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Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy, IAEA chief visit Zaporizhzhia

March 27, 2023

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi has met with Zelenskyy close to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Meanwhile, the Kremlin brushed off Western criticism over a plan to base nuclear weapons in Belarus. DW has the latest.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy and IAEA chief Rafael Grossi
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (left) met with IAEA chief Rafael Grossi (right) in ZaporizhzhiaImage: Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo/picture alliance

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi visited the city of Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine on Monday where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

While the city itself is under Ukrainian control, the nearby Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant — the largest such facility in Europe — has been occupied by Russian forces since close to the beginning of the full-scale invasion that began last year.

"I met with Zelenskyy today in Zaporizhzhia City and had a rich exchange on the protection of the Zaporizhzhia [nuclear power plant] and its staff," Grossi wrote on Twitter.

"I reiterated the full support of the IAEA to Ukraine's nuclear facilities."

Zaporizhzhia has been a hotspot of fighting between the two sides which has sparked severe concerns over the stability of the facility.

Shelling has cut power to the plant numerous times, forcing the Ukrainian workers who are still present to switch to back-up diesel generators with only limited fuel.

Grossi — who has visited the premises before — has warned of the dangers that a meltdown at the plant could cause not only in Ukraine, but in the wider region. He has previously called for a zone of protection to be set up around the facility to prevent any such incidents and has criticized Russian forces for stationing military vehicles and personnel on site.

Explosions rock Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war in Ukraine on Monday, March 27:

UN Security Council won't probe Nord Stream blasts

Russia failed to get the UN Security Council to request an independent inquiry into the explosions on the Nord Stream gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea in September.

Russia, China and Brazil were the only council members who voted in favor of the Russia-drafted request.

US alternate representative to the UN Robert Wood said it was unnecessary for a probe when investigations by Sweden, Denmark and Germany "are proceeding in a comprehensive, transparent and impartial manner."

"Without an objective and transparent international investigation the truth will not be uncovered as to what happened," Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council before the vote.

Ukraine receives Leopard tanks from Germany

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz confirmed that 18 Leopard 2 battle tanks had been delivered to Ukraine.

"We have delivered as announced," Scholz said in Rotterdam during a press conference along with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Scholz said Germany had been getting Ukrainian troops up to speed on how to use technologically advanced tanks.

The delivery of the tanks comes some two months after Berlin agreed it would send tanks to help Ukraine as Russia's invasion continues.

"Our tanks have made it into the hands of our Ukrainian friends as promised and on time," German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said in a statement.

"I'm sure they can make a difference on the ground."

Meanwhile AFP news agency has reported that Britain's Challenger 2 tanks have also arrived in Ukraine, citing defense ministry spokeswoman Iryna Zolotar.

"A year ago, no one would have thought that our partners' support would be so strong," Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said in a Facebook post.

Kremlin says West's reaction wont influence its Belarus plan 

The Kremlin said it would not change its plan to base nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, despite criticism from the West.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Saturday that Russia would station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, the European Union said Minsk could face further sanctions while Ukraine pushed to hold an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

"Such a reaction of course cannot influence Russian plans," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.

The powerful secretary of the Kremlin Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, also said Russia has the weapons to destroy any enemy, including the United States, if its existence is threatened.

During a televised interview on Sunday, Putin said the deal with Belarus was "nothing unusual" and would not breach "our international agreements on nuclear non-proliferation."

"The United States has been doing this for decades. They have long placed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allies," Putin said.

US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Sunday that the US hasn't seen any indication that Russia intends to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Nuclear weapons in Belarus "another attempt to frighten the West": nuclear policy researcher Liviu Horovitz

Ukrainian troops conclude British tank training

Ukrainian crews training to use the British Challenger 2 main battle tanks have completed their training which began in January, the UK government said on Monday.

The Ministry of Defense said the Ukrainian solders "have returned home to continue their fight against Russia's illegal and unprovoked invasion."

"It is truly inspiring to witness the determination of Ukrainian soldiers having completed their training on British Challenger 2 tanks on British soil," Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said.

"They return to their homeland better equipped but to no less danger. We will continue to stand by them and do all we can to support Ukraine for as long as it takes."

Mariupol police chief reportedly survives car bomb

A police chief in the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol survived a car bomb assassination attempt, Russian state media reported.

The TASS news agency reported that he only sustained a "light injury," citing an anonymous source.

Putin made a surprise visit to Mariupol earlier this month. Russian authorities have attempted to present Mariupol as relatively safe.

Russia could seek compensation over Nord Stream: diplomat

A Russian diplomat said on Monday that Moscow may seek compensation over damage to the Nord Stream gas pipelines last September, without naming any specific country.

"We do not rule out later raising the issue of compensation for damage as a result of the explosion," Dmitry Birichevsky, head of the Foreign Ministry's department for economic cooperation, said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has accused state actors of being responsible and said Russia would establish who was behind the blasts before claiming any compensation.

"You see that Western countries are taking all possible measures to cover up this issue ... But Russia will do everything possible to prevent this from happening," he said.

Orlando Bloom advocates for Ukrainian children

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and British actor and UNICEF ambassador Orlando Bloom have highlighted the plight of millions of children caught up in the war in Ukraine in a new video shared to social media.

Bloom said in a meeting with Zelenskyy that he had visited a family with five children of their own as well as four adopted war orphans.

"Children in Ukraine need to get their childhood back," Bloom said.

He also addressed the fate of the "missing children” who were taken to Russia and referred to the Russian president as a "war criminal” without using his name.

Zelenskyy added that the war is "destroying the childhood of Ukrainian children," adding that some 2.7 million Ukrainian children are still forced to learn online.

kb,zc,ab/jcg (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)