A backlash to a human rights report critical of Ukraine; Zelenskyy accuses Russia of 'nuclear terrorism'; Putin and Erdogan meet for talks in Sochi; Moscow slaps sanctions on dozens of Canadians.
Outrage in Kyiv after Amnesty accuses it of endangering civilian life
Ukraine has reacted furiously to an Amnesty International report that accuses it of riding roughshod with civilians in the country's fight against Russia.
In a report, the humanitarian organisation claimed the Ukrainian military has endangered civilians by placing bases and weapons in residential areas -- including schools and hospitals -- as it has sought to repel the Russian invasion.
"Ukraine’s tactics have violated international humanitarian law as they’ve turned civilian objects into military targets," said Amnesty. "The ensuing Russian strikes in populated areas have killed civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure."
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced the findings.
Amnesty "transfers the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim," he said in his daily video address, accusing the NGO of "attempting to grant amnesty to the terrorist state" of Russia.
On Friday evening the head of Amnesty International Ukraine resigned. Oksana Pokalchuk said her team had not been consulted about the report.
Putin looks to extend economic ties with Turkey as he hosts Erdogan in Sochi
Moscow is looking for a deal to strengthen economic cooperation with Ankara, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday as he hosted his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the southern city of Sochi.
The meeting took place as the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine continued well into its sixth month.
"I hope that today we can sign a memorandum on strengthening our economic and trade ties," Putin said at the start of the meeting with Erdoğan, broadcast on Russian television.
The Kremlin leader thanked the Turkish president for his efforts to reach an agreement between Moscow and Kyiv on the delivery of grain from Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
Zelenskyy accuses Russia of 'nuclear terrorism' over power plant attack
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday that Russia must bear responsibility for the "act of terror" at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, one of the largest in Europe.
The plant is occupied by the Russian army, and has been targeted by air strikes which both Moscow and Kyiv accuse the other of carrying out.
“Today the occupiers have created another extremely risky situation for all of Europe: they have twice struck the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia, the largest on our continent,” Zelensky said in a video message.
"Any bombing of this site is a shameless crime, an act of terror. Russia must bear responsibility for the very fact of creating a threat to a nuclear power plant," he continued.
A high-voltage line was damaged in the latest attack, triggering the shutdown of one of the plant's reactors.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Tuesday that the situation was "volatile" at the Zaporizhia power plant and was becoming "more and more dangerous day by day".
When the plant was taken over in March, the Russian military had opened fire on buildings on the site, posing the risk of a major nuclear accident.
Three more grain shipments leave Ukraine
Three more ships carrying thousands of tons of corn left Ukrainian ports Friday and traveled mined waters toward inspection of their delayed cargo, a sign that an international deal to export grain held up since Russia invaded Ukraine was slowly progressing. But major hurdles lie ahead to get food to the countries that need it most.
The ships bound for Ireland, the United Kingdom and Turkey follow the first grain shipment to pass through the Black Sea since the start of the war. The passage of that vessel heading for Lebanon earlier this week was the first under the breakthrough deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations with Russia and Ukraine.
The first vessels to leave are among more than a dozen bulk carriers and cargo ships loaded months ago but stuck in ports since Russia invaded in late February. While the resumed shipments have raised hopes of easing a global food crisis, much of the backed-up cargo is for animal feed, not for people to eat, experts say.
The Black Sea region is dubbed the world’s breadbasket, with Ukraine and Russia key global suppliers of wheat, corn, barley and sunflower oil that millions of impoverished people in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia rely on for survival.
However, the initial shipments are not expected to have a significant impact on the global price of corn, wheat and soybeans. The exports under the deal are off to a slow, cautious start due to the threat of explosive mines floating off Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline.
And while Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat to developing nations, there are other countries, such as the United States and Canada, with far greater production levels that can affect global wheat prices. And they face the threat of drought.
Russia bans dozens of Canadians in new sanctions move
Russia announced on Friday that it would ban entry into its territory of 62 Canadians, including political and military officials, priests and journalists, in response to recent Canadian sanctions targeting Russian personalities.
This decision was taken “in view of the particularly hostile nature of the regime of (Canadian) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau” and in response to actions intended to “insult not only the multinational and multi-faith people of Russia, but also Orthodox believers around the world." the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release.
Canada has imposed a series of sanctions in recent months against Moscow because of the Ukrainian conflict, which have targeted in particular the patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Some of the Canadians on Friday's list include the spokesperson for the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Adrien Blanchard; Catholic priest and editor of Convivum magazine Raymond J. de Souza; the commander of intelligence of the Canadian armed forces Michael Charles Wright; as well as several advisers to Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and an LGBT activist, Brent Hawkes.