Ukraine marks 37th anniversary of Chernobyl disaster
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy commemorated Wednesday the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster that took place in Ukraine 37 years ago.
The International Atomic Energy Agency summed up the accident as occuring after the fourth reactor at the nuclear power plant “went out of control during a test at low-power, leading to an explosion and fire that demolished the reactor building and released large amounts of radiation into the atmosphere.”
The initial explosion killed two workers at the plant but several dozen firemen and emergency workers died in the subsequent three months after the explosion from acute radiation sickness and one of cardiac arrest.
A giant protective dome built over the sarcophagus covering the destroyed fourth reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26, 2022.
Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images
In recent years, the shut down plant became a tourist attraction and the subject of film and documentary. It was closed to tourists just before the war started and was quickly occupied by Russian forces at the start of their invasion of Ukraine last February, although it was then liberated.
On Wednesday, Zelenskyy said the accident at the plant “left a huge scar on the whole world” and added “we must do everything” to prevent Russia “from using nuclear power facilities to blackmail Ukraine and the world.”
War in Ukraine has resurfaced concerns over Ukraine’s nuclear power industry. Europe’s largest nuclear power plant is located in Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine and has frequently found itself at the epicenter of fighting, with both sides accusing each other of shelling near and around the facility.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plan continues to be occupied by Russian forces but it now has inspectors from the IAEA stationed there permanently to monitor the plant’s nuclear safety. There have been repeated calls for the plant to become a demilitarized zone.
— Holly Ellyatt
Putin signs decree taking over Russian assets of two foreign firms
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia April 19, 2023.
Gavriil Grigorov | Kremlin | Sputnik | via Reuters
President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a decree establishing temporary control of the Russian assets of two foreign energy firms, signalling Moscow could take similar action against other companies if need be.
The decree — outlining possible retaliation if Russian assets abroad are seized — showed Moscow had already taken action against Uniper’s Russian division and the assets of Finland’s Fortum Oyj.
The decree said Russia needed to take urgent measures to respond to unspecified actions from the United States and others it said were “unfriendly and contrary to international law”.
The shares in the two entities have been placed in the temporary control of Rosimushchestvo, the federal government property agency, the decree said.
In February, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Russia should bear the costs of damage caused by its war on Ukraine, adding though there were “significant legal obstacles” to confiscating major frozen Russian assets.
The CEO of state-owned bank Bank VTB had on Monday said Russia should consider taking over and managing the assets of foreign companies such as Fortum, only returning them when sanctions are lifted.
Rosimushchestvo said more foreign firms could find their assets under temporary Russian control, TASS reported. The agency would ensure the assets were run in accordance with their importance for the economy.
“The decree does not concern ownership issues and does not deprive owners of their assets. External management is temporary in nature and means the original owner no longer has the right to make management decisions,” TASS cited the agency as saying.
Russia renews threat to abandon the Black Sea Grain Initiative
The Malta-flagged bulk carrier Zante en route to Belgium transits the Bosporus carrying rapeseed from Ukraine after being held at the entrance of the Bosporus because Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain agreement, on Nov. 2, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Chris Mcgrath | Getty Images
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday renewed threats of abandoning the Black Sea Grain Initiative, an agreement that allows the safe wartime export of agricultural products from besieged Ukrainian ports.
Lavrov told reporters at the U.N. that one of Moscow’s demands is for the Russian Agricultural Bank, or Rosselkhozbank, to return to the SWIFT banking system.
Two days after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the U.S., European allies and Canada moved to block key Russian banks from the interbank messaging system, SWIFT.
Moscow’s exclusion from SWIFT, which stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, severed the country from much of the global financial system.
Lavrov also said that the deal is currently one-sided since Russian fertilizers have not been able to transit the same way Ukrainian grain has.
The basic food security of tens of millions across the globe are now essentially hanging by a thread as Russia mulls whether it will preserve the deal.
Read more on the story here: Russia renews threats of abandoning the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the UN-backed deal that helped reopen Ukraine’s ports
UN chief will travel to D.C. to meet with Blinken and U.S. lawmakers
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a news conference after his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, April 26, 2022.
Maxim Shipenkov | Reuters
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Guterres is also slated to meet with U.S. lawmakers, including House leadership, U.N. Secretary-General spokesman Stephane Dujarric said during a daily press briefing. Dujarric declined to elaborate on what Guterres’ would discuss while in Washington but added that the meetings would be an opportunity to update U.S. officials on a host of matters.
The meetings in D.C. come on the heels of Guterres’ meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the U.N. headquarters in New York.
— Amanda Macias
Russia convicts ex-police officer for criticizing war
Russia has convicted a former police officer who had criticized the war in Ukraine to his friends over the phone, according to the Associated Press.
Semiel Vedel was sentenced Monday to seven years in prison for publicly spreading false information about the country’s military, according to the report. He was convicted under a law the Kremlin passed shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine that punishes dissenters for speaking out against the war.
The case prosecutor in Vedel’s trial said Vedel called Russia a “murderer country,” used “Glory to Ukraine” as a greeting and said Russia was suffering “huge losses” in Ukraine, according to the AP.
In a first, Russian officials determined that the phone conversations were public because Vedel’s phone was wiretapped and an investigator had been listening in on the calls.
In his defense, Ukrainian-born Vedel said he was sharing information he got from trusted friends in the Kyiv police department, the report said.
Read the full report from the Associated Press here.
— Michele Luhn
Russia’s Lavrov will hold a press briefing at the UN
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov holds a press conference during the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at U.N. headquarters on September 24, 2022 in New York City.
Stephanie Keith | Getty Images
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is slated to hold a press briefing at the United Nations while he is in town chairing meetings before the Security Council.
The press briefing is slated for 1 p.m. ET.
Lavrov faced blistering criticism for the Kremlin’s ongoing war in Ukraine during his first day presiding over the Security Council.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who sat next to Lavrov during the meeting, criticized Russia’s war, saying it was in violation of the United Nations Charter and international law.
The conflict, he said, was “causing massive suffering and devastation to the country and its people and adding to the global economic dislocation triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has brought “unimaginable suffering to that country while trampling on the U.N. Charter.”
“Thousands of Ukrainians have been killed and millions have been displaced,” she said, adding that billions of people around the world are feeling the brunt of higher energy prices and food insecurity because of the Kremlin’s ongoing conflict.
Read the full story here.
— Amanda Macias
Sweden expels five Russian diplomats
Sweden’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it was expelling five Russian diplomats for activities it said were “incompatible” with their diplomatic status.
“Five people who are employed at the embassy have been asked to leave the country as a result of activities that are incompatible with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Earlier Tuesday, Russia expelled a Moldovan diplomat in what its foreign ministry dubbed retaliation for the expulsion last week of its Russian diplomat in Moldova.
It comes after Norway earlier this month said it was expelling 15 Russian embassy officials that its foreign ministry said were undercover intelligence officers.
— Karen Gilchrist
Second death confirmed after Russian missile strike on museum
Ukraine’s emergency services confirmed the death of a second woman Tuesday afternoon following a Russian missile strike on a museum in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kupiansk.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said earlier Tuesday that Russian forces struck a history museum in Kupyansk, killing one person, wounding 10 others and burying some under rubble.
Zelenskyy’s chief of staff and the regional governor said the building was hit with a Russian S-300 missile.
Russia did not immediately comment on the attack.
Kupiansk, which lies in the Kharkiv region, was occupied for months by Russian forces following Moscow’s full-scale invasion, but they were driven out in September 2022 in a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
— Karen Gilchrist