UN inspectors visit a Russian-occupied power plant to "prevent a nuclear accident" there as the Kremlin criticises a EU move making it difficult for Russians to enter the bloc on the 190th day of the conflict.

Putin's visit to Kaliningrad comes amid soaring tensions between Moscow and Brussels after the EU slapped Russia with several rounds of sanctions over its campaign in Ukraine.
Putin's visit to Kaliningrad comes amid soaring tensions between Moscow and Brussels after the EU slapped Russia with several rounds of sanctions over its campaign in Ukraine. (AFP)

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Putin visits Baltic exclave Kaliningrad as tensions with EU soar

President Vladimir Putin has been in Russia's exclave of Kaliningrad, wedged between NATO member countries, with tensions soaring between Moscow and the EU over fighting in Ukraine.

Bordering Lithuania and Poland that have firmly backed Ukraine in the conflict with Moscow, the heavily militarised region on the coast of the Baltic Sea does not share a land border with Russia.

As part of his visit, Putin met with Kaliningrad school students to mark the start of the school year, answering questions on topics ranging from the economy, space exploration and Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine.

EU mulling energy price cap for certain generators

The European Commission's upcoming proposals to tackle surging energy prices should include a price cap for certain power generators that do not run on gas, according to a Commission document seen by Reuters.

"The second type of intervention would introduce a price limit for inframarginal electricity generation technologies, which have lower operating costs than gas-fired power plants," said the document, which offered an early assessment of possible options for policies.

The aim of the intervention would be to make these generators' returns separate from the current electricity price, which has soared as a result of rocketing gas prices, the document said. 

UN team ‘staying’ at Ukraine nuclear plant

UN inspectors have been "staying" at a Russian-held nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, its head has said after their first visit to the facility following a risky journey across the frontline despite early-morning shelling of the area.

Wearing bright blue flak jackets and helmets, the 14-strong team crossed into Russian-held territory, reaching the facility around 1200 GMT with the International Atomic Energy Agency chief describing it as a productive first visit.

"Today we were able, in these few hours, to gather a lot of information," Rafael Grossi told reporters outside the plant. "The key things I needed to see I saw, and their explanations were very clear."

Zelenskyy advisers ask TotalEnergies to reject Russia 'blood money' dividend

Two advisers to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have asked French oil major TotalEnergies to reject a 440 million euro ($438.02 million) "blood money" dividend from one of its Russian holdings or to spend the money on Ukrainian reconstruction.

In a September 1 letter to TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanne, seen by Reuters and first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Zelenskyy advisers Oleg Ustenko and Mykhailo Podolyak said the French firm was due to receive a 440 million euro dividend from gas firm Novatek, in which it has a 19.4 % stake.

"This is blood money, profits made since Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine... As you well know, these figures are inflated in large part because of profiteering at the expense of the Ukrainian people," the advisers wrote. TotalEnergies did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Gorbachev died shocked and bewildered by Ukraine conflict

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, was shocked and bewildered by the Ukraine conflict in the months before he died and psychologically crushed in recent years by Moscow's worsening ties with Kiev, his interpreter has said.

Pavel Palazhchenko, who worked with the late Soviet president for 37 years and was at his side at numerous US-Soviet summits, spoke to Gorbachev a few weeks ago by phone and said he and others had been struck by how traumatised he was by events in Ukraine.

"It's not just the (special military) operation that started on Feb. 24, but the entire evolution of relations between Russia and Ukraine over the past years that was really, really a big blow to him. It really crushed him emotionally and psychologically," Palazhchenko told Reuters news agency in an interview.

Russia denounces 'absurd' EU decision to suspend visa facilitation

The Kremlin has denounced the decision by EU foreign ministers to suspend a 2007 visa facilitation deal with Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, and warned of potential countermeasures.

"This is bad for Russians. It will take longer and be more difficult to obtain visas," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters, saying this would "make the situation more difficult for Europeans as well."

"Another ridiculous decision in a series of ongoing absurdities," he said.

At this week’s Prague meeting, EU foreign ministers decided to tighten travel rules for Russians within the 27-member bloc but found no consensus to issue a full-scale tourist visa ban, something that has been urged by Poland and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Russia troops ‘forcibly transferring’ Ukrainian civilians: HRW

Russian forces have been forcibly transferring Ukrainian civilians, including those fleeing hostilities, to areas under their control, Human Rights Watch has said in a report.

Forced transfers "are a serious violation of the laws of war amounting to a war crimes and a potential crime against humanity," the non-governmental organisation said. 

Many of the people forcibly transferred were fleeing the city of Mariupol, a port that suffered a devastating siege and heavy shelling before being seized by Russian troops. Others were from the Kharkiv region.

Southern offensive not affecting grain corridor: Ukraine

The Black Sea corridor to export Ukrainian grain is working as normal despite Kiev launching a counter-offensive in Ukraine's south, the country's southern military command has said.

Asked at a briefing whether the corridor was affected by more intense fighting in southern Ukraine, southern command spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk said it was proceeding as normal.

"The work of the grain corridors is working according to the previously agreed plan," she said.

EU opens medical evacuation hub for Ukrainians

The European Union has opened a medical centre in the eastern Polish city of Rzeszow to care for Ukrainian patients waiting for evacuation flights, officials said.

Russia's offensive against Ukraine has made its airspace unsafe for mercy flights and Kiev's allies have been evacuating the sick and wounded across the land border to Poland for treatment.

The new hub will create what EU spokesperson Balazs Ujvari called a "safe space" for Ukrainians — both civilians and military personnel — to receive nursing care, vaccinations, disease screening a psychological support.

The number of wounded people in Ukraine grows every day, and hospitals already short on supplies are struggling to keep up with the needs.

Janez Lenarcic, EU crisis management commissioner

Ukraine tried to capture Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant: Russia 

Ukrainian forces had attempted to seize the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, Russia's defence ministry and a local Moscow-backed local official said.

In a statement, the ministry said that up to 60 Ukrainian troops had crossed the Dnipro river, which divides territory held by the two sides, in boats at 6:00 am local time (0300 GMT). It called the operation a "provocation" aimed at disrupting a planned visit by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to the nuclear plant.

The ministry said that "measures had been taken" to destroy the opposing troops, including use of military aviation.

The ministry also accused Ukraine of shelling both the meeting point of the IAEA delegation, and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant itself. 

Ukraine nuclear reactor shut down due to shelling, operator says

One of two operational reactors at Ukraine's Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant complex has been shut down due to Russian shelling, operator Energoatom said.

"As a result of another mortar shelling by Russian ... forces at the site of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the emergency protection was activated and the operational fifth power unit was shut down," Energoatom wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Energoatom added that "power unit No. 6 continues to work in the energy system of Ukraine" and is supplying electricity for the power plant's own needs. 

Ukraine: Russia wants to wreck IAEA mission with fresh shelling

The Ukrainian president's chief of staff accused Russia of seeking to "wreck" the IAEA's inspection visit to the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, saying Russia shelled the plant again.

"The Russians have shelled (the town of) Enerhodar and the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant," Yermak wrote on Telegram, accusing Russia of acting like a "terrorist state".

UN inspectors head to Ukraine nuclear plant despite fighting

Russia and Ukraine accused each other of waging attacks near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant just as a team of UN inspectors were heading to visit it despite the fighting.

A group of inspectors from the IAEA, led by its director Rafael Grossi, set off for the Russia-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant despite the heavy shelling that led to an emergency system shutting down one of its reactors.

“There has been increased military activity, including this morning until very recently," Grossi said, adding that after being briefed by the Ukrainian military he decided to get moving despite the inherent risks.

G7 finance chiefs to discuss Russian oil price cap on Friday

Finance ministers from the Group of Seven club of wealthy nations will discuss the US Biden administration's proposed price cap on Russian oil when they meet on Friday, the White House has said.

"This is the most effective way, we believe, to hit hard at Putin's revenue and doing so will result in not only a drop in Putin's oil revenue, but also global energy prices as well," said White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre.

Despite Russia's oil exports hitting their lowest levels since last August, its export revenue in June increased by $700 million month on month due to higher prices, 40 percent above last year's average, the International Energy Agency said last month.

Key oil consumers China and America's partner India have stepped up imports of discounted Russian barrels to record levels.

For live updates from Wednesday (August 31), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies