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Published: 10:06, March 02, 2022 | Updated: 21:59, March 02, 2022
Russia says seized Ukraine's largest nuclear power plant
By Xinhua
Published:10:06, March 02, 2022 Updated:21:59, March 02, 2022 By Xinhua

A file picture taken on April 13, 2021 shows the giant protective dome built over the sarcophagus covering the destroyed fourth reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant ahead of the upcoming 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. (SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP)

UNITED NATIONS / MOSCOW / KIEV / TALLINN / WASHINGTON / VIENNA - Russia has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that its forces have taken control of the territory around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said Wednesday.

The Zaporizhzhia plant has six out of Ukraine's 15 nuclear energy reactors

Grossi said in a statement that Russian diplomats in Vienna told the IAEA that personnel at the Zaporizhzhia plant — Ukraine's largest nuclear power plant — have continued their work on providing nuclear safety and monitoring radiation in normal mode of operation, and "the radiation levels remain normal."

The Zaporizhzhia plant has six out of Ukraine's 15 nuclear energy reactors, according to the statement.

Ukraine reported to the IAEA on Wednesday that the country's nuclear power plants have continued normal operation, and its nuclear regulatory authorities have maintained communication with its nuclear facilities, the IAEA chief said.

Grossi has repeatedly stressed that any military or other action that could threaten the safety or security of Ukraine's nuclear power plants must be avoided. 

US President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on March 1, 2022. (SAUL LOEB / POOL / AFP)

US closes airspace to Russian planes

US President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the United States will close its airspace to all Russian planes in response to Moscow's ongoing military operations in Ukraine.

Biden made the announcement while delivering his State of the Union address, the first of his presidency, to a joint session of Congress.

Biden made the announcement while delivering his State of the Union address, the first of his presidency, to a joint session of Congress

"Tonight I'm announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American airspace to all Russian flights, further isolating Russia and adding additional squeeze on their economy," Biden said.

The US move followed similar ones made by the European Union and Canada on Sunday.

In retaliation, the Russian aviation authority said Monday that Russia will ban airlines from 36 countries, including the 27 members of the EU, from using the country's airspace.

While condemning Russia and reaffirming US support for Ukraine, Biden reiterated in his speech that US forces "are not engaged and will not engage in the conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine."

Meanwhile,UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is against discrimination against some foreign nationals attempting to flee the fighting in Ukraine, his spokesman said on Tuesday.

"The secretary-general strongly repudiates, in any shape or form, all discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, in the context of this conflict, as well as in terms of the treatment of people trying to leave Ukraine to seek refuge in another country," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Guterres.

The stern statement followed reports of some nationals of other countries, such as students and workers from Africa and Asia, being refused accommodation on transport out of Ukraine.

Guterres also called for resources to meet the increasing humanitarian needs in Ukraine and for efforts to end the conflict.

"The international community must give them our unequivocal support. We must help Ukrainians help each other through this terrible time," he said at the launch of a flash appeal for Ukraine and a regional refugee response plan for neighboring countries.

The World Food Programme buys more than half its wheat from Ukraine. Disruption to the harvest could drive up prices and add to global hunger

ALSO READ: Russia says to continue operation in Ukraine until goals achieved

He warned that the crisis in Ukraine could have a serious impact on vulnerable people around the world -- not only because it will stretch humanitarian funding even further, but because Ukraine is a vital source of grains.

The World Food Programme buys more than half its wheat from Ukraine. Disruption to the harvest could drive up prices and add to global hunger, he warned.

This speaks to the urgent need for global solidarity -- not only to fund humanitarian aid programs, but to invest in peace, he said.

"The most effective humanitarian relief is to silence the guns. Now, more than ever, we must intensify our efforts for peace, everywhere," he said. "Soldiers must return to their barracks. Leaders must turn to diplomacy. I urge all those with influence to use it to end this senseless conflict."

In Geneva, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths, said donors pledged $1.5 billion toward the $1.7 billion sought in relief for victims of the fighting in Ukraine.

Despite the fighting, UN staffers are still staying and delivering humanitarian aid, the spokesman said.

ALSO READ: Ukraine officially appeals for EU membership

He told reporters in a regular briefing that the number of staffers in Ukraine remained roughly the same as he reported last week, around 1,500, with some shifting of staff in and out of Ukraine.

The world body's communication lines with staff remain open, Dujarric said.

The UN Children's Fund and its partners are mobilizing to treat the mental and emotional damage caused by the conflict, and the first shipments of the World Food Programme are on their way from Turkey to Ukraine, the spokesman said.

Women carry their belongings as they walk in a deserted street of Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on March 1, 2022. (SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP)

The UN Refugee Agency delivered its first truckload of household materials to central Ukraine for families in evacuation shelters and others in need, he added. 

Peace Talks 

The second round of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine could take place on Wednesday, the TASS news agency reported Tuesday citing sources.

The first round of the negotiations, which lasted about five hours, concluded on Monday in Belarus' Gomel region, with no clear breakthrough.

"Most importantly, we agreed to continue the negotiation process. The next meeting will be held in the coming days on the Polish-Belarusian border," Vladimir Medinsky, head of the Russian delegation, said after the talks.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree introducing temporary economic measures to ensure the country's financial stability, the Kremlin said

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree introducing temporary economic measures to ensure the country's financial stability, the Kremlin said.

These measures will be taken in response to anti-Russian sanctions by the United States, other countries and international organizations, according to the decree.

ALSO READ: Wang urges Russia, Ukraine to find negotiated solution

Among the measures, Russia will ban the outflow of foreign currencies in an amount exceeding the equivalent of $10,000 starting Wednesday.

Effective since Wednesday, restrictions regarding transactions of securities, real estate and loans will be imposed on foreigners associated with countries that have taken anti-Russian actions.

On Monday, Putin also inked a decree introducing "special economic measures" to cushion the impact of a new wave of Western sanctions amid Russia's special military operation in Ukraine. 

Kiev TV

Also on Tuesday, five people were killed during Russia's attack on the Kiev TV tower, said the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.

As a result of the shelling of the TV tower, "five have been killed, five more have been injured," the emergency service said on Facebook.

The country's interior ministry said earlier that the TV channels will be out of operation due to the attacks.

NATO

In Tallinn, visiting Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg stressed diplomatic efforts to solve the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

Stoltenberg made the remarks at a joint press conference with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and visiting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the Tapa Army Base in northern Estonia.

He called for an immediate stop of the war in Ukraine, pullout of Russian forces and the engaging of diplomatic efforts.

"Over the last weeks, in response to Russia's attacks on Ukraine, we have increased our defensive presence in the air, on land, and at sea," he noted.

READ MORE: China calls for direct negotiations on Ukraine crisis

There are "over 100 jets at high alert operating from 30 different locations and over 120 ships from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean," Stoltenberg said, adding that Britain, the United States and other allies are deploying thousands more troops to the eastern part of the alliance.

"For the first time in our history, we are deploying the NATO response force," said the NATO chief, who termed NATO as a defensive alliance that does not seek conflict with Russia.


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