ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine – A third shipment of food products left Ukrainian ports on Sunday, when explosions near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant sparked the specter of war and unleashed a nuclear catastrophe.
Ukrainian authorities said a convoy of four ships carrying more than 161,000 tons of corn, sunflower oil and other goods departed from ports in Odessa on Sunday morning. It was the second multi-ship convoy to leave Ukraine in three days under a United Nations-backed agreement with Russia aimed at alleviating a global hunger crisis amid a rise in global food prices, partly caused by the Russian attack on Ukraine.
The war left millions of tons of grain and other food products trapped in the country. The agreement signed last month was the result of months of negotiations between Turkey and the UN
Eight ships in total have now departed from Odessa ports under the agreement this month, which the UN says is proof that the agreement can really work.
As a sign that the shipments may be able to proceed, the first incoming ship to sail to Ukraine under the agreement arrived in Odessa, according to Ukrainian officials and ship tracking data.
“Our next step is to ensure that the [Ukrainian] ports to handle more than 100 ships per month,” tweeted Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, who signed the agreement last month.
Food in the shipments is vital to recipient countries, including Lebanon, while earnings from exports are crucial to Ukraine’s struggling economy. Russia, meanwhile, faces declining export earnings due to sanctions and restrictions on its currency.
Data released last week by the Russian Ministry of Finance shows that oil and gas revenues, which Russia used to finance its military campaign in Ukraine, more than halved in July compared to April, from 1,797, 7 million rubles in April to 770.5 rubles in July . The ministry’s data is shown in rubles, while oil and gas are priced globally in US dollars. At the beginning of April, the ruble was trading at about 83 rubles per dollar, compared to 52 rubles per dollar in July.
Separately, fears mounted over hostilities in and around the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant, located in the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar along the Dnipro River, which separates Russian and Ukrainian forces in the area.
Each side blamed the other for shelling near the factory.
According to Kiev, Russian troops have been launching missiles from the factory’s site at Ukrainian positions across the river for several weeks. According to the Ukrainian regulator, shelling cut a high-voltage power line on Friday, prompting station personnel to shut down one of the six reactors. A Ukrainian official also accused Russia of planting mines on the plant’s grounds.
On Saturday, the head of the UN nuclear agency condemned military activity near the power station and insisted that his team be given access to the plant.
“Any military firepower directed at or from the facility would be tantamount to playing with fire, with potentially catastrophic consequences,” said Rafael Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Although Ukrainian authorities have informed the IAEA that there is no damage to the reactors and no radiological release, Mr Grossi said the damage elsewhere at the site was alarming. Ukraine is already the site of the world’s most catastrophic nuclear accident, following the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986.
Ukraine’s nuclear regulator, Energoatom, said on Sunday that about 500 Russian troops were at the nuclear power plant and that they had fired rockets again Saturday night from the site, near a spent fuel storage facility.
Three radiation monitors were damaged, the agency said on Telegram, and about 800 square feet of window surfaces in factory buildings were damaged by fragments from explosions. An employee of the nuclear power plant was hospitalized with shrapnel.
“This time a nuclear disaster was miraculously avoided, but miracles cannot last forever,” the Telegram post read.
Energoatom has also accused Russia on Twitter of attempting to disconnect the nuclear power plant from the electricity grid, which would plunge southern Ukraine into darkness.
In an overnight speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the threat from the nuclear power plant justified sanctions against the entire Russian nuclear industry.
“The Russian shelling of the nuclear power plant is one of the most dangerous crimes against Ukrainians and all Europeans,” said Mr. Zelensky.
Authorities in Energodar, a municipality in the western part of the Zaporozhye region, told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency that fragments of rockets they said were fired at night by Ukrainian forces landed no more than 400 meters from the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant. . The report cannot be independently verified.
The incident is the latest in a series at the country’s nuclear facilities, including a previous fire in Zaporizhzhya caused by a Russian missile and a loss of power at the Chernobyl site, over which Ukraine regained control after Moscow pulled troops from North Korea in March. -Ukraine had withdrawn.
Tension around the nuclear power plant comes as Ukrainian officials say they are preparing for a full-scale offensive to retake Kherson, the southern regional capital that Russian forces captured in the early days of the war. Moscow is working to strengthen its defensive positions in the south, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, as it continues its efforts to take the remaining Ukrainian-occupied territory in the eastern region of Donetsk.
According to the British Ministry of Defense, a number of senior Russian military officials have been removed 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 have likely lost their commandos, the ministry wrote, while at least 10 Russian generals have been killed on the battlefield.
“The cumulative effect on command consistency is likely to contribute to Russian tactical and operational problems,” the ministry wrote.
— Ann M. Simmons in Moscow contributed to this article.
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