Turkey offers to mediate in Ukrainian nuclear power plant standoff | Russia–Ukraine War

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has offered to mediate the standoff over a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant in Ukraine, stoking fears of an atomic disaster.

Saturday’s bid came hours before the world’s atomic energy watchdog said Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant had been disconnected from its last remaining main power line to the grid and was now relying on a spare line.

Amid growing concern over bombings in the area of ​​Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in recent weeks, Ukraine said on Friday it had bombed a Russian base in the nearby town of Enerhodar, destroying three artillery systems as well as an ammunition depot.

Erdogan told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Saturday that “Turkey can play a facilitating role in the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as it did in the grain agreement,” the Turkish presidency said.

Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest grain exporters, was forced to halt nearly all deliveries after Russia invaded in late February, raising fears of a global food crisis.

Grain exports through Black Sea ports resumed after Kyiv and Moscow signed an agreement in July, with the United Nations and Turkey acting as guarantors.

There was no immediate mention of Erdogan having also spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday to offer his mediation.

Last month, Erdogan warned of the danger of a nuclear disaster when he visited Lviv for talks with the Ukrainian leader.

The Turkish leader said he wanted to avoid “another Chernobyl”, referring to the world’s worst nuclear accident in another part of Ukraine in 1986, when it was still part of the Soviet Union.

“Tenuous” situation at the factory

A 14-person team from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited Zaporizhzhia this week, with the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, saying the site had been damaged during fights.

“The Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) has once again lost connection to its last remaining main external power line, but the facility continues to supply electricity to the grid via a reserve line, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the site today,” the agency said in a statement on Saturday.

Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Kyiv, said the situation at the power plant was “very precarious at this hour”.

The plant is located “right on the front line, and right next to the area where the Ukrainian army is carrying out a counter-offensive in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine,” Elizondo said.

“It is important to remember that power and electricity are essential for nuclear power plants as they must be kept cool for safety reasons. If ever a nuclear power plant permanently, or even temporarily, loses all electricity, it could lead to an incredible nuclear disaster.

The Russian invasion of pro-Western Ukraine has killed thousands and driven millions to flee their homes.

Western powers responded by sending military aid to Kyiv in an effort to stem the Russian advance and imposing economic sanctions on Moscow.

EU ‘well prepared’ for Russian ‘gas weapon’

On Friday, the Group of Seven major industrial democracies pledged urgent action to set a price cap on imports of Russian oil, a crucial source of revenue for Moscow.

Later, Russian gas giant Gazprom said it had halted gas supplies to Germany indefinitely due to leaking turbines. Its German manufacturer said that was not a valid reason to stop gas flows.

EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, however, said the EU was better placed to deal with the possibility of a total stoppage of Russian gas supplies, thanks to storage capacities and cost-saving measures. of energy.

“We are well prepared to resist Russia’s extreme use of the gas weapon,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an economic forum.

In the EU, “gas storage currently stands at around 80%, thanks to the diversification of supplies”, although the situation varies from country to country, said Gentiloni.

Ukraine has accused Russia of stockpiling ammunition in Zaporizhzhia and deploying hundreds of troops there.

He also suspects that Moscow intends to divert power from the plant to the nearby Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014.

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