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Live blog: IAEA chief to head to Russia for talks on Ukraine nuclear plant

Monday April 3, 2023

IAEA head set for safety talks on Ukraine nuclear plant 

UN nuclear chief Rafael Grossi will travel to Russia’s Kaliningrad territory on Wednesday for safety talks on the Moscow-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, officials have said.

Grossi said last week while in Ukraine that he was working on a compromise security plan for the site and warned of increased military activity around it.

“Grossi will visit Kaliningrad on Wednesday as part of his ongoing consultations aimed at ensuring the protection of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant during the military conflict,” the International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman told AFP news agenct on Monday.

There are persistent fears over the safety of the plant in the southern Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia, where there has been frequent shelling since Russian troops invaded last year.

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1900 GMT – Russia arrests young woman over death of top military blogger

Russia has detained a young woman after an explosion killed a top Russian military blogger and wounded dozens, claiming the bombing attack was orchestrated by Ukraine with the help of supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Ukraine has blamed Russia’s domestic infighting for the blast in a Saint Petersburg cafe that on Sunday wounded more than 30 people and killed Vladlen Tatarsky, a high-profile supporter of Moscow’s assault on Ukraine.

The attack came after Darya Dugina, the daughter of a prominent ultranationalist intellectual, was last August killed in a car bombing outside Moscow that Russia also blames on Ukraine.

1730 GMT – Putin bestows award on military blogger killed in bombing: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has posthumously bestowed an award to a high-profile military blogger and supporter of Moscow’s assault on Ukraine, who was killed in an explosion at a Saint Petersburg cafe a day earlier.

Vladlen Tatarsky, whose real name was Maxim Fomin, had been given the Order of Courage “for courage and bravery shown during professional duty”, said a Kremlin decree.

1630 GMT – US journalist held in Russia still without consular access: W.House

The US journalist detained in Russia on what Washington says are trumped up spying charges has yet to meet with someone from the US consulate, the White House said Monday.

“They are trying to get consular access to Evan very, very hard, and yet we’ve still not been able to do that,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, a US citizen, was arrested last week, prompting a new spike in already severe tensions between Moscow and Washington over Russia’s invasion of pro-Western Ukraine.

1330 GMT –
US journalist held in Russia appeals detention: court

The defence of US journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in Russia last week on spying claims that he denies, has appealed his detention, a Moscow court has said.

“The date of the hearing on his detention appeal will be announced this week,” a spokeswoman for Moscow’s Lefortovo court said.

Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter and former AFP news agency journalist in Moscow, was remanded in custody until May 29.

1200 GMT – Wagner group claims fall of Bakhmut; Ukraine says fight ongoing

The head of pro-Russian Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has said late that his forces have raised the Russian flag over the administration building of the town of Bakhmut in Ukraine.

“From a legal point of view, Bakhmut has been taken,” Prigozhin said in an audio message posted by his press service on the Telegram messaging app. 

“The enemy is concentrated in the western parts.”

Ukraine’s army, however, said it still “holds” the city.

“The enemy has not stopped its assault of Bakhmut. However, Ukrainian defenders are courageously holding the city as they repel numerous enemy attacks,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on its Facebook page.

1101 GMT – Poland says it supplied some of pledged MiG-29s to Ukraine

Poland on Monday said it had already transferred some of its promised MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, after fellow NATO member Slovakia announced it had shipped an initial batch of its own.

“A few MiG-29s have already been sent. They are indeed helpful to Ukraine in its defence of our collective security,” Polish presidential aide Marcin Przydacz told local radio station RMF FM.

Last month, Poland became the first NATO member to pledge the fighter jets when President Andrzej Duda said it would deliver an initial batch of four.

1059 GMT – Russia blames Ukraine for bomb that killed military blogger

Russia’s top counterterrorism body on Monday blamed Ukrainian intelligence agencies for the bombing attack that killed a well-known Russian military blogger who fervently supported Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

Russian officials said Vladlen Tatarsky, 40, was killed on Sunday as he was leading a discussion at a cafe on the banks of the Neva River in the historic heart of St. Petersburg. Over 30 people were wounded by the blast, and 10 of them remain in grave condition, according to the authorities.

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1031 GMT – Ukraine inciting ‘religious hatred,’ targeting Orthodox sites on US orders: Russia

Russia on Monday said Ukraine’s actions against the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra monastery are an “intentional effort” to incite “religious hatred,” accusing President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of doing the US’ bidding.

“It is an open secret that the Zelenskyy regime is in no way independent when it comes to its anti-ecclesiastic policies. Creating a schism within the Orthodoxy and delivering a blow (to it) … has long been Washington’s stated goal,” read a Russian Foreign Ministry statement.

It said the Zelenskyy government’s policies against Ukraine’s most revered Orthodox site have been, both directly and indirectly, influenced by the US through an “intricate mechanism,” including the appointment of a “special representative for freedom of religion.”

The Kiev-Pechersk Lavra monastery has been at the center of a bitter religious conflict unfolding along with the Russia-Ukraine war.

It is run by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which split from Moscow last May after centuries under its control but is still labeled by Kiev and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) as “pro-Russian.”

0729 GMT – Zelenskyy to visit Warsaw on Wednesday: Polish presidency

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is to make an official visit to Warsaw on Wednesday, said Poland, announcing one of his few trips outside his nation battling Russia’s offensive.

NATO member and neighbour Poland is a key ally in Kiev’s effort to defend itself, and has hosted many Ukrainians fleeing the war.

“This is an official visit but there will also be an element of a public nature,” the head of the international policy office, Marcin Przydacz, told Polish radio station RMF FM, noting that Zelenskyy would also meet Ukrainians living in Poland.

During the visit , Zelenskyy will meet his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda.

Zelenskyy is to deliver remarks in the historic centre of the Polish capital, “in the context of what happened last year — how the Poles are helping Ukraine, refugees at the border, or welcoming them into their homes”.

0613 GMT – German Vice Chancellor Habeck arrives in Ukraine on surprise visit

German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck has arrived in Ukraine on a surprise visit, Germany’s energy and economy ministry said on Monday, in his first trip to the country since the outbreak of war.

On the agenda is the reconstruction of Ukraine, which has been at war with Russia since Moscow attacked the country in February 2022, and cooperation in the energy sector, the Spiegel news magazine reported.

A spokesperson for the ministry confirmed the visit, saying Habeck, who also serves as minister for energy and the economy, arrived in Kiev early on Monday.

The spokesperson did not give further details, citing security precautions.

0550 GMT – Ukraine’s Zelenskyy thanks Bakhmut defenders amid Wagner’s claim

Fighting around the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut remained “particularly hot”, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, giving no indication the city had finally fallen to Russia as claimed by the founder of the pro-Russian Wagner mercenary force.

There was no indication from Ukrainian officials or independent confirmation that Bakhmut, a town of 70,000 before the Russian offensive launched over a year ago, had fallen into Russian hands.

“The enemy continues its assault on the city of Bakhmut. However, our defenders courageously hold the city,” the military said.

2104 GMT – Russia to put nukes near Belarus’ western border

Russian tactical nuclear weapons will be deployed close to Belarus’ borders with NATO neighbours, the Russian ambassador to Belarus said amid simmering tensions between Russia and the West over Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine.

Ambassador Boris Gryzlov’s comment followed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent statement about plans to station tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Russia’s neighbour and ally.

The announcement marked another attempt by the Russian leader to dangle the nuclear threat to discourage the West from supporting Ukraine.

Putin has said that construction of storage facilities for tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus will be complete by July 1 and added that Russia has helped modernize Belarusian warplanes to make them capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

Gryzlov, speaking in remarks broadcast late Sunday by Belarusian state television, said the Russian nuclear weapons will be “moved up close to the Western border of our union state” but did not give any precise location.

“It will expand our defence capability, and it will be done regardless of all the noise in Europe and the United States,” he said in a reference to Western criticism of Putin’s decision.

Belarus shares a 1,250-kilometer (778-mile) border with NATO members Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

For our live updates from Sunday (April 2), click here.

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