Germany said on Monday it would keep two nuclear plants on standby beyond the end of the year in a policy U-turn as Europe scrambles to make up for a sharp drop in Russian gas supplies. Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces claimed gains in a counter-offensive against the Russian army in southern Ukraine, saying they had re-captured several areas and destroyed targets including a pontoon bridge. Follow FRANCE 24’s liveblog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

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11:32pm: Zaporizhzhia’s last reactor disconnected, says Ukrainian plant operator

Ukraine’s embattled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant’s last working reactor has been switched off from the grid, the Ukrainian power plants operator said on Monday.

“Power unit (reactor) No. 6 was unloaded and disconnected from the grid” because of a fire that was “triggered because of shelling”, state-run company Energoatom said in a statement on Monday.

“The world is once again on the brink of a nuclear disaster. The de-occupation of the ZNPP and the creation of a demilitarised zone around it is the only way to ensure nuclear safety,” Ukraine’s Energy Minister German Galushchenko said following the news on Monday.

This was the last working reactor out of six, after shelling disconnected reactor number 5 on Saturday, according to a statement from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The IAEA said earlier that the Zaporizhzhia plant continues to receive the electricity it needs for safety from its sole operating reactor. The IAEA also said four of its experts left the nuclear power plant Monday as planned after several days of work, while two others will stay to maintain a continuing IAEA presence at the plant.

The IAEA plans to issue a report Tuesday about the nuclear safety, security and safeguards situation in Ukraine.


9:25pm: French minister raises Russian sanctions-busting with Turkey

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna has raised the danger of Russia using Turkey to avoid Ukraine-related sanctions during a sensitive visit to Ankara that tried to navigate a range of prickly disputes.

“We have the same goal,” France’s top diplomat said ahead of a private dinner with her Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.”The sanctions policy we are pursuing has one objective, which is to limit the Russian war effort. The sanctions system deprives Russia’s war effort. We will talk about that.”

Cavusoglu did not react to the minister’s comments about sanctions but said: “It is obvious that we do not agree on everything with France, but it is not an obstacle to dialogue.”

Official data show the value of Turkish exports to Russia between May and July growing by nearly 50 percent from last year’s figure. The US Treasury sent an unusually blunt letter to Turkish businesses last month warning that they would be cut off from access to dollars should they trade with sanctioned Russian entities.

8:15pm: Germany puts two nuclear plants on standby in energy U-turn

Germany says it will keep two nuclear plants on standby beyond the end of the year as the shut-off of Russian gas supplies sends Europe scrambling for energy sources.

Following a new network stress test, two of the country’s three remaining power plants will “remain available until mid-April 2023 in case needed”, Economy Minister Robert Habeck has said in a statement, partly delaying a nuclear exit planned under former chancellor Angela Merkel.

The plants will be kept in reserve to potentially “make a further contribution to the electricity grid in southern Germany”, where the development of renewable power is lagging behind.

The Green minister also underlined that Germany was not wavering from its plan to move on from nuclear energy, with all plants being unplugged from the grid at the end of the year. 

5:40pm: Prepare bomb shelters, Ukraine tells residents of Crimea

Ukraine has warned residents of Russian-annexed Crimea to prepare bomb shelters and stock up on supplies as it presses ahead with plans for a major counteroffensive to drive Russian troops out of occupied Ukrainian territory.

“We ask residents of occupied territories, including the Crimean peninsula, to follow (Ukrainian) officials’ recommendations during de-occupation measures,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.

“In particular, to prepare a bomb shelter, stock up with sufficient amounts of water and charge powerbanks. Everything will be Ukraine,” he wrote on Twitter.

Kyiv has for weeks been telling residents in its occupied south to be ready and to evacuate before it launches a counter-offensive. Still, Monday’s warning was notable because it was addressed to residents of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, in contrast to areas captured by Russia during this year’s invasion.

The Black Sea peninsula is thought to be out of range of Ukrainian weapons, though several recent explosions at Russian military sites in Crimea have called that into question.

4:35pm: Russia sanctions Hollywood stars Sean Penn and Ben Stiller

Russia has hit Hollywood stars Ben Stiller and Sean Penn with sanctions in response to their public criticism of Moscow’s war on Ukraine.

The foreign ministry included the actors on a new list of 25 US citizens – mostly politicians, trade officials and industrial executives – that it was placing under sanctions and banning from entering Russia.

Stiller and Penn have been vocal supporters of Ukraine in the conflict and have met Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in high-profile shows of support.

Two-time Oscar winner Penn was in Ukraine recording a documentary when Russia invaded on February 24. He returned to Ukraine in June to meet Zelensky and also visited the sites of atrocities committed during the Russian occupation of Bucha and Irpin, near Kyiv.

Sean Penn met Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on June 28, 2022.
Sean Penn met Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on June 28, 2022. © AFP, Ukraine’s presidential press service

4:05pm: Russia’s Novaya Gazeta ‘killed’ as print licence is revoked

In another blow to Russia’s independent media, a separate court in Moscow has stripped the investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta – whose chief editor Dmitry Muratov was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year – of its print licence.

“The Basmanny court of Moscow invalidated the registration certificate of the print version of Novaya Gazeta,” the outlet, which suspended publication in late March, said on social media. “The newspaper was killed today. They stole 30 years of life from its employees. Deprived readers of the right to receive information.” 

UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said the decision was “another blow to the independence of Russian media”.

Novaya Gazeta has paid a heavy price for its independent stance and investigative coverage over the years. Since 2000, six of its journalists and contributors have been killed in connection with their work, including top investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya.

Muratov, who sold his Nobel medal to benefit Ukrainian children displaced by the war, said the paper would appeal the court’s decision, calling it “political” and “without the slightest legal basis”.

3:45pm: Prominent Russian reporter gets 22 years in jail for ‘treason’

A Moscow court has jailed respected former defence reporter Ivan Safronov for 22 years on treason charges for divulging state secrets, saying he will serve the time in a “strict regime penal colony”.

The 32-year-old worked for business newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti and was one of Russia’s most respected journalists covering defence. 

The FSB security service has accused Safronov of collecting confidential information about Russian military, defence and security and handing it over to the intelligence service of a NATO member country.

Around a hundred people gathered in the Moscow courthouse for the verdict, applauding Safronov and chanting “Freedom!” after the sentence was read out. 

12:45pm: EU signs deal with Ukraine for a further €500 million in aid

The European Union has signed a deal with war-torn Ukraine on Monday to release a further €500 million in planned aid, this time to support housing, education and agriculture.

The European Commission announced the package as senior officials hosted a meeting of the EU-Ukraine Association Council with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Brussels.

12:28pm Ukraine PM urges EU to stay the course on war support

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal urged the European Union on Monday to fulfil its financial and military aid commitments and maintain its support for Kyiv in the conflict with Russia. Shmyhal met EU lawmakers on Monday morning,

“The demands were for the European Union to live up to its commitments promised in terms of financial aid, but also military and logistical support,” Roberta Metsola, president of the parliament, said.

Metsola said the discussion with Shmyhal focused on whether sanctions against Russia were working, whether they should extend to the digital economy, the continued activities of some EU companies in Russia and whether to allow Russian tourists into the bloc.

Political group heads confirmed their unanimous support for Ukraine, including its EU candidature, she said.

12:27pm: Kherson referendum plans ‘paused due to security situation’

A Russian-installed official in Ukraine’s Kherson region on Monday said that plans for a referendum on joining Russia had been “paused” due to the security situation, the Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-appointed military-civilian regional administration, also said the vital Antonivskyi road bridge, which crosses the Dnipro river near Kherson city, was impassable to cars after weeks of Ukrainian shelling.

Russian-installed officials had previously suggested that referendums on joining Russia would be held in September in Kherson, as well as in neighbouring Zaporizhzhia region and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, to coincide with local elections in Russia.

Almost all of Kherson region was taken by Russian forces in March, and Kherson city remains the only Ukrainian regional capital captured by Russia since it sent armed forces into Ukraine on February 24.

11:30am: Ukraine says it has gained ground in the south

Ukrainian forces have claimed gains in the south of the country, saying they have re-captured several areas and destroyed targets including a pontoon bridge.

Ukraine’s southern command said on Facebook late on Sunday that it also hit an ammunitions depot and a Russian army control centre southeast of Kherson, a city taken by Moscow in the early days of the war.

In his daily message on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the re-capture of two villages in the south and one in the east without giving their names.

11:13am: Two IAEA staff to stay at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant  ‘permanently’

Two IAEA mission members are expected to stay at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant on a “permanent basis,” Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom said on Monday, adding that four other representatives had left the station’s territory.

The Ukrainian power plant was captured by Russia in March but continues to be operated by Energoatom’s engineers and supply electricity to Ukraine’s grid.

“Today… four of the six representatives of the IAEA inspection team completed their work at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and left the plant’s territory,” Energoatom wrote in a statement on Telegram. “It is expected that two experts will continue to work at the (plant) on a permanent basis,” the statement said.

11:10am: Kremlin says Europe to blame for Nord Stream 1 shutdown

The Kremlin on Monday repeated its assertion that Western sanctions are to blame for a complete shutdown in the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.

In a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said sanctions were “causing chaos” in terms of maintenance work on the pipeline and rejected claims Russia had turned off supplies to Europe as a political move.

Gazprom has completely halted gas supplies through the pipeline after it said it detected an oil leak during maintenance work last week.

 

Read more analysis on the war in Ukraine
Read more analysis on the war in Ukraine © Studio graphique France Médias Monde

 

(FRANCE 24 with Reuters, AP and AFP)

 

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