June 23. 2024. 2:19

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Russia claims to have gained ground in Kharkiv as Kyiv accuses it of ‘nuclear terrorism’

Moscow claimed to have gained territory in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine and rejected US allegations that its troops have committed crimes against humanity in the country, as Kyiv said Russian missiles had almost hit an atomic power plant in an act of “nuclear terrorism”.

The Russian defence ministry said its forces had taken the village of Hryanykivka near the city of Kupiansk, a strategic transport hub that Ukraine’s military liberated during a rapid offensive in Kharkiv region last September.

Kyiv did not acknowledge losing control of any territory over the weekend, but said heavy fighting continued to the southeast of Kharkiv province in the partly-occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, particularly around the towns of Bakhmut, Vuhledar and Kreminna. Russian shelling killed at least three civilians and injured five in the town of Beryslav in Kherson region.

Ukraine believes Russia wants to seize Bakhmut before Friday, when its all-out invasion of its neighbour will reach the one-year mark, and that Moscow’s military is planning a massive missile strike to mark the anniversary.

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Russia claims to have gained ground in Kharkiv as Kyiv accuses it of ‘nuclear terrorism’


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Ukrainian nuclear energy operator Enerhoatom said two cruise missiles narrowly missed the country’s southern nuclear power station on Saturday morning.

“Russia has once again committed an act of nuclear terrorism, threatening the security of the whole world,” said the firm, which has accused Moscow’s forces of repeatedly sending missiles along flight paths close to atomic power stations, and of risking a nuclear disaster by occupying the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is the largest such facility in Europe.

“The threat of hitting a reactor with possible consequences – a nuclear catastrophe – was again high … We once again appeal to the International Atomic Energy Agency to take all possible measures to stop Russian nuclear terrorism, and bring about the withdrawal of Russian military units from the territory of the Zaporizhzhia plant and the establishment of a demilitarised zone around it and a no-fly zone over all Ukraine’s nuclear facilities.”

Moscow denies risking an atomic disaster, and its defence ministry claimed on Sunday that Ukraine had received “several containers of radioactive substances” from an unnamed European country and planned to stage a “provocation” near a nuclear facility and blame Russia for the incident.

Moscow reacted furiously to comments from US vice-president Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor, that “in the case of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, we have examined the evidence. We know the legal standards. And there is no doubt these are crimes against humanity.

“First, from the starting days of this unprovoked war, we have witnessed Russian forces engage in horrendous atrocities and war crimes … The United States has formally determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity,” she said.

“And I say to all those who have perpetrated these crimes and to their superiors who are complicit in these crimes: you will be held to account.”

Russian ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov said the US was backing “Kyiv Nazis” and ignoring “the atrocities of Ukrainian cut-throats” – repeating Moscow’s unfounded claim that Ukraine, a pro-western democracy, is run by fascists who threaten Russia’s own security.

“We consider such insinuations as an attempt – unprecedented in terms of its cynicism – to demonise Russia in the course of a hybrid war unleashed against us,” he said.

“There is no doubt that the purpose of such attacks is to justify Washington’s own actions to fuel the Ukrainian crisis. First of all, it concerns the rampant militarisation of the Kiev regime,” he added.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions, brought its relations with the West to their lowest point since the Cold War.

The Netherlands announced on Saturday that it was expelling several Russian diplomats and closing both Moscow’s trade mission in Amsterdam and its own consulate in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second city.

“Russia’s continued attempts to place intelligence officers into the Netherlands under diplomatic cover are unacceptable,” said Dutch foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra. “That is why we are limiting the number of Russian diplomats in the Netherlands.”