Russian strikes near Ukrainian nuclear power plant kill 14

Ukraine on Wednesday accused Russia of carrying out rocket attacks that killed 14 civilians in areas near a nuclear power plant, as the G7 warned that Russian control of the facility “endangers the region”.

Night strikes in the Dnipropetrovsk region of central Ukraine killed 13 people and injured 11, five of whom are believed to be in serious condition, regional governor Valentin Reznichenko wrote on Telegram.

“It was a terrible night,” he said, urging residents to take shelter when they heard the air raid sirens.

“I ask and implore you…Don’t let the Russians kill you,” he wrote.

A woman died after Russian missiles hit a village in the Zaporizhzhia region on Wednesday morning, local governor Oleksandr Starukh wrote on Telegram.

Most of the victims were in the town of Marganets, just across the Dnipro River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe.

Regional council leader Mykola Lukashuk said the strikes hit a local power line, leaving thousands of people without power.

G7 call on the nuclear power plant

Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of recently bombing the plant, which has six reactors.

Ukraine says Russia has stationed hundreds of troops and stored ammunition at the facility since taking over on March 4, shortly after its invasion began.

Tensions have rekindled memories of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Soviet Ukraine, which killed hundreds and spread radioactive contamination across much of Europe.

The Group of Seven industrialized countries condemned the Russian occupation and called on Moscow to immediately return full control of the plant.

Ukrainian staff operating the plant must be able to work “without threats or pressure” and Russia’s control of the plant “endangers the region”, the G7 foreign ministers said in a statement.

The strikes came a day after major explosions at Saki airfield, a key military base on the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia.

Moscow insisted the explosions were caused by detonating munitions rather than Ukrainian fire and Ukraine did not claim responsibility.

“There are a lot of shots”

Fighting also continues in eastern Ukraine, where Russian troops are gradually advancing.

Strikes on the town of Bakhmut killed at least six people and injured three others, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram, adding that 12 residential buildings were damaged.

The town of Soledar was constantly shelled, AFP journalists found, as Russian troops tried to drive out Ukrainian forces and gain a foothold towards Bakhmut.

Echoes of cluster bombs and artillery bounced off apartment buildings with their windows shattered, while roads were cratered and shops closed or destroyed.

The city was shrouded in black and white smoke from artillery and airstrikes.

Some of those who remain now live underground in cellars ill-suited as bomb shelters.

“Most are gone. It’s very scary. There’s a lot of shooting,” 62-year-old Svitlana Klymenko said.

“I just want to leave to age normally, die a normal death, not be killed by a missile.”

European ban on Russian coal

The war has severely hampered Ukraine’s grain supply, leading to an international food crisis as it is one of the largest producers in the world.

Some ships have been able to leave Ukrainian ports in recent days after an agreement with Russia brokered by the United Nations and Turkey.

The first wheat exports are expected to begin next week under the deal, senior UN official Frederick Kenney said on Wednesday.

The first cargo of grain from the Sierra Leone-flagged vessel Razoni left the Ukrainian port of Odessa on August 1 and was due to dock in the Lebanese port of Tripoli this weekend.

But the Ukrainian embassy said a new buyer for the shipment was being sought after the original Lebanese buyer canceled the order.

Maritime traffic sites showed the Razoni was moored in the Turkish Mediterranean port of Mersin, following reports that a new buyer had been found for her cargo.

Spain on Wednesday launched a pilot project to import Ukrainian grain by train to avoid blocked sea routes, with a freight train leaving Madrid for the Polish town of Chelm on Tuesday evening.

Western countries have meanwhile imposed increasingly severe sanctions on Moscow, raising fears that Russia could cut gas supplies.

EU countries have started to put in place various measures to save energy, with the entry into force Wednesday in Spain of brakes on air conditioning and the dimming of public lighting in Vienna.

A total EU ban on Russian coal imports was due to come into force overnight.

Russia news

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