Kyiv, Ukraine — The UN nuclear agency said on Thursday that its inspectors had found no evidence to support Russia’s claim that Ukraine planned to build and detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” with intend to blame Moscow.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said inspections requested by the Ukrainian government “found no indication of undeclared nuclear material and activities”. The agency said its experts carried out inspections at three locations in Ukraine and had unrestricted access to the sites.
“Based on the assessment of the results available to date and information provided by Ukraine, the agency found no indication of undeclared nuclear material and activities at the sites,” the agency said. agency in a press release.
Senior Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have baselessly repeated that Ukraine plans to detonate a bomb that disperses radioactive waste in a false flag operation that it would attempt to pin on Moscow.
Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia claimed in a letter to members of the UN Security Council last week that the Ukrainian nuclear research facility and mining company “had received direct orders from the regime of (President Volodymyr) Zelenskyy to develop such a dirty bomb”.
Western nations had called Moscow’s unproven allegation “transparently false”. Ukrainian authorities dismissed it as an attempt to distract from alleged Russian plans to set off a dirty bomb as a means of justifying an escalation of hostilities.
Earlier Thursday, Ukraine’s nuclear operator said on Thursday that Russian bombing had damaged power lines connecting Europe’s largest nuclear power plant to the Ukrainian grid, again leaving the plant dependent on emergency diesel generators.
As fighting in Ukraine damaged power lines and power substations, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant repeatedly used emergency generators to cool its reactors and keep other safety systems running until normal power can be restored. The generators have enough fuel to sustain the plant in southeastern Ukraine for just 15 days, state nuclear power company Energoatom said on its Telegram channel.
“The countdown has begun,” Energoatom said, noting that it had limited possibilities to “keep the ZNPP in safe mode,” raising fears of a possible nuclear disaster.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Thursday that the plant’s latest switch to emergency power further underscores “the extremely precarious nuclear safety and security situation at the facility and the urgent need for establish a protection zone around it”.
The development “again demonstrates the fragile and vulnerable situation of the plant”, said Rafael Grossi, director general of the UN nuclear watchdog.
Relying on diesel generators “is clearly not a sustainable way to operate a major nuclear facility,” Grossi added. “Measures are needed to prevent a nuclear accident at the site. The establishment of a nuclear safety and security zone is urgently needed.
The plant’s six reactors are not in operation, but outside electricity is needed to cool its spent fuel. Russia and Ukraine blamed each other for months in the midst of the war for bombing in and around the plant which the IAEA said could cause a radiological emergency.
Russia gave a different account, blaming Ukraine. Russian news agency Tass quoted an official from Russian nuclear operator, Rosenergoatom, as saying Ukraine had cut two power lines supplying the nuclear plant with electricity.
The official, Renat Karchaa, said the move deprived the town of Energodar, where the plant workers live, of heating. He confirmed that emergency backup diesel generators needed to be turned on to cool the reactors and operate other safety systems, but denied that the problems were caused by the Russian bombing of power lines.
Russian forces occupied the factory during the early days of the war. The plant is located in the Zaporizhzhia region, part of which was occupied by Russian forces and illegally annexed, along with three other provinces, by Russian President Vladimir Putin last month.
Although Putin signed a decree transferring the nuclear power plant to Russian ownership, Ukrainian workers continue to run the plant.
The latest loss of reliable overnight electricity came when Russia bombed two power lines that connected the plant to the Ukrainian grid in “an attempt to reconnect the nuclear plant to the Russian electricity system”, Energoatom alleged.
Across the Dnieper from the power plant, the town of Nikopol was also shelled again, damaging residential buildings, a gas station and several private businesses, the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday.
Other Ukrainian cities were also affected, with Russia using drones, missiles and heavy artillery that killed six civilians and injured 16 others, according to the president’s office. Energy and water facilities were destroyed in Zelensky’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih, leaving several neighborhoods without electricity or water.
Further east, in the Donetsk region, fighting continued for the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka, where authorities said the population was under constant shelling and lived without electricity or heating. Over the past day, six towns and villages in the region have been attacked by heavy artillery, while in the northeast three missiles hit Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, local authorities said. responsible.
Separately, seven ships carrying 290,000 tonnes of agricultural products left Ukrainian seaports bound for Asia and Europe, a day after Russia agreed to join a wartime deal allowing the export of Ukrainian grain and other commodities.
In announcing that Russia would join the pact, Putin said Moscow had received assurances that Ukraine would not use humanitarian corridors to attack Russian forces.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned on Thursday that Russia’s decision to return did not mean the deal would be extended after it expires on Nov. 19.
Russia had suspended its participation in the grain deal over the weekend, citing an alleged drone attack on its Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for an attack, and Zelenskyy said on Wednesday that Moscow’s backtracking to the deal showed “Russian blackmail led nowhere.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told media that Ukraine had never used the grain corridor for military purposes.
In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned British Ambassador Deborah Bronnert on Thursday in connection with the alleged involvement of British instructors in the October 29 drone attack on Black Sea Fleet installations in Sevastopol, Crimea. Bronnert did not comment after the meeting.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday he had seen no progress on the export of Russian fertilizers and grain, despite the reapplication of the Ukrainian part of the sponsored grain deal. by the UN.
Speaking to reporters, Lavrov also said Russia was pleased that Ukraine’s leadership had signed guarantees “that no attempt would be made to use the Black Sea humanitarian routes for military purposes.”
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko denied that Kyiv had made such commitments.
“Ukraine has not used and has not planned to use the grain corridor for military purposes. The Ukrainian side clearly adheres to the provisions of the grain agreement,” Nikolenko wrote on Facebook. “Our state has not taken on any new obligations.”
Ships that sailed on Thursday included one carrying 29,000 tonnes of sunflower seeds for Oman and another carrying 67,000 tonnes of maize to China.
Since the conclusion of the agreement in August, 430 ships have exported 10 million tons of Ukrainian agricultural products to countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. The Infrastructure Ministry said export volumes in October “could have been 30-40% higher if Russia had not artificially blocked inspections in the Bosphorus.”
Meanwhile, Kremlin-backed authorities in the Donetsk region and Zelensky’s office announced another prisoner swap on Thursday, involving 107 military personnel on each side.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine