More Ukraine grain sets sail as new strike hits nuclear site

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Aug 08 2022 06:00 AM

Malta-flagged cargo ship Rojen, that left the Ukrainian port of Chernomorsk with grain shipment for export, sails through Bosphorus in front of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge after an inspection in Istanbul, Turkey, 07 August 2022. Rojen, which carries 13 thousand tons of corn, sail to Britain. A safe passage deal was signed between Ukraine and Russia for export Ukraine grain on 22 July in Istanbul. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
Malta-flagged cargo ship Rojen, that left the Ukrainian port of Chernomorsk with grain shipment for export, sails through Bosphorus in front of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge after an inspection in Istanbul, Turkey, 07 August 2022. Rojen, which carries 13 thousand tons of corn, sail to Britain. A safe passage deal was signed between Ukraine and Russia for export Ukraine grain on 22 July in Istanbul. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN

KYIV, Ukraine - Four more ships loaded with grain set off from Ukrainian ports on Sunday, as Moscow and Kyiv blamed each other for a new strike at a Russian-occupied nuclear plant. 

Amnesty International, meanwhile, said it deeply regretted the "distress and anger" caused after it alleged Ukrainian forces were flouting international law by exposing civilians to Russian fire. But it stands by its controversial report.

Kyiv's infrastructure ministry wrote on Telegram that a second convoy of Ukrainian supplies had just left, three from Chornomorsk and one from Odessa.

The Mustafa Necati, the Star Helena, the Glory and the Riva Wind were carrying "around 170,000 tons of agriculture-related merchandise", it said.

Moscow and Kyiv traded accusations Sunday over who bombed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear site in southern Ukraine.

Europe's largest atomic power complex has been under Russian control since the early days of the February 24 invasion.

And as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed US actress Jessica Chastain to Ukraine, Moscow celebrated the re-election of a former senior Russian politician to the world body governing chess.

'Very real risk' 

The recent fighting at the plant prompted UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to warn of "the very real risk of a nuclear disaster".

Russia's occupying authorities in the town of Enerhodar, where the plant is located, said the Ukrainian army overnight "carried out a strike with a cluster bomb fired from an Uragan multiple rocket launcher".

The projectiles fell "within 400 meters of a working reactor" and in a "zone storing used nuclear fuel", Russia's state news agency TASS reported.

Ukraine's state nuclear energy company Enerhoatom however said the "Russian occupiers once again fired rockets at the nuclear power plant its host town, Enerhodar.

"One... employee was hospitalized with shrapnel wounds caused by the explosion," it said in a statement.

AFP was not able to confirm the allegations from an independent source.

On Saturday, Enerhoatom had already said parts of the facility had been "seriously damaged" by military strikes the previous day, forcing the shutdown of one of its reactors. 

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi warned about the dangers of the giant complex being seriously damaged in the fighting in a statement Saturday. 

"Any military firepower directed at or from the facility would amount to playing with fire, with potentially catastrophic consequences," he said.

Amnesty's regret

Amnesty International sparked outrage in Ukraine with a report published Thursday that accused the military of endangering civilians by establishing bases in schools and hospitals, and launching counter-attacks from heavily populated areas.

The head of their Ukraine bureau has already resigned over the report, accusing Amnesty of becoming "a tool of Russian propaganda".

On Sunday, the rights group said that while it stood by its finding, "nothing we documented Ukrainian forces doing in any way justifies Russian violations".

The renewed shipments of Ukrainian grain to help ease global food shortages and bring down prices nevertheless offer a small glimmer of hope as the war enters its sixth month.

Workers unload wheat at the Banha grain silos, in Qalyubia Governorate, Egypt, May 25, 2022. Egypt, the largest importer of wheat in the world, has been forced by the war in Ukraine to radically change its strategy and now relies on the local harvest of the cereal as a way to reduce its external dependence for the coming years on this vital product in the most populated Arab country. Khaled Elfiqi, EPA-EFE/File 
Workers unload wheat at the Banha grain silos, in Qalyubia Governorate, Egypt, May 25, 2022. Egypt, the largest importer of wheat in the world, has been forced by the war in Ukraine to radically change its strategy and now relies on the local harvest of the cereal as a way to reduce its external dependence for the coming years on this vital product in the most populated Arab country. Khaled Elfiqi, EPA-EFE/File 

Ukraine, one of the world's largest grain exporters, had been forced to halt almost all deliveries in the wake of Russia's invasion.

That sent global food prices soaring, making imports prohibitively expensive for some of the world's poorest nations.

A bulk carrier arrived in Chornomorsk on Saturday to be loaded with grain for the first time since Moscow's invasion.

The departure Sunday of the four other vessels, follows that of several others last week, under a deal brokered with the help of Turkey -- the first such ships to leave Ukraine since the start of the war.

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'Sign of hope' 

In Rome on Sunday, Pope Francis welcomed the resumption of grain exports as "a sign of hope" that showed dialogue was possible to end the war. 

"I sincerely hope that, following this path, we can put an end to the fighting and arrive at a just and lasting peace."

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky posted pictures on Telegram Sunday of a meeting with Oscar-winning actress Jessica Chastain.

Underlining the value of visits from famous people, he wrote: "Thanks to this, the world will hear, know and understand the truth about what is happening in our country even more."

Earlier Sunday, Moscow celebrated a diplomatic victory of its own, with the re-election of Russia's Arkady Dvorkovich to the helm of the international chess body FIDE.

Dvorkovich, a former deputy premier under Russian President Vladimir Putin, comfortably saw off a challenge from Ukrainian grandmaster Andrii Baryshpolets who had accused him of being part of Moscow's "war machine".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov called it "clearly very good news and a very significant victory", Russia's TASS news agency reported.

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© Agence France-Presse

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