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Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy meets with IAEA team

August 30, 2022

Ukraine's president called for the immediate de-militarization of Zaporizhzhia nucear plant. Meanwhile, EU defense ministers have agreed to explore options for a training mission in Ukraine. Follow DW for the latest.

President Zelenskyy met with IAEA chief Rafael Grossi
President Zelenskyy met with IAEA chief Rafael Grossi in Kyiv over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plantImage: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Tuesday ahead of their visit to inspect the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

"This is probably one of the top-priority questions regarding safety of Ukraine and the world today," Zelenskyy said, calling for the "immediate de-militarization of the plant" after it was hit with fresh shelling over the weekend.

The IAEA has been asking Russian officials to allow an inspection for weeks, despite assurances from the Kremlin that they were not blocking the monitors' visit. After finally allowing the mission to go forward, the Kremlin told state media that IAEA chief Rafael Grossi's 14-person team would complete its survey in "one day."

Zaporizhzhia has been on the front lines of war since the start of in the invasion and is Europe's largest nuclear power plant with six reactors.

Here's a roundup of some of the other key developments regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine on August 30.

EU looks at military assistance mission, visa ban

European Union defense ministers have agreed to start the work necessary for setting up an EU military assistance mission for Ukraine, the bloc's top diplomat Josep Borrell said on Tuesday.

"There are many training initiatives on the way but the needs are enormous and we need to ensure the coherence of these efforts," Borrell told reporters after a defense ministers' meeting in Prague.

"I can say that all member states agree clearly on that and on launching the work necessary to define parameters for a EU military assistance mission for Ukraine," he added.

It is not clear yet where a broader EU training program could be based and what mandate it might have.

Later in the day, EU foreign ministers, also meeting in Prague, may agree tightening the issuance of visas for Russians and start debating a wider ban on tourist visas, though EU officials said there was no agreement on that.

The European Union must not stop Russian tourists from visiting the bloc, Germany and France said ahead of a foreign ministers' meeting.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov lammed calls by some European leaders for a visa ban on Russian tourists, saying the proposals were "irrational" and the latest manifestation of the West's anti-Russian agenda.

Vatican names Russia as initiator of war in Ukraine

Pope Francis has defended himself against criticism that his statements on the war in Ukraine are political messages. At the same time, however, the Vatican for the first time directly named Russia as the initiator of the war, according to a statement from the Holy See.

"As for the large-scale war in Ukraine, initiated by the Russian Federation, the Holy Father Francis' interventions are clear and unequivocal in condemning it as morally unjust, unacceptable, barbaric, senseless, repugnant and sacrilegious," the statement said.

The head of the Catholic Church wanted to promote peace above all with his remarks, the statement read. "The Holy Father's words on this dramatic issue should be interpreted as a voice raised in defence of human life and the values associated with it, and not as a political stance."

Last week, the pope caused outrage during an audience as he spoke of innocents and remembered Daria Dugina, a pro-Kremlin ultranationalist activist who was killed in a bomb attack near Moscow.

First Ukraine grain ship for Horn of Africa reaches Djibouti

The first ship carrying grain from Ukraine for people in the hungriest parts of the world has docked at the Horn of Africa port of Djibouti.

The UN World Food Program (WFP) says this first shipment of grain will be shipped overland to northern Ethiopia, where millions of people have been affected by the country's Tigray conflict, which has now flared up again.

According to WFP, the 23,000 metric tons of grain on the first ship are enough to feed 1.5 million people on full rations for a month. But the UN has said 2.4 million in Tigray alone are severely food insecure and that 20 million people across Ethiopia face hunger.

Meanwhile, the second shipment of humanitarian food aid since Russia's invasion left Ukraine for Yemen, WFP said.

Several more grain ships have left Ukraine carrying commercial deliveries for existing contracts since a deal brokered by the UN and Turkey was struck in July.

Russia's Gazprom further cuts gas deliveries to France

French energy firm Engie said that Russian energy giant Gazprom had again cut its natural gas deliveries amid "a disagreement between both sides over the execution of contracts."

Engie said that Russian gas supplies had already been reduced drastically after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

"Engie had already secured the necessary volumes to guarantee supplies for its clients and for its own needs," it said.

Russia gas accounted for 4.0% of its overall energy supplies at the end of July, the group said.

Many European countries are facing severe supply problems as Moscow limits supplies amid EU military and diplomatic backing for Ukraine.

Ukraine presidency reports heavy fighting in Kherson region

There is "heavy fighting" in "almost the entire territory" of the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson occupied by Russian troops, Ukraine's presidency said.

The clashes were raging after Ukrainian troops on Monday launched a counter-offensive seeking to retake the southern region which was seized by Russia early in the war.

"Powerful explosions continued throughout the day and throughout the night in Kherson region," the president's office said in a morning update.

"Heavy fighting is taking place in almost the entire territory of the Kherson region. The Armed Forces of Ukraine launched offensive actions in various directions."

Britain's Defense Ministry also said in its daily intelligence bulletin that the Ukrainian armed forces heightened the rate of artillery fire across southern Ukraine, and long-range precision strikes continued to disrupt Russian resupply.

Russia has made efforts since the beginning of August to reinforce its troops on the western bank of the Dnipro river around Kherson, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, it least five people were killed and seven wounded as Russian shelling hit the centre of Ukraine's second city of Kharkiv, the mayor Igor Terekhov said on his Telegram account. 

Russia accuses Ukraine of fresh shelling of nuclear plant

Russian-installed authorities in the Ukrainian city of Enerhodar accused Ukrainian troops of once again shelling the territory of the Zaporizhzhia plant, Russia's TASS news agency said.

The city authorities said two shells exploded near a spent fuel storage building at the plant, according to TASS.

Ukraine and Russia have repeatedly accused each other of attacking the plant ahead of the visit this week by an International Atomic Energy Agency.

Meanwhile, the European Union has donated more than 5 million potassium iodide tablets to Ukraine to protect against the risk of radiation, the European Commission announced.

More on the war in Ukraine

A group of 14 international experts led by Rafael Grossi, chief of the IAEA, are en route to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. What can nuclear experts achieve in Ukraine?

Russia's war on Ukraine forced its handball league to suspend operations, leaving its teams with nowhere left to play. HC Motor are an exception, having escaped the fighting for a temporary home in Germany

dh,es/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)