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A Ukrainian soldier in the trenches near Kherson
Ukraine said it has begun a much anticipated counter offensive to take back KhersonImage: DW

Ukraine updates: Kyiv begins southern counter-offensive

August 29, 2022

Ukraine announced its counter-offensive in the southeast began. Meanwhile, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said a team of experts is "now on its way" to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. DW has more.

https://p.dw.com/p/4GAEG

Ukraine's southern military command said Monday that Kyiv had kicked off its much-anticipated counter-offensive to take back the city of Kherson, which Russia took in the early days following the February 24 invasion.

Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspline said southern command spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk told them that "offensive actions in various directions" had begun, "including in the Kherson region."

After successfully repelling much of Russia's initial invasion in all but the south and east of the country, Ukraine is now trying to regain territorial losses in the southeast to pincer Russian troops in the east.

Recent strategic strikes carried out by Ukrainian on Russian positions, arsenals and the routes of supply lines, such as strategically located bridges, in recent weeks have prepared the ground for the current operation. 

Humeniuk however would offer no operational details beyond confirming the offensive has begun.

"Any military operation needs silence," she said.

Here's a roundup of some of the other key developments regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine on August 29.

IAEA team en route to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

The International Atomic Energy Agency is sending a mission to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine this week, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said on Monday.

The facility, Europe's biggest nuclear plant, is currently occupied by the Russian military and has been the target of strikes in recent weeks.

Both Moscow and Kyiv have routinely traded blame for shelling around the complex. 

"The day has come, IAEA's Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya is now on its way," Grossi said, adding that the team from the UN atomic watchdog would reach Europe's largest nuclear power plant "later this week."

"We must protect the safety and security of Ukraine's and Europe's biggest nuclear facility," he wrote in a tweet that also announced that he would lead the mission.

For months, Grossi has been asking to be allowed to visit the site, warning of "the very real risk of a nuclear disaster" as tensions remain high.

The Group of Seven's Non-Proliferation Directors' Group also welcomed a trip, reiterating concerns about the safety of the plant under Russian control.

"We reaffirm that the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and the electricity that it produces rightly belong to Ukraine and stress that attempts by Russia to disconnect the plant from the Ukrainian power grid would be unacceptable," it said in a statement.

While Ukraine initially feared an IAEA visit would legitimize Russia's occupation of the plant, President Volodymyr Zelensky last week urged the watchdog to send a team as soon as possible.

IAEA experts head to Ukraine

"This mission will be the hardest in the history of the IAEA, given the active combat activities undertaken by the Russian federation on the ground and also the very blatant way that Russia is trying to legitimize its presence", Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned during a visit to Stockholm on Monday.

In an August 20 call with French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed that a team of independent inspectors could travel to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant via Ukraine.

Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's permanent representative to the international organizations in Vienna said his country welcomed the IAEA mission and has made a significant contribution to the visit.

Zaporizhzhia: A ticking time bomb?

Russia's Ukraine invasion is 'attack on Europe's security order': Germany's Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz set out a new vision for Europe outlining how the European Union and its neighbors could respond to Russia's aggression against Ukraine.

Speaking at Prague's Charles University, Scholz said Europefaced a new political reality since Russia launched its invasion on February 24.

"Putin's Russia wants to redraw boundaries with violence — something that we in Europe never wanted to experience again. The brutal attack on Ukraine is therefore also an attack on Europe's security order."  

Germany's supply of arms to Ukraine has been widely criticized as inadequate and too late, but Scholz promised that more would be done. Berlin has supplied some heavy weapons, including self-propelled howitzers and Gepard anti-aircraft tanks. 

"Germany has undergone a fundamental change of heart on this issue in recent months. We will keep up this support, reliably and, above all, for as long as it takes," said the chancellor. 

"This also goes for the reconstruction of the destroyed country, which will be a massive undertaking that will take generations to accomplish."

EU to discuss training of Ukraine troops, visa ban for Russians

Defense and foreign ministers from the European Union are set to meet in Prague this week to discuss setting up an EU military training mission for Ukrainian forces. 

Ukrainian troops have been trained in several countries in order to enable them to operate weapons delivered by Western nations. While it remains unclear where the EU training program will take place — or its mandate — the bloc's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said it would not be in Ukraine but in neighboring countries.

The high-level officials will also look into calls from some EU members to ban Russian tourists from entering the bloc. 

The Czechs, who currently hold the bloc's rotating presidency, and the Baltic countries are pushing for an EU-wide ban on visas for Russian tourists. But Germany, some other member states, and Borrell have repeatedly rejected such a move, saying it may be in breach of EU rules and impact escape routes for Russian dissidents.

Russia: Over 50,000 soldiers to take part in military drill

Russia is set to hold a large-scale military manoeuver this week, which will see the deployment of more than 50,000 soldiers, 5,000 weapons and pieces of military equipment, along with 140 aircraft, 60 warships and other vessels, the Russian Defence Ministry said on Monday.

Dubbed "Vostok 2022," the exercise is set to begin on Thursday, running through till Wednesday next week. It will be held on military training grounds in eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East, as well as in the Sea of Japan.

Russian soldiers deployed across the world, including Belarus, China and India, have already reached the training area, reports say. 

Sweden outlines further military aid package to Ukraine

Sweden will provide a further 500 million crowns ($46.75 million) in military assistance to Ukraine in face of the Russia's invasion, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has announced.

"We will continue to support Ukraine as long as the war is going on," Andersson said.

Andersson made the announcement after hosting Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. It outlined a total additional aid package of 1 billion crowns in both
military and civilian assistance.

Kuleba called on Sweden to provide Kyiv with weapons like howitzers and shells: "Every euro, every bullet, every shell matters."

"As long as the war continues, we will be asking for more weapons," he told reporters.

More on the war in Ukraine

Germany's foreign minister vowed to support Ukraine "financially and militarily" even if the war endures "for years."

The state premier of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, drew the ire of Ukraine's ambassador in Germany over a suggestion that the Russian war be "frozen" to give diplomacy a chance.

ar, see/sri (Reuters, AFP)

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