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Zelensky, Erdogan and UN chief Guterres to meet in Ukraine

Meeting in Lviv to address a ‘political solution to this conflict’; Ukraine accuses Russia of ‘powerful’ cyberattack as Russian ammunition storage blown up in Crimea

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres leave a news conference during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, April 28, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres leave a news conference during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, April 28, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

KYIV, Ukraine (AFP) — UN chief Antonio Guterres will meet with the leaders of Ukraine and Turkey this week, officials announced Tuesday, as Kyiv reported an “unprecedented” cyberattack on its nuclear energy agency’s website.

A deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last month has allowed a tentative restart of grain exports from Ukraine after Russia’s invasion blocked essential global supplies.

Guterres will hold talks in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv with President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday.

They will discuss “the need for a political solution to this conflict,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Guterres will then visit the Ukrainian port city of Odessa on Friday — one of three ports being used in the deal to export grain — before heading to Turkey.

As the diplomatic efforts to end the war continue, Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom reported a major cyberattack on its website, but said its operations had not been disrupted.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center right, and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres lead a signing ceremony at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, July 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

“The most powerful cyberattack since the start of the Russian invasion occurred against Energoatom’s website,” the agency said on Telegram, adding that it “was attacked from Russian territory.”

Crimea blasts

Also Tuesday, Russia claimed explosions at a military facility on the Kremlin-controlled Crimean peninsula that damaged power infrastructure were the result of “sabotage.”

Fire erupted at a military site where ammunition was being stored and black smoke billowed into the air, images on social media showed.

“As a result of an act of sabotage, a military storage facility near the village of Dzhankoi was damaged,” Russian news agencies reported the defense ministry as saying.

The blasts — caused by the fire, which led ammunition to detonate — damaged civilian infrastructure, “including power lines, a power plant, a railway track” and residential buildings, the ministry said.

Smoke rises over the site of explosion at an ammunition storage of Russian army near the village of Mayskoye, Crimea, Aug. 16, 2022. (AP Photo)

The explosions come one week after at least one person was killed in similar explosions at a Russian airbase in Crimea.

Ukraine has not directly claimed responsibility for either incident, but senior officials and the military have implied Ukrainian involvement.

Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said the blasts had likely damaged infrastructure supplying power from the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant to Crimea.

Kyiv and Moscow have traded accusations over a series of strikes this month on Zaporizhzhia — Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

UN spokesman Dujarric said he had “no doubt that the issue of the nuclear power plant” would be raised at Thursday’s meeting in Lviv.

A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar, Ukraine. The photo was taken during a media trip led by the Russian military, May 1, 2022. (Andrey Borodulin/AFP)

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has used the Black Sea region as a staging ground for its 2022 invasion, which has killed thousands, displaced millions and ravaged swathes of the country.

Moscow launched the offensive in February, anticipating little military resistance and hoping for a lightning takeover that would topple the government in Kyiv within hours.

But after failing to capture the capital, its forces have become entrenched in a war of attrition along a sprawling front line in the east and south.

US precision artillery

“The situation in Ukraine shows that the US is trying to prolong this conflict,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

The United States is “using the people of Ukraine as cannon fodder,” he added.

Washington has provided key backing to Kyiv, in particular supplying long-range, precision artillery that has allowed Ukraine to strike Russian supply facilities deep inside Moscow-controlled territory.

Meanwhile, in the eastern Donbas region, which has seen most of the fighting, Ukraine said Russia had launched an offensive from an oil refinery in the recently captured city of Lysychansk in Lugansk province.

Ukraine’s presidency said one woman was killed in Donetsk province, which together with Lugansk makes up the industrial Donbas region now mostly controlled by Russian forces.

As the grain deal comes into force, the first UN-chartered vessel departed on Tuesday from the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi heading to Ethiopia, Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said.

A boat with Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials heads to the Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni, to check if the grain shipment adheres to a crucial agreement signed last month by Moscow and Kyiv, off the coast of Istanbul, Turkey, August 3, 2022. (AP/Emrah Gurel)

The MV Brave Commander, carrying 23,000 tonnes of wheat, was able to leave after the deal established safe corridors through the naval mines laid by Kyiv.

Ukraine has said it is hoping two or three similar shipments will follow soon.

Russia’s invasion has driven an economic, political and cultural wedge between Moscow and European capitals.

The prime minister of former Soviet satellite Estonia said Tuesday her government had decided to remove all Soviet-era monuments from public spaces in the country.

Finland, meanwhile, announced plans to limit Russian tourist visas to 10 percent of current volumes beginning in September, due to rising discontent over Russian tourism as the war rages on.

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