Ukraine Russia live updates: Fears over Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant grow

Boris Johnson visits Ukraine amid fresh sleaze allegations

Operations at Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are “of increasing concern”, a nuclear watchdog said today.

Regulators are troubled by the continuing management and organisational problems at the Russian-occupied facility, said Olivier Gupta, head of the Western European Nuclear Regulators’ Association (WENRA), which oversees Ukraine’s nuclear energy sector.

Earlier this month, Rafael Grossi, the head of a UN body brokering a deal on a long-awaited safe zone around the plant, said negotiations were getting harder because of the involvement of the military.

Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear plant, was captured by Russia last March and has been a frequent cause of worry as missiles have repeatedly landed nearby.

Earlier, Germany’s foreign minister says Berlin “would not stand in the way” of Poland sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, on the same day as Boris Johnson made another surprise visit to Kyiv.


Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant ‘of increasing concern’

Operations at Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are “of increasing concern”, a nuclear watchdog said today.

Olivier Gupta, head of the Western European Nuclear Regulators’ Association (WENRA), said regulators were troubled by the management and organisational problems at the Russian-occupied plant.

Earlier this month, Rafael Grossi, the head of a UN body brokering a deal on a safe zone around the nuclear power plant, said negotiations were getting harder because of the involvement of the military.

Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear plant, was captured by Russian forces in March, soon after their invasion of Ukraine. It has repeatedly come under fire in recent months, raising fears of a nuclear disaster.

Zaporizhzhia plant in November


Liam James23 January 2023 11:18


Russia expels ambassador from Nato member Estonia after it calls for Ukraine to get German tanks

Russia has announced that it is downgrading its relationship with Nato member Estonia by asking the country’s envoy to leave by next month (Sravasti Dasgupta writes).

In a statement on Monday, Russia’s foreign ministry said both countries would be represented in each other’s capitals by an interim charge d’affaires instead of ambassadors.

It added that the move was in response to an Estonian bid to reduce the size of the Russian embassy in capital Tallinn.

“In recent years, the Estonian leadership has purposefully destroyed the entire range of relations with Russia. Total Russophobia, the cultivation of hostility towards our country have been elevated by Tallinn to the rank of state policy,” the Russian foreign ministry statement said.

Liam James23 January 2023 13:30


South Africa defends military drills with Russia

South Africa’s foreign minister deflected criticism of joint military drills planned with Russia and China, saying that hosting such exercises with “friends” was the “natural course of relations.”

Naledi Pandor made her comments during a meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who was visiting South Africa 11 months after Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine.

Some opposition parties and South Africa’s small Ukrainian community have said that hosting Mr Lavrov is insensitive. South Africa is one of Russia‘s most important allies on a continent divided over the invasion and Western attempts to isolate Moscow because of its military actions.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said his country is impartial on the Ukraine conflict – though he has accused Nato of causing the Russian invasion – and has abstained from voting on UN resolutions on the war.

Ukrainians in South Africa protest Lavrov’s visit


Liam James23 January 2023 13:00


Ex-Wagner asylum seeker ‘told he will be deported’ from Norway

A former commander of Russia‘s Wagner mercenary group who recently fled to Norway has been told he will be deported, a Russian rights group said.

Andrei Medvedev, who fled by crossing the Russian-Norwegian frontier in the Arctic, was apprehended by police in Norway, an official said on Monday.

“He is apprehended … and we are considering whether to seek a court’s decision for internment,” police lawyer Line Isaksen told Reuters, declining to give further details.

Mr Medvedev has said he was in fear for his life after witnessing the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners brought to the front lines in Ukraine.

Gulagu, a Russian rights group in contact with Mr Medvedev, said: “The transfer of a person who fled from the Russian Federation to Europe and began to give statements to the media and officially to the Norwegian criminal police would be a big mistake and would grossly violate his right to life.”

Medvedev after arriving in Norway last week


Liam James23 January 2023 12:30


Kremlin says Ukrainians will suffer if Europe send tanks

The Kremlin said Ukrainian people would suffer if the West sends tanks to support Kyiv.

The United States and its allies failed during talks last week in Germany to convince Berlin to provide its Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, a key demand from Kyiv as it tries to breath new momentum into its fight against Russian forces.

Britain remains the only country to have pledged tanks – 14 Challenger 2s – though Poland and Lithuania are keen to send German-made Leopard IIs and Warsaw has signalled it may find a way around the requirement to seek Berlin’s approval before sending them to Ukraine.

Asked about the issue at a daily news briefing today, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the splits in Europe over whether to provide tanks to Kyiv showed there was increasing “nervousness” within the Nato military alliance.

“But of course all countries which take part, directly or indirectly, in pumping weapons into Ukraine and in raising its technological level bear responsibility [for continuing the conflict],” he added.

“The main thing is that it is the Ukrainian people who will pay the price for all this pseudo-support,” he said.

Peskov attends a news conference at the Kremlin


Liam James23 January 2023 12:00


Kremlin shrugs off Wagner sanctions

The Kremlin on Monday dismissed the significance of US sanctions on Russian mercenary group Wagner, saying they would have no practical effect.

The White House said on Friday that Wagner, which has been supporting Russian forces in Ukraine and claiming credit for battlefield advances, would be designated a significant Transnational Criminal Organisation and that new sanctions against it would be announced this week.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters there would be no practical impact for Russia or Wagner.

Liam James23 January 2023 10:53


Poland could send tanks without German approval, says prime minister

Poland could send Leopard II tanks as part of a coalition of countries even without Germany’s permission, Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said this morning.

“We will ask for such permission, but this is an issue of secondary importance. Even if we did not get this approval … we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine“, Mr Morawiecki told reporters.

“The condition for us at the moment is to build at least a small coalition of countries.”

Germany yesterday signalled a shift in its opposition to sending the German-made tanks, as foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said Berlin would not stand in Poland’s way.

Liam James23 January 2023 10:30


New Russian war chief clamps down on discipline, says MoD

General Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s newly appointed commander in Ukraine, seems to have been pushing for better discipline among Moscow’s troops, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in an intelligence update.

Since Mr Gerasimov took command on 11 January “officers have been attempting to clamp down on non-regulation uniform, travel in civilian vehicles, the use of mobile phones, and non-standard haircuts”, the MoD said.

The general’s appointment was seen as an attempt to iron out the difficulties Russia has faced in Ukraine in recent months.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, centre, with General Valery Gerasimov, left, and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu


Liam James23 January 2023 10:00


British MPs join in plea to Germany over tanks

The leaders of dozens of major Commons committees have asked Germany’s defence minister to allow Ukraine to defend itself against Russia’s invasion using German-made Leopard 2 tanks.

The MPs intervened after a pledging conference in Germany on Friday ended without a commitment by Western allies to send more battle tanks to Ukraine, despite a call from President Volodymyr Zelensky to speed up the delivery of military support.

The group, which includes the chairs of 24 major Commons committees and dozens of senior backbenchers, was coordinated by Labour’s Chris Bryant to contact Federal Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius “at this moment of extreme urgency” to ask him “to reconsider your position and allow Leopard 2 battle tanks – both German-owned and German-built – to be provided to Ukraine in the next few days.”

German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock yesterday suggested Germany’s position had changed, saying it “would not stand in the way” of Poland and Lithuania sending the tanks – a move which requires German approval.

File: German Leopard ii tanks in a demonstration


Liam James23 January 2023 09:30


Russia’s Lavrov in South Africa for talks

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is in South Africa for talks with one of its most important allies on a continent that is divided over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and related Western attempts to isolate it.

He was to meet Soth Africa’s foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, in a trip some opposition parties and the small Ukrainian community have condemned as insensitive.

A ministry spokesman said Lavrov had arrived in South Africa on Monday morning. He and Ms Pandor are expected to hold a joint news conference around 10am.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government regards South Africa as neutral in the conflict and has expressed a desire to mediate.

Lavrov and Pandor meet in Pretoria


Liam James23 January 2023 09:00

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