting grain shipments through the Russian-dominated Black Sea could lead to famine in other countries, particularly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

BATTLE FOR FORTRESS

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in what Putin called a “special military operation”, the conflict has turned into a war of attrition fought largely in the east and south of Ukraine.

Moscow is trying to take control of the largely Russian-speaking Donbass, made up of the provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk, where pro-Moscow separatists seized territory after the Kremlin annexed Crimea from the south in 2014.

Russian news agency TASS quoted separatist forces on Friday as saying they and Russian troops had taken full control of Pisky in the Donetsk region, a fortified village held by Ukrainian troops and close to the city of Donetsk, which is in the hands of Russian-backed separatist forces.

Ukraine has turned the village into a stronghold, viewing it as a buffer against Russian-backed forces holding the city of Donetsk about 10 km to the southeast.

TASS also said fighting was taking place in the town of Bakhmut, north of Donetsk and Russia’s next main target.

But the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff, in a statement on Friday, contradicted TASS’s claims.

“With its offensive position, the occupiers tried to take more advantageous positions and improve their tactical positions in the Bakhmut, Zaitsevo and Vershyny region. They failed and retreated,” he said.

The statement adds that Russia “has unsuccessfully attempted to advance to” other cities, including Pisky.

Reuters could not verify the claims of either party regarding the evolution of the battlefield.

The next arms package to Ukraine from the United States is expected to be $1 billion, one of the largest to date, three sources briefed on the matter told Reuters. Read more If signed in its current form, it will include ammunition for long-range weapons and armored medical transport vehicles, the sources said. The package is expected to be announced as early as Monday.

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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Nick Macfie, Angus MacSwan and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool

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