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Live: Zelensky accuses Russian soldiers of staging attacks from Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

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Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky said late Saturday that Russia is using the nuclear facility at Zaporizhzhia it occupies as a military base from which to stage attacks, accusing Moscow of “cynically” using fears of a nuclear disaster as an intimidation tactic. G7 nations have called on Moscow to withdraw its forces from the plant. Read FRANCE 24’s coverage of events as they unfold. All times are Paris time (GMT+2). 

12:04pm: Ship carrying first Ukraine grain cargo nears Syria, say shipping sources

The first ship to depart Ukraine under a U.N.-brokered deal to resume grain exports from the country two weeks ago was approaching the Syrian port of Tartous on Sunday, two shipping sources said.

The Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni set sail from Ukraine’s Odesa port on Aug. 1 under the deal between Moscow and Kyiv, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey.

The cargo of 26,000 tonnes of corn had originally been destined for Lebanon, which has been suffering a severe economic crisis that has made led to food insecurity for about half of its population.

However, the original buyer refused the delivery over quality concerns and the ship sailed to Turkey, docking in Mersin on August 11.

7:50am: Zelensky warns Russian soldiers at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

In his televised address on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky said Moscow is using the Russian-occupied nuclear facility at Zaporizhzhia as a military base from which to stage attacks. Zelensky accused Russia of “hiding” behind the plant while bombing the Ukrainian-controlled towns of Nikopol and Marganets.

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Russia is using the plant to “intimidate people in an extremely cynical way”, he said, calling it nuclear “blackmail”.

G7 nations, fearing a nuclear catastrophe, have called on Moscow to withdraw its forces from the plant. UN chief Antonio Guterres has called for the establishment of a demilitarised zone around the Zaporizhzhia facility, which is still being run by Ukrainian technicians.

Zelensky said Ukraine is now specifically targeting the soldiers firing from the plant. “Every Russian soldier who either shoots at the plant, or shoots using the plant as cover, must understand that he becomes a special target for our intelligence agents, for our special services, for our army.”

Reporting from Kyiv, FRANCE 24’s chief foreign editor Rob Parsons notes that while no independent observers are on-site at Zaporizhzhia to verify Zelensky’s claims, “there does seem to be quite a lot of evidence that the Russians are firing from the territory of the base, which allows them to act almost with impunity because the Ukrainians are reluctant to return fire for fear of hitting vital installations” and risking a nuclear accident. 

Watch his report below to find out more: 


7:42am: Russia appears to be reorienting its units to strengthen its campaign in southern Ukraine, UK says

Russia’s priority over the past week has likely been to reorient units to strengthen its campaign in southern Ukraine, British military intelligence said on Sunday.


7:35am: UN-charted ship in Ukraine readying to carry grain to Africa

The United Nations-chartered ship MV Brave Commander will depart Ukraine for Africa in coming days after it finishes loading more than 23,0000 tons of wheat in the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi, a UN official said.

The ship, which arrived in the port near Odesa, will sail to Ethiopia via a grain corridor through the Black Sea brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in late July.

It will be the first humanitarian food aid cargo bound for Africa since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 under the framework of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The cargo was funded with donations from the United Nations World Food Programme, US Agency for International Development and private donors.

A total 16 ships have now departed from Ukraine following the deal with Russia to allow a resumption of grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, after being stalled for five months due to the war.

5:52am: Ukraine, Russia accuse each other of nuclear plant strikes

Kyiv and Moscow exchanged blame on Saturday for fresh shelling around Europe‘s largest nuclear facility, which is in Russia’s control and has come under fire repeatedly in the past week.

The Zaporizhzhia plant in southeastern Ukraine has been occupied by Russian forces since March, and Kyiv has accused Moscow of basing hundreds of soldiers and storing arms there.

During his televised address on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of nuclear “blackmail” and using the plant to “intimidate people in an extremely cynical way.”

“They arrange constant provocations with shelling of the territory of the nuclear power plant and try to bring their additional forces in this direction to blackmail our state and the entire free world even more,” Zelensky said. 

He added that Russian forces were “hiding” behind the plant to stage bombings on the Ukrainian-controlled towns of Nikopol and Marganets.

9:21pm: Ukraine reports ‘fierce fighting’ in village Russia claims to control

Ukraine‘s military command said on Saturday that “fierce fighting” continued in Pisky, an eastern village which Russia had earlier in the day said it had full control of.

“The occupiers are trying to break through the defense of our troops in the directions of Oleksandropol, Krasnohorivka, Avdiivka, Maryinka, and Pisky,” Ukraine’s general staff said in its nightly briefing note on Facebook.

“Fierce fighting continues,” it added.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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