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Ukraine live briefing: Kyiv accuses Moscow of ‘radiation blackmail’ as IAEA director visits Zaporizhzhia region

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 3/28/2023 Andrew Jeong, Jennifer Hassan, Adam Taylor

Rafael Mariano Grossi, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on a visit to Ukraine, told reporters Tuesday that he remained hopeful a deal could be brokered to ensure the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant — Europe’s largest.

“We are making some adjustments on the proposals that we are putting on the table,” Grossi told Reuters. “I am confident that it might be possible to establish some form of protection.” The details of a potential deal have not been released.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russian occupation of the plant was “the worst thing that could happen in the history” of European nuclear energy. Russia is using the facility for “radiation blackmail,” he said Monday. Russia claimed to annex the Zaporizhzhia region, in violation of international law, late last year, even though parts of the region, including its capital, remain under Ukrainian control.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • Zelensky met with Grossi in the Zaporizhzhia region on Monday, touring areas near the Russian plant, the president’s office said in a statement. They also visited a hydroelectric station on the Dnieper River that helps maintain operations at the plant. Grossi is preparing a visit to the nuclear plant this week, according to the IAEA. Crossfire during the conflict has threatened to shut down the reactors’ cooling system, heightening the risk of a nuclear meltdown.
  • A Russian court on Tuesday ordered a two-year jail sentence for the single father of a 13-year-old girl who drew an antiwar picture in art class at school, in a case that led to the daughter being seized by authorities and placed in an orphanage, The Washington Post’s Robyn Dixon writes. But in a stunning turn, the father, Alexei Moskalyov, 54, escaped from house arrest on Monday night, opting not to wait for the almost-certain guilty verdict after the state prosecutor on Monday demanded the two-year prison term.
  • Britain and Poland will build two temporary housing villages in Ukraine, the British government announced Tuesday. The shelters, in Lviv in the west and Poltava in the east, will provide accommodation to about 700 displaced Ukrainians. The two countries are also providing generators to power schools, hospitals and community centers in Ukraine. “This is one of our many humanitarian responses to Russia’s attacks on civilian infrastructure, mounting evidence of which appears more and more clearly to constitute war crimes,” the statement said.
  • Russian officials expressed defiance after the West threatened more sanctions should the Kremlin proceed with plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that Russia’s plans wouldn’t be affected by Western sanctions.
  • Zelensky, in his nightly address, thanked anyone who “reminds the world that Russian aggression can end much faster than is sometimes said. Faster, if the world is faster, if the world is more determined.”

Battleground updates

  • Russia has probably lost a “large proportion of its tanks” while attempting to encircle the front-line town of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday. It noted that Russia has only made “marginal progress” during its assault operation.
  • Kyiv’s air defenses shot down multiple drones on Monday night, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a Telegram post. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
  • Russian forces have made gains in and around Bakhmut in recent days, the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, said late Monday. It cited geolocated footage that showed members of the Kremlin-backed Wagner mercenary group at locations inside the embattled city.
  • Ukraine received its first batch of British Challenger tanks, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Monday. Ukraine has also received Stryker armored vehicles and Cougars, a mine-resistant ambush-protected infantry mobility vehicle, from the United States, as well as Marder infantry fighting vehicles from Germany, he said. Chancellor Olaf Scholz also confirmed a delivery of 18 Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

Global impact

  • Russia said it test-fired supersonic anti-ship missiles in the Sea of Japan on Tuesday, attacking a target imitating an enemy warship. The exercise took place in the Peter the Great Bay, the Defense Ministry said, without providing further details of the location of the strikes. The Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, borders Japan, Russia and North and South Korea.
  • Russia has been “intensifying” its activity in the Far East, Japan’s foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, told reporters after Russia’s military exercise. The Peter the Great Bay, where the missiles were fired, borders Russia’s Vladivostok coast.
  • National security adviser Jake Sullivan met Monday with democratic opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya of Belarus, the White House said in a statement Tuesday. They discussed U.S. support for the movement for democracy in Belarus and, among other topics, the country’s “facilitation” of the Russian war in Ukraine, according to the readout.
  • New criteria for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in international competitions are “unacceptable,” a top Russian official said Tuesday. The requirements, which would bar athletes with links to the military from competing, would mean 30 percent of Russia’s team could not attend, Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov said, according to state news agency Interfax. The International Olympic Committee put restrictions on Russian and Belarusian athletes after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine but is now seeking a gradual return for the athletes, IOC President Thomas Bach told reporters Tuesday.

From our correspondents

In war-ravaged Lyman, Ukrainians live underground months after liberation: Repeated shelling of a residential area in this eastern Ukrainian city has pushed its inhabitants underground, Alex Horton and Anastacia Galouchka report. Children attend online classes under electric lights. Adults watch small TVs for news updates of Ukraine’s military operations. Pets rummage around in small cages.

© Provided by The Washington Post

“Of course we’ve gotten used to it. It’s calmer for me to be in the basement,” one retired mail carrier, who now serves warm bowls of borscht and meat patties to residents underground, told The Post. “I miss my children, and grandchildren,” she said, her gray eyes welling.

Robyn Dixon contributed to this report.


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