– ‘Grave hour’ at Ukraine nuclear plant –

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog tells the Security Council that fighting near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has sparked a “grave crisis”, after Kyiv and Moscow again accuse each other of shelling near the site.

“This is a serious hour, a grave hour and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) must be allowed to conduct its mission to Zaporizhzhia as soon as possible,” Rafael Grossi says.

Both the Russians and Ukrainians say radiation levels at the plant were normal.

Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom says the latest strikes were close to one of the plant’s six reactors and that radiation sensors were damaged.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urges the international community to “react immediately” to force Moscow’s troops to leave the plant, denouncing “Russian nuclear blackmail” in his daily address to the nation.

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The United States supports calls by the United Nations and others to establish a demilitarised zone around the plant.

The tensions have brought back memories of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in then Soviet Ukraine, which killed hundreds of people and spread radioactive contamination over much of Europe.

– First grain shipment to finally arrive –

The first grain ship to leave Ukraine under a UN-backed deal last week docks in Turkey, marine traffic sites show, following a report that it has finally found a buyer for its maize.

Zelensky Defiant as Ukraine Mourns Victims of Odesa Drone Strike
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Zelensky Defiant as Ukraine Mourns Victims of Odesa Drone Strike

The attack killed five children, including two babies less than a year old, according to statements by Zelensky and the regional governor.

The Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni left the Ukrainian port of Odesa on August 1 carrying 26,000 tonnes of corn and had been expected to dock in the Lebanese port of Tripoli last weekend.

But Ukrainian officials said the shipment’s five-month delay caused by Russia’s invasion prompted the Lebanese buyer to cancel the deal once the ship was already at sea.

An agreement signed by the warring parties with UN and Turkish officials in Istanbul last month lifted a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports and established safe corridors through the mines laid by Kyiv to ward off any amphibious assault by Moscow.

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– Debt relief –

Ukraine’s lenders agree to a pause until 2024 for the payment of its $20 billion debt, as its economy has been severely impacted by Russia’s invasion, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal says.

A group of Western countries — including Britain, France, Germany, Japan and the United States — had already agreed on allowing Ukraine to postpone interest payments on its debt last month, and had called on others to join the effort.

The World Bank estimated Ukraine’s economy could contract by 45 percent this year.

In a further economic boost for Kyiv, a donors’ conference in Copenhagen representing 26 countries pledges 1.5 billion euros (more than $1.5 billion) in aid for training and equipment of its forces on Thursday.

– ‘State sponsor of terrorism’ –

Latvia’s parliament adopts a statement declaring Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism” and says its actions in Ukraine constitute “targeted genocide against the Ukrainian people”.

The statement says the parliament “recognises Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, and calls on other like-minded countries to express the same view”.

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MPs said they considered “Russia’s violence against civilians committed in pursuit of political aims as terrorism”.

They also condemned its use of cluster munitions “to sow fear and indiscriminately kill civilians”.

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