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G7 wants Russia to return nuclear plant control to Kyiv

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• Ukraine accuses Russia of using N-plant as shield
• China calls US ‘main instigator’ of crisis
• 13 killed in rocket attacks

KYIV/BERLIN: As Ukr­aine on Wedn­esday accused Russia of exploiting its position in a nuclear power plant it had seized to target a nearby town in rocket attacks that killed at least 13 people, foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) nations called on Russia to immediately hand back full control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant to Ukraine.

China has meanwhile called the United States the “main instigator” of the Ukraine crisis.

The town Marhanets that Ukraine claims was targeted is the one that Russia has alleged Ukrainian forces have used in the past to shell the Russian forces, holed up at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant that they took over in March. There was no immediate comment from Russia on the Ukrainian allegations of a rocket attack on Marh­anets and Reuters could not independently verify the allegations.

Putting their weight beh­i­nd the Ukraine’s claim, the foreign ministers of G7 nat­ions said in a statement relea­sed in Germany dema­nded “Russia immediately hand back full control to its rightful sovereign owner, Ukraine, of the Zaporiz­hzhia nuclear power plant as well as of all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders to ensure their safe and secure operations.”

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has urged both sides to exercise restraint, warning of the “very real risk of a nuclear disaster”.

Moscow says it does not deliberately target civilians in what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine aimed at preemptively safeguarding its own security against expansion of the Nato military alliance.

80 rockets fired

Andriy Yermak, Presi­dent Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, accused Russia of launching attacks on Ukrainian towns with impunity from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the knowledge that it was risky for Ukraine to fight back. “Eighty reactive rockets fired at residential buildings,” Yermak wrote on the Telegram messaging service, referring to the attack on Marhanets.

Ukraine, which accuses Moscow of waging an unpr­ovoked imperial-style war of aggression, says around 500 Russian troops with heavy vehicles and weapons are stationed at the plant, where Ukrainian tech­n­icians continue to work.

Russia says its forces are behaving responsibly and doing everything they can to ensure the facility’s safety. Moscow has accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the plant, something Kyiv denies.

Valentyn Reznychenko, governor of Ukraine’s central Dnipropetrovsk region, said the Russian attack on Marhanets was carried out with 80 Grad rockets, damaging more than 20 buildings in the town, which is located on the other side of the Dnipro River from the power plant.

The same attack damaged a power line, leaving several thousand people without electricity, he added. A hostel, two schools, a concert hall, the main council building and other administrative buildings had been hit too, he said.

Crimean air base attack

Also, the origin of a series of explosions at a Russian air base in Russian-annexed Crimea a day earlier remained contested, with Moscow saying ammunition stores had detonated and Ukrainian officials hinting Kyiv may have been responsible.

Two US newspapers cited unnamed Ukra­inian officials as saying that Ukrai­nian special forces had carried out an attack on the air base, which had resulted in the destruction of Russian military aircraft there.

Zelenskiy did not dire­ctly mention the blasts in his daily video address late Tuesday but said it was right that people were focusing on Crimea. “We will never give it up … the Black Sea region cannot be safe while Crimea is occupied,” he said, repeating his government’s position that Crimea would have to one day be returned to Ukraine.

US ‘main instigator”

Meanwhile, China, which Russia has sought as an ally since its invasion of Ukraine, has called the United States the “main instigator” of the crisis.

In an interview with the Russian state news agency TASS published on Wedn­esday, China’s ambassador to Moscow, Zhang Han­hui, accused Washi­ngton of backing Russia into a corner with repeated expansions of the Nato defence alliance and support for forces seeking to align Ukraine with the European Union rather than Moscow.

“As the initiator and main instigator of the Ukrainian crisis, Washi­ngton, while imposing unprecedented comprehensive sanctions on Russia, continues to supply arms and military equipment to Ukraine,” Zhang was quoted as saying.

“Their ultimate goal is to exhaust and crush Russia with a protracted war and the cudgel of sanctions.”

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2022

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