• Sun. May 26th, 2024

Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine


IAEA says denied access to parts of Russia-controlled power station

The head of the U.N. nuclear power watchdog said on Wednesday his inspectors had been denied access to parts of Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station and had yet to receive 2024 maintenance plans for the facility.

The Zaporizhzhia plant was seized by Russia in the days following Moscow’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Each side has accused the other of shelling around the station, Europe’s largest, though its six reactors now produce no electricity.

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), visits the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on March 29, 2023. (Photo by Andrey BORODULIN / AFP) (Photo by ANDREY BORODULIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Andrey Borodulin | Afp | Getty Images

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said inspectors at the plant had for two weeks had no access to the main halls of reactors one, two and six.

“This is the first time that IAEA experts have not been granted access to a reactor hall of a unit that was in cold shutdown,” Grossi said in a statement on the IAEA website.

“This is where the reactor core and spent fuel are located. The team will continue to request this access.”

Inspectors had also been restricted in their access to turbine halls at the plant in southeastern Ukraine, he said.

Grossi said the plant’s operators had taken action to ensure back-up electricity supplies to the facility for instances when its main external power line is lost, which he described as a “repeated” occurrence.

— Reuters

No ‘plan B’ for Ukraine, foreign minister says

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at a press conference during the NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting on Ukraine at its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Nov. 29, 2023.

Pool | Via Reuters

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said there is no “plan B” for Ukraine, saying Kyiv is confident it can win the war against Russia with the resources available to it.

“We don’t have a plan B. We’re confident in plan A,” Kuleba told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Wednesday when asked whether Kyiv was prepared for a potential decrease or shortfall in Western military assistance given increasing political wrangling over continuing aid packages, particularly in the U.S.

“Ukraine will always fight with the resources available to it ..and what is given to Ukraine is not charity, it’s an investment in the protection of NATO and the protection of the prosperity of the American people,” Kuleba said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners of war

Russia and Ukraine said on Wednesday that prisoners of war had been exchanged between the countries.

Over 200 “warriors and civilians” had been returned, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

That includes “soldiers, sergeants, and officers. Armed Forces, National Guard, Navy, and Border Guards. Some of the defenders fought in Mariupol and Azovstal,” he said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a post on Telegram, according to a Google translation, that 248 Russian military personnel had been released after “a complex negotiation process.”

The exchange was aided by the United Arab Emirates who provided “humanitarian mediation,” the ministry added.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Ukraine ‘grateful’ for fighter jets sent by Norway to support pilot training

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said it was “grateful” to Norway for supplying F-16 fighter jets to help train Ukrainian pilots.

Norway’s Minister of Defense, Bjørn Arild Gram, sits in the back of an F16 aircraft at Bodø airport, Norway, on January 3, 2024, where the final preparations are being made before two Norwegian F-16 aircraft are sent to Denmark to be used in the training of Ukrainian pilots.

Jan Langhaug | Afp | Getty Images

“Norway is presenting two F-16 fighter jets that will train and educate Ukrainian personnel in Denmark,” the ministry wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“We are grateful to our Norwegian friends for their unwavering support!”

Norway’s Defense Minister confirmed earlier on Wednesday that the fighter jets would be donated for training purposes.

Norway’s Minister of Defense, Bjørn Arild Gram, (L) sits in an F16 aircraft at Bodø airport, Norway, on January 3, 2024, where the final preparations are being made before two Norwegian F-16 aircraft are sent to Denmark to be used in the training of Ukrainian pilots. 

Jan Langhaug | Afp | Getty Images

Polish farmers to resume blockade of Ukraine border crossing

Polish farmers will resume their blockade at the Medyka border crossing with Ukraine from Thursday as they say they have not received a signed assurance from the prime minister that their demands will be met, state-run news agency PAP reported.

The Polish farmers suspended their protest, which aims to secure government subsidies for corn and prevent tax hikes, on Dec. 24.

Polish protesters block the Polish-Ukrainian border crossing Hrebenne during a strike on December 1, 2023 in Hrebenne, Poland.

Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Polish truck drivers, however, have continued to block several crossings with Ukraine since Nov. 6, to press their demand that the European Union reinstate a system that requires Ukrainian companies to obtain permits to operate in the bloc. The same would apply to European truckers seeking to enter Ukraine.

“We have not received written confirmation that our demands will be met, so we are continuing the protest,” farmers leader Roman Kondrow told PAP.

Although Agriculture Minister Czeslaw Siekierski had provided a note telling the farmers their demands would be met, Prime Minister Donald Tusk has not given a signed declaration, Kondrow said.

He added they would only allow one truck per hour pass through the crossing. Tusk said in December that he believed Poland was close to being able to end the truckers’ protest.

— Reuters

The latest Russian missile attacks show a change in target, UK says

Remains and debris of Russian missile in the aftermath of a missile strike on December 29, 2023 in Dnipro, Ukraine.

Denys Poliakov | Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images

The latest missile attacks on Ukraine indicate that Russia is targeting Ukraine’s defense industry rather than energy infrastructure, as seen last year.

“Since 29 December 2023, Russia has increased the intensity of its long-range strike operations against Ukraine,” the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence said Wednesday.

It noted that Russian forces had committed a “significant proportion” of the stock of air-launched cruise missiles and ballistic missiles that they had built up in recent months to strikes on targets across Ukraine in the last week.

“The recent strikes likely primarily targeted Ukraine’s defense industry. This contrasts with its major attacks last winter which prioritised striking Ukraine’s energy infrastructure,” the ministry noted in an intelligence update on X, formerly known as Twitter, Wednesday.

“These new operations suggest at least a temporary change in approach in Russia’s use of long-range strikes. Russian planners almost certainly realise the importance of relative defence industrial capacity as they prepare for a long war.”

— Holly Ellyatt

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