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More grain from Ukraine sails to sea as fresh shelling hits nuclear power plant

#grain #Ukraine #sails #sea #fresh #shelling #hits #nuclear #power #plant

Four more ships carrying around 170,000 tons of grain left the Black Sea ports of Odessa and Chornomorsk on Sunday, Ukrainian authorities said, as Moscow accused Kyiv of conducting a fresh strike against a Russian-held nuclear power plant.

“The second convoy with Ukrainian supplies has just left… three from Chornomorsk and one from Odessa,” Kyiv’s Ministry of Infrastructure wrote on Telegram.

It said the ships – which it named Mustafa Necati, Star Helena, Glory and Riva Wind – were carrying “around 170,000 tonnes of agricultural goods,” without giving further details.

Meanwhile in Russia, Moscow accused Kiev’s forces of firing again at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, which it took control of shortly after invading its pro-Western neighbor.

The Ukrainian army “conducted a strike with a cluster bomb fired from an Ouragan multiple rocket launcher,” Russian state news agency TASS quoted occupying authorities in Energodar, the city where the plant is located.

“The shrapnel and rocket engine fell 400 meters (1,300 feet) from an operating reactor,” “damaged” administrative buildings and hit “a spent nuclear fuel storage area,” authorities said, without providing evidence to support the claims.

AFP could not independently confirm the allegations.

The operator of the plant, Energoatom, had already declared on Saturday that parts of the plant had been “seriously damaged” by military strikes and one of its reactors had been forced to shut down.

Both Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of attacking the plant.

As Zaporizhia is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, the prospect of it being badly damaged in the fighting has alarm bells ringing, not least for the UN’s nuclear regulator, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The strikes underscore “the very real risk of a nuclear catastrophe,” IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said on Saturday.

“Any military firepower directed at or from the facility would be tantamount to playing with fire, with potentially catastrophic results,” Grossi said.

And the European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, condemned the attack as “a serious and irresponsible violation of nuclear safety rules and another example of Russia’s disregard for international norms”.

– “Signs of Hope” –

However, renewed shipments of Ukrainian grain to help ease global food shortages and lower prices offer a small glimmer of hope as the war enters its sixth month.

Ukraine, one of the world’s top grain exporters, was forced to halt almost all shipments after Russia’s February 24 invasion, sending global food prices soaring and making imports unaffordable for some of the world’s poorest countries.

Pope Francis hailed the resumption of grain exports in Rome on Sunday as “a sign of hope” showing that dialogue is possible to end the war.

“This step shows that it is possible to talk to each other and achieve concrete results that benefit everyone,” the pope said in his weekly Angelus prayer.

“Therefore, this event can be seen as a sign of hope, and I sincerely hope that through this journey we can end the fighting and achieve a just and lasting peace.”

The joint coordination center in Istanbul, which oversees supplies under a United Nations-backed deal, said on Saturday five grain ships would leave Ukraine on Sunday. But Kyiv has announced only four.

A bulk carrier arrived in Chornomorsk on Saturday to be loaded with grain for the first time since the invasion of Moscow.

Last Monday, the Sierra Leonean-flagged ship Razoni set off from the Ukrainian port of Odessa with 26,000 tons of corn on the first departure under the deal brokered with Turkey.

Then on Friday, Kyiv said another three ships laden with grain would also set sail for Turkey and markets in Ireland and Britain, with another 13 awaiting departure.

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