Ukraine Ships More Food as Worry About Giant Nuclear Plant Grows

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ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine—A third shipment of food products left Ukrainian ports Sunday, as explosions near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant raised the specter of the war unleashing a nuclear catastrophe.

A convoy of four ships, carrying more than 161,000 metric tons of corn, sunflower oil and other goods, departed ports in Odessa on Sunday morning, according to Ukrainian authorities. It was the second multi-ship convoy to leave Ukraine in three days under a United Nations-backed agreement with Russia, which is aimed at alleviating a global hunger crisis amid a surge in global food prices caused in part by Russia’s assault on Ukraine.

The war trapped millions of tons of grain and other food products in the country. The agreement signed last month was the result of months of negotiations brokered by Turkey and the U.N.

Eight ships in total have now departed Odessa’s ports this month under the agreement in what the U.N. says is proof the agreement can actually work.

In a sign that the shipments may be able to continue, the first inbound ship to sail to Ukraine under the agreement arrived in Odessa, according to Ukrainian officials and ship tracking data.

“Our next step is to ensure the ability of [Ukrainian] ports to handle more than 100 vessels a month,” tweeted Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister

Oleksandr Kubrakov,

who signed the agreement last month.

An elderly woman looks out from her apartment in eastern Ukraine.



Photo:

David Goldman/Associated Press

Food in the shipments is vital for recipient countries including Lebanon, while revenue from the exports is crucial for Ukraine’s struggling economy. Russia, meanwhile, faces falling export revenues due to sanctions and restrictions on its currency.

Data published by Russia’s Ministry of Finance last week show revenues from oil and gas, which Russia has been using to fund its military campaign in Ukraine, more than halved in July compared with April, dropping from 1,797.7 billion rubles to 770.5 billion rubles. The ministry’s data is presented in rubles, while oil and gas are priced globally in U.S. dollars. The ruble traded at around 83 rubles to the dollar at the start of April, compared with 52 rubles to the dollar in July.

Separately, fear was rising over hostilities in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, located in the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar along the Dnipro river, which separates Russian and Ukrainian forces in the area.

Each side blamed the other for shelling near the plant.

For several weeks, according to Kyiv, Russian forces have launched rockets from the grounds of the plant at Ukrainian positions across the river. On Friday shelling severed a high-voltage power line and prompted staff at the station to close down one of its six reactors, according to the Ukrainian regulator. A Ukrainian official also accused Russia of planting mines on the grounds of the plant.

On Saturday, the head of the U.N’s. atomic agency condemned the military activity near the power station and pressed for his team to be given access to the plant.

“Any military firepower directed at or from the facility would amount to playing with fire, with potentially catastrophic consequences,” the International Atomic Energy Agency’s

Rafael Grossi

said.

While Ukrainian authorities have informed the IAEA there has been no damage to the reactors and no radiological release, Mr. Grossi said damage elsewhere on the site was alarming. Ukraine is already the site of the world’s most catastrophic nuclear accident, the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in 1986.

Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, was hit by rockets on Saturday.



Photo:

sergey bobok/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Ukraine’s nuclear regulator, Energoatom, said on Sunday that roughly 500 Russian troops were at the nuclear power plant and that they had again fired rockets from the site on Saturday night, striking near a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel.

Three radiation monitors were damaged, the agency said on Telegram, and about 800 square meters of window surfaces in plant buildings were damaged due to fragments from explosions. One nuclear plant employee was hospitalized with shrapnel wounds.

“This time a nuclear catastrophe was miraculously avoided, but miracles cannot last forever,” the post on Telegram said.

Energoatom has also accused Russia on Twitter of trying to disconnect the nuclear station from the power grid, which would plunge southern Ukraine into darkness.

In a speech overnight, Ukraine’s President

Volodymyr Zelensky

said the threat to the nuclear power plant justified sanctions against the entire Russian nuclear industry.

“The Russian shelling of the nuclear plant is one of the most dangerous crimes against Ukrainians and all Europeans,” Mr. Zelensky said.

Authorities in Enerhodar, a municipality in the western part of the Zaphorizhzhia region, told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that fragments of rockets they said were fired overnight by Ukrainian forces landed no more than 400 meters from the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant. The report couldn’t be independently verified.

The incident is the latest in a series at the country’s nuclear facilities, including a previous fire at Zaporizhzhia caused by a Russian missile and a loss of power at the Chernobyl site, over which Ukraine regained control after Moscow withdrew troops from northern Ukraine in March.

Tension around the nuclear plant comes as Ukrainian officials say they are preparing for a full-scale offensive to retake Kherson, the southern regional capital that Russian forces captured in the early days of the war. Moscow is working to strengthen its defensive positions in the south, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank in Washington, while continuing its push to take the remaining Ukrainian-held territory in the eastern Donetsk region.

A number of senior Russian military officials have been removed since the start of the war as a result of the armed forces’ poor performance in Ukraine, according to the U.K. Defense Ministry. The commanders of Russia’s eastern and western military districts have likely lost their commands, the ministry wrote, while at least 10 Russian generals have been killed on the battlefield.

“The cumulative effect on consistency of command is likely contributing to Russian tactical and operational difficulties,” the ministry wrote.

Corrections & Amplifications
Data published by Russia’s Ministry of Finance show revenues from oil and gas more than halved in July compared with April, dropping from 1,797.7 billion rubles to 770.5 billion rubles. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said revenue dropped from 1,797.7 million rubles in April to 770.5 rubles in July. (Corrected on Aug. 8).

Write to Ian Lovett at [email protected] and Jared Malsin at [email protected]

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