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Risk Of Nuclear Disaster Haunts Ukraine

Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom blamed Friday's delay on a technical fault with the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline

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UKRAINE: As UN inspectors scrambled to avert a nuclear disaster on the Ukrainian front, the West and Russia damaged each other’s economies, with Moscow keeping its main gas pipeline to Germany shut on Saturday while threatening price caps on oil exports.

Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom blamed Friday’s delay on a technical fault with the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. But the high-level manoeuvres in energy policy were seen as prolonging the war and the consequences would be felt far beyond Ukraine’s borders.

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The announcements came as Moscow and Kyiv traded blame for their actions at the Russian-occupied Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, where UN inspectors arrived on Thursday to help avert disaster.

Vladimir Rogov, a pro-Russian official in the Zaporizhia region, said Ukrainian forces shelled Europe’s largest nuclear power plant several times overnight and the main power line to the station was destroyed, forcing it to use backup power sources as it did last week.

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Gazprom’s indefinite delay in resuming gas supplies will deepen Europe’s problems securing fuel for the winter, with the cost of living already rising, led by energy prices.

Nord Stream 1, which runs under the Baltic Sea and supplies Germany and other countries, was due to resume operations after a three-day outage for maintenance at 01:00 GMT on Saturday, but the pipeline operator reported zero flows a few hours later.

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Moscow has blamed sanctions imposed by the West after Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine for limiting the normal operation and maintenance of Nord Stream 1. Brussels and Washington accuse Russia of using gas as an economic weapon.

Finance ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy democracies – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – said on Friday that the cap on Russian oil prices was intended to “reduce … Russia’s ability to finance its offensive war while limiting the impact of Russia’s war on global energy prices.”

The Kremlin, which calls the conflict a “special military operation”, has said it will stop selling oil to any country that imposes the limit.

In the first six months of the war, thousands of people were killed, and Ukrainian cities were reduced to rubble, and now a nuclear disaster is imminent.

The United Nations inspection team, led by its chief Rafael Grossi, faced intense shelling on Thursday to reach the plant in Zaporizhia.

After returning to Ukrainian-controlled territory, Grossi said the plant’s physical integrity had been breached several times. On Friday, he said he is expected to produce a report early next week and two experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection team would remain at the plant for a long-term.

The reactor at the site was reconnected to Ukraine’s grid on Friday, a day after it was shut down due to shelling near the site, Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom said. The site lies on the southern bank of a huge reservoir on the Dnieper River, 10 km (6 mi) across the water from Ukrainian positions.

Ukraine’s state nuclear company said Russia had denied the IAEA team access to the plant’s crisis centre, where Kyiv says Russian troops are stationed, making it difficult to conduct an impartial assessment.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the IAEA team to keep going despite the difficulties.“Unfortunately, we haven’t heard the main thing from the IAEA, which is the call for Russia to demilitarize the station,” Zelensky said in a video streamed to the forum in Italy.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Ukraine continued to use weapons from its Western allies to shell the power plant. He rejected claims by Kiev and the West that Russia had deployed heavy weapons at the factory.

Several towns near the power plant came under Russian shelling on Thursday, Zaporizhzhia Regional Council Mayor Mykola Lukašuk said.

Rogov said Ukrainian forces were shelling Enerhodar, a Russian-held town near the plant. And he repeated allegations that Ukraine had carried out a commando-style raid on a speedboat station on the river. Ukrainian officials dismissed it as a fabrication.

Also Read: Zelensky Urges Russians to Flee as Ukraine Conducts Offensive in South

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