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Ukraine war: Erdogan and Guterres issue Zaporizhzhia warning; Kharkiv attacks intensified

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By Euronews  with Reuters, AP, AFP
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A Ukrainian Emergency Ministry rescuer attends an exercise in the city of Zaporizhzhia on August 17, 2022, in case of a possible nuclear incident at the nearby nuclear plant.
A Ukrainian Emergency Ministry rescuer attends an exercise in the city of Zaporizhzhia on August 17, 2022, in case of a possible nuclear incident at the nearby nuclear plant.   -   Copyright  DIMITAR DILKOFF / AFP

1. Erdogan and Guterres warn of Zaporizhzhia 'suicide' and 'new Chornobyl'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday affirmed Ankara's support for Kyiv and warned of the risk of a nuclear power plant disaster, during his first visit to Ukraine since the Russian invasion.

"As we continue our efforts for a solution, we have been and continue to be on the side of our Ukrainian friends," he said at a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Lviv.

"We are concerned. We don't want to have another Chornobyl," he said, referring to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine.

"We have to tell it like it is: any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia would be suicide," Guterres said, as Kyiv and Moscow accused each other of bombing the site.

Zelenskyy said the United Nations must ensure the security of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant occupied by Russian forces, following the meeting in western Ukraine, in a drive to spur diplomatic efforts to help end the war.

"Particular attention was paid to the topic of Russia's nuclear blackmail at the Zaporizhzhia NPP (nuclear power plant). This deliberate terror on the part of the aggressor can have global catastrophic consequences for the whole world," Zelenskyy wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

"Therefore, the UN must ensure the security of this strategic object, its demilitarisation and complete liberation from Russian troops."

Earlier, Russia's Foreign Ministry dismissed a proposal by the head of the United Nations to demilitarise the area around the plant.

Spokesman Ivan Nechaev told a news briefing on Thursday that the proposals were "unacceptable".

In his nightly video address on Wednesday, Zelenskyy reaffirmed his demand for the Russian military to leave the plant, emphasising that “only absolute transparency and control of the situation" by the UN's nuclear watchdog the IAEA among others could guarantee safety.

Russia's defence ministry has accused Kyiv and the West of planning a "provocation" at Zaporizhzhia on Friday during the UN chief's visit to Ukraine, by trying to stage a "minor accident" that may involve a radiation leak in order to blame Moscow. It said Russia was taking measures to ensure safety at the complex.

Kyiv dismissed the claim as a cynical assertion by Moscow. Presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said the simplest solution would be for Russian forces to withdraw from the plant and secure it.

Ukraine says Russia is deliberately using the reactor complex as a base to launch attacks against its population.

2. Zelenskyy accuses Russia of 'cynical' attack on civilians in Kharkiv

A total of 17 people were killed and dozens wounded in a series of massive Russian missile strikes on Ukraine’s Kharkiv region on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

A Russian strike on a dormitory in Kharkiv late on Wednesday killed 12 people, emergency services said on Thursday.

Oleh Synyehubov, the head of the Kharkiv region, said Russian forces hit a residential neighbourhood in Ukraine's second-largest city with an Iskander short-range ballistic missile.

"Last night was one of the most tragic of the entire war in the Kharkiv region," he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Three civilians were killed and 17 wounded, including two children, in a pre-dawn rocket attack on Thursday in which Russian forces hit an apartment building, Synehubov added.

Another two people were killed on Thursday in a rocket attack on the town of Krasnohrad in the Kharkiv region, he said.

"This is a mean act and cynical attack on civilians that has no justification and demonstrates the powerlessness of the aggressor," President Zelenskyy said as he shared footage of the strike's aftermath.

The Russian defence ministry on Thursday morning claimed it targeted “a temporary base of foreign mercenaries” in Kharkiv, killing 90 of them.

SERGEY BOBOK / AFP
Rescue workers inspect the site of a destroyed hostel as a result of a missile strike in the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv late on August 17, 2022.SERGEY BOBOK / AFP

A senior Ukrainian official has described the war with Russia as being deadlocked.

"Russian forces have achieved only minimal advances, and in some cases, we have advanced, since last month," Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a video.

"What we are seeing is a 'strategic deadlock'."

3. UN wants to 'intensify' Ukraine's grain exports before winter — Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pledged on Thursday that his organisation would work to "step up" Ukrainian grain exports ahead of winter, which are crucial to food supplies in many African countries.

"We will do our best to step up our operations to meet the challenges of the coming winter," Guterres said after the trilateral meeting in Lviv, western Ukraine, with Ukraine's President Zelenskyy and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A total of 25 grain-laden ships have so far left Ukrainian ports since a UN- and Turkish-brokered agreement was signed by Kyiv and Moscow.

The blockade of these exports for months after the Russian invasion caused food prices to soar and raised fears of famine in some countries.

"There is no solution to the global food crisis without ensuring full global access to Ukrainian food and Russian food and fertiliser," Guterres said on Thursday.

He welcomed the "beginning of stabilisation" of markets in this sector since the agreement between Russia and Ukraine, two of the world's largest grain exporters.

"Let's not kid ourselves: there is still a long way to go before this is reflected in people's daily lives, in their bakeries and in the markets," he said, pointing to "disrupted supply chains" and "unacceptable energy and transport costs".

4. Estonia 'repels most extensive cyber attacks in 15 years'

Estonia said on Thursday it had repelled "the most extensive cyber attacks" in 15 years, shortly after removing Soviet monuments in a region with an ethnic Russian majority.

Russian hacker group Killnet claimed responsibility for the attack, stating on its Telegram account on Wednesday it had blocked access to more than 200 state and private Estonian institutions, such as an online citizen identification system.

However, an Estonian government official said on Thursday the impact of the attack was limited.

Read the full story here.

5. Estonian minister defends Russian tourist visa ban

Estonia’s foreign minister on Thursday defended his country’s decision to bar Russian tourists, saying they are shirking their “moral responsibility” to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime and its “genocidal war” in Ukraine.

The small Baltic country, which shares a 300-kilometre border with Russia, stopped issuing tourist visas to Russians months ago, and as of Thursday no longer accepts those previously issued.

“Our idea is to give a signal to all our European partners, all our Western community partners, to close down our borders to Russian citizens, except in humanitarian cases,” Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told The Associated Press in Tallinn. “Russian citizens are not welcome in Europe. Their country is committing a genocidal war against an innocent people.”

Despite bans on air travel from Russia to the European Union, Russians have been able to vacation in western Europe this summer by travelling by land through Estonia and other neighbouring countries with tourist visas that are valid throughout Europe’s border-free travel zone.

Reinsalu said “hundreds of thousands” of Russian citizens passing through Estonian soil posed an “evident security threat” and dismissed concerns that the visa ban could backfire by turning ordinary Russians against Europe and the West.

He said the legal responsibility for the war in Ukraine lies with Putin and his inner circle, “but there is also a ... moral responsibility of Russian citizens as citizens of (the) aggressor state.”

“They have to wake up and protest against the regime’s atrocities. Their tax money literally is used to buy rockets and bombs to kill children in Ukraine,” he said.

Exceptions to the entry ban include diplomats and Russians visiting close relatives in Estonia. It doesn’t affect Russians with visas issued by other EU countries or those allowed to enter Estonia on humanitarian grounds, but Estonian officials said they were working on proposals to also bar Russians with tourist visas issued by other EU countries.

Estonia, Finland and other EU countries bordering Russia have been pushing for an EU-wide ban on Russian tourists, but some leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, have dismissed the idea as counterproductive.

6. Ukrainian coal miners still working despite Russia's war

Despite the intense conflict in Ukraine's industrial east and agricultural south, miners are continuing their battle to deliver coal to their country.

Near Pavlograd, a town in east central Ukraine, 4,000 workers are employed at the so-called "Heroes of the Cosmos" mine. Some 800 employees have been mobilised into the Ukrainian army, with the frontline only 150 kilometres away.

But officials insist the mine's production has not suffered.

Read the full story here.

BULENT KILIC / AFP
Miners emerge from the mine called Heroes of the Cosmos in Pavlograd city, in the Donbas region, east Ukraine, on August 15, 2022.BULENT KILIC / AFP