Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the world narrowly avoided a radiation disaster as electricity to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was cut for hours due to Russian shelling in the area, allegations that Moscow denied. Follow our liveblog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

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4:20am: Dangerous situation averted at Zaporizhzhia plant

Zelensky said Russian shelling on Thursday sparked fires in the ash pits of a nearby coal power station that disconnected the reactor complex, Europe’s largest such facility, from the power grid.

Back-up diesel generators ensured power supply that is vital for cooling and safety systems at the plant, he said, praising the Ukrainian technicians who operate the plant under the gaze of the Russian military.

“If our station staff had not reacted after the blackout, then we would have already been forced to overcome the consequences of a radiation accident,” he said in an evening address.

“Russia has put Ukraine and all Europeans in a situation one step away from a radiation disaster.”

Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official in the occupied town of Enerhodar near the plant, blamed Ukraine’s armed forces for a fire in a forest near the plant. He said towns in the area lost power for several hours on Thursday.

“This was caused by the disconnection of power lines from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station as a result of provocations by Zelensky’s fighters,” Rogov wrote on Telegram. “The disconnection itself was triggered by a fire and short circuit on the power lines.”

10:47pm: Zaporizhzhia security measures triggered to prevent nuclear catastrophe

Reporting from Kyiv, FRANCE 24’s James André explains the stakes at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

“The Zaporizhzhia power plant is supplied with electricity with four 750-kilovolt lines. Three of those lines were damaged earlier in the conflict. What happened today is that the fourth, the last line remaining line, was cut off. That triggered the security mechanisms of the actual power plant,” said André.

What’s at stake is the supply of electricity in Ukraine as the winter approaches. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, supplies 20% of Ukraine’s electricity. “If the Russians were to divert that to their own territories, which is a real option, that would be a huge problem for Ukraine,” said André.


7:35pm: IAEA mission to Zaporizhzhia plant will not solve ‘underlying problems’

Following a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi told FRANCE 24 he was hopeful that an IAEA mission could inspect the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine “within days”.

But Mariana Budjeryn of the Harvard Kennedy School explains that while there is plenty of behind-the-scenes diplomacy going on to enable such a mission, there are limits to what a team on the ground can achieve. “It can’t evict the Russian occupiers from the plant or establish some kind of demilitarised zone at the request of Ukraine and other states,” she noted.


6:51pm: Zelensky, Biden discuss next steps in war against Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had “a great conversation” with US President Joe Biden on Thursday and thanked him for his support in the war against Russia.

“We discussed Ukraine’s further steps on our path to the victory over the aggressor and (the) importance of holding Russia accountable for war crimes,” Zelensky tweeted in English.

6:38pm: Regular power line to Zaporizhzhia plant restored, Ukraine tells IAEA

The last regular power line supplying electricity to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) is working again after a temporary cut, the UN nuclear watchdog said, citing Ukraine.

“Ukraine told the IAEA that the ZNPP, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, at least twice lost connection to the power line during the day but that it was currently up again,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement, adding that information on the direct cause of the outage was not immediately available.

Zelensky said Ukraine would have been facing the prospect of a radiation accident if the diesel generators had failed to turn on.

4:02pm: Specialists working to reconnect Zaporizhzhia reactor

More details of the Zaporizhzhia reactor disconnection from Ukraine’s national power grid coming in: Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom has said the plant’s security systems were working normally and work was under way to reconnect one of the reactor blocks to the grid.

The decision to disconnect the reactors came after fires broke out in the ash pits of a coal plant located near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant – Europe’s largest – and damaged the power lines connecting the nuclear plant to Ukraine’s grid, the company said.

The plant was disconnected from Ukraine’s national supply system after a power line was twice disconnected by fires at the ash pits in the adjacent thermal power plant.

The three other power lines “were earlier damaged during terrorist attacks” by Russian forces, said Energoatom.

As a result, the two of the plant’s six reactors still functioning “were disconnected from the network”.

3:36pm: Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant disconnected from power grid, says operator

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant under occupation by Russian troops was disconnected from the national power supply, said Ukraine’s state energy operator.

“The actions of the invaders caused a complete disconnection of the (Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant) from the power grid – the first in the history of the plant,” Energoatom said on Telegram.

Fire damage to overhead power lines caused the remaining two operating reactors at the Russian-held plant in southern Ukraine to shut down, said Energoatom.

3:23pm: Macron reiterates support for IAEA visit to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

French President Emmanuel Macron met with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi earlier today and expressed his support for a visit by IAEA experts to the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe’s largest, according to a French presidential palace statement.

During his meeting with Grossi, Macron “reiterated his support for the deployment of an IAEA expert mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as soon as possible to address nuclear safety and security issues and safeguards, while respecting Ukraine’s full sovereignty over its territory and infrastructure,” said the statement.

In an interview with FRANCE 24 shortly after the meeting, Grossi said he was hopeful the visit would take place within “days”.

Ukrainian staff are still operating the plant but the site has been controlled by Russian forces since early in the six-month war that began with Russia’s February 24 invasion.

2:35pm: Russia says deadly railway station attack was on Ukrainian military target

Russia’s defence ministry has confirmed that its forces had struck a railway station in Chaplyne in eastern Ukraine, which killed 25 civilians as the nation marked its Independence Day.

In its daily briefing, the ministry said an Iskander missile hit a military train on Wednesday that was carrying Ukrainian troops and equipment to the eastern front line. The ministry claimed more than 200 reservists “were destroyed on their way to the combat zone.” at the Chaplyne station.

1:49pm: Putin signs decree to increase size of Russian armed forces

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Thursday to increase the size of Russia’s armed forces from 1.9 to 2.04 million, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The figure, which includes a 137,000 increase in the number of military personnel to 1.15 million, comes into effect on January 1.

1:14pm: ‘Difficult to say’ if Independence Day motivated Chaplyne strike

“All we know about this attack in Chaplyne in eastern Ukraine, near to Dnipro, is that indeed a missile hit a train in a station and hit some carriages that had people inside,” FRANCE 24’s James Andre reported from Kyiv. “According to the first [reports], at least five people died burnt in a car and an 11-year-old was killed.”

It is “difficult to say of course if this Russian strike was in retaliation or to mark the date of Ukrainian Independence Day,” Andre continued.


 

12:40pm: European gas prices approach record peak on Russian supply fears

European natural gas prices climbed Thursday towards a record peak on heightened fears over Russian supplies, while global equities rose on the eve of a key speech from Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell.

Europe’s benchmark Dutch TTF gas contract advanced to 318 euros per megawatt hour before paring gains. That was not far from the record high 345 euros struck in March shortly after key gas producer Russia invaded Ukraine.

Prices have spiked in recent days as a three-day halt in Russian deliveries to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline approaches.

At the same time, one-year forward contracts for electricity prices in both France and Germany surged on Thursday to record pinnacles on worries over a winter energy crunch.

>> Can Europe keep the heating on this winter amid Russian gas crunch?

12:28pm: Britain to support rebuilding of Ukrainian transport network

Britain will share technical expertise with Ukraine as part of a new package of support to help the country rebuild its infrastructure and transport network following Russia’s invasion earlier this year, the government said on Thursday.

British experts will offer technical knowledge in airport, runway and port reconstruction, and will help identify training opportunities for aviation staff, British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement.

 

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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