(Bloomberg) -- International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and some members of an inspection team left the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine after several hours there. The Ukrainian state-run company that manages the plant said five of about a dozen inspectors in Grossi’s mission are expected to stay on until Saturday. Grossi said in a tweet that his agency is “here to stay and will maintain a continued presence.”
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Russia and Ukraine traded blame on shelling in the nearby Energodar area, underscoring international concern about the risk of a nuclear disaster at the plant Russia seized in March. It’s the first time in the IAEA’s 65-year history that monitors crossed an active battlefront in order to carry out an inspection.
In other developments, Russia is considering a plan to buy as much as $70 billion in yuan and other “friendly” currencies this year to slow the ruble’s surge. Meanwhile, Europe is considering various measures to intervene in energy markets rocked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
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On the Ground
Ukraine’s air force conducted a number of strikes against Russian troops using jets, helicopters and drones this week, Oleksiy Hromov, a spokesman for the Ukrainian armed forces, said at a briefing. Most of the Ukrainian air attacks were aimed at Russian targets in the country’s south, including command posts, munitions and fuel depots, and air defense systems. Meanwhile, the situation in the Russian-occupied region of Kherson remains difficult because of heavy fighting, regional authorities said on their website. According to the UK’s latest intelligence update, Ukrainian forces have pushed the front line back some distance in places, exploiting relatively thinly held Russian defenses.
(All times CET)
Zelenskiy Says Russia Did All It Could to Foil IAEA Mission (10:10 p.m.)
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the Russian occupiers of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are “trying to turn the really necessary IAEA mission into a fruitless tour of the station.”
“Russia did many cynical things to deceive” the inspectors, Zelenskiy said in his daily video statement, including allowing in “Russian propagandists” but not Ukrainian and international reporters. He said “it is bad that we so far have not heard calls from the IAEA” to demilitarize the territory of the station.
But Grossi said his team of IAEA monitors collected important information during the visit and he had access to the “key things” he wanted to see, BBC Ukraine reported.
US Demands ‘Unfettered Access’ for IAEA at Nuclear Plant (7:48 p.m.)
The US is calling on Russia to let inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency stay as long as needed to inspect the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
“It’s important that those inspectors are given unfettered access and allowed to do their job -- and to stay as long as they need to stay to be able to report back,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power.”
Kirby also said Russia is grappling with maintaining a sizable and motivated army, after suffering significant causalities in its six-month-long invasion.
He said Russian President Vladimir Putin “is going to extraordinary lengths to try to recruit and retain soldiers for this fight, even to the point where he’s turning to prisons, and he’s upping their recruitment age well into the 50s.”
Ransomware Attack Has Montenegro Reaching Out to NATO Partners (5 p.m.)
Montenegro is getting support from US and other allies in fending off cyberattacks against its information systems and electronic services at a time of political turmoil.
Dusan Polovic, Montenegro’s cybersecurity chief didn’t name Russia as the culprit, but state broadcaster RTCG cited sources at the Balkan nation’s security agency, ANB, as saying that Russia was behind the attack, prompting the government to ask US and other NATO allies for protection.
Read more: Ransomware Attack Sends Montenegro Reaching Out to NATO Partners
Ukraine’s Winter Grain Planting May Drop by Half (4:30 p.m.)
Ukraine’s planted areas for winter grains may fall by half this year after the Russian invasion deprived farmers of land, equipment and cash, according to the Ukrainian Agri Council lobby group.
Lithuania Pursues Regional Plan to Reduce Russian Visitors (3 p.m.)
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said that five countries bordering Russia will aim to have a solution on how to reduce the number of the Russian tourists entering by land in the coming weeks.
“A visa doesn’t automatically mean a permission” of entry, Landsbergis told reporters in Vilnius. “The decision is made by border guards.”
Officials from Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland will meet next week to devise a regional mechanism to handle some 12 million Russians who currently hold a Schengen visa, Landsbergis said. Among the potential measures could be additional questions at the border crossings or allowing entry only to certain groups such as diplomats or for humanitarian purposes.
Read more: EU Members Back Tougher Visa Rules for Russian Tourists
Macron Pitches Diplomats on New Coalitions (2:45 p.m.)
Emmanuel Macron wants to build a new coalition of countries to help end the war in Ukraine, he told ambassadors during his annual speech to diplomats at the presidential palace.
“We must progressively build more coalitions, even imperfect, even incomplete,” the French president said. He cited China, India, South Africa, Algeria, Senegal, Indonesia and Ethiopia as potential partners who could side with Europe to avoid an expansion of the war that would oppose “the West against the rest.”
He suggested focusing diplomatic efforts on countries that abstained during UN votes in the spring, and to help their agriculture sectors to shield them from the rising food prices. Outreach to build coalitions is likely to happen before leaders attend the Group of 20 summit gathering the world’s largest economies in November in Bali, diplomats who watched the speech said.
Russian Air Attacks Have Decreased, Ukraine Says (2:30 p.m.)
Russia has reduced its use of air force with Ukraine’s airspace, Ukrainian State Border Guard Service officer Leonyd Baran said during a briefing.
The number of Russian air raids launched from inside Ukraine declined to 5 in August from 19 in July, he said. Ukraine has “effectively reduced to zero” the number of piloted military jets from Russia entering its territory, he added.
Russia also regularly fires missiles at targets inside Ukraine from its own airspace, as well as from Belarus, without entering Ukrainian airspace.
Ukraine Blames Russia for $26 Billion in Environmental Damage (2 p.m.)
Russian invasion caused $26 billion in damage to Ukraine’s environment and natural resources, Ukraine’s environment minister, Ruslan Strilets, said at the briefing.
“The ministry has transferred more than 300 cases to law enforcement agencies for investigation and now continues to record all the losses in order to claim compensation from the Russian Federation through international courts,” Strilets said, adding that the largest losses are caused by burning of oil products, forest fires and rocket explosions.
Europe’s Sanctions Keep Gazprom From Meeting Obligations: Kremlin (1:15 p.m.)
European sanctions have created “a tangle of problems” for Gazprom to fulfill its obligations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells reporters on the conference call.
“Gazprom is ready and wants to continue fulfilling its obligations, but the European side has created legal and technological hurdles that don’t allow Gazprom to work,” he said. There have been snags over repairs of Siemens turbines used in the pipeline.
Lukoil Chairman Dies After Fall From Hospital Window (12 p.m.)
Ravil Maganov, the chairman of Lukoil PJSC, died after falling from a window in a Moscow hospital, according to Russian media reports.
Lukoil was the only Russian oil producer to call for a “fast resolution of the military conflict” in Ukraine early March, just after Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor entered its second week. Maganov passed away following “a severe illness,” the company said in a statement.
Maganov committed suicide, Tass news agency said Thursday, citing an unidentified law enforcement official with knowledge of the matter. The 67-year-old was in a hospital after a heart attack and was also taking antidepressant drugs, the report said.
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