Putin nuclear weapons threat condemned as Russia mobilises amid fears over power plant
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: The head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency said he met with Ukraine’s and Russia’s foreign ministers in a bid to establish a safety and security zone around a nuclear plant in south-eastern Ukraine that is Europe’s largest.
The Zaporizhzhia power plant has faced almost daily shelling and bombardment, raising fears of a nuclear accident.
Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that as a result of the separate meetings with Ukraine’s Dmytro Kuleba and Russia’s Sergey Lavrov, work has begun on establishing and shaping the zone.
He said he hopes to visit Kyiv soon, and “perhaps later on” go to Russia.
Meanwhile, Australia has slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “unthinkable” threat to deploy nuclear weapons.
Russia’s ominous threat, which marked the biggest escalation of the Ukraine war since the invasion on 24 February, has alarmed and horrified world leaders.
While Mr Putin repeatedly hinted at Russia’s nuclear arsenal, his threat is regarded as the clearest language yet suggesting he might be prepared to spark a nuclear disaster to win the war.
Speaking in New York, Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the Russian President was engaging in an “illegal and immoral” war.
“It is unthinkable and irresponsible that those threats were made,’’ Senator Wong said.
“Overnight, we saw Mr Putin, making threats to use all means at his disposal.
“His claims of defending Russia’s territorial integrity aren’t true. No sham referendum will make them true.
“Russia alone is responsible for this illegal and immoral war and peace must first lie with Russia withdrawing from Ukrainian territory.”
Mr Putin vowed to use “all available means” to protect Russian territory, after Moscow-held regions of Ukraine announced annexation referendums.
“When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff,’’ he said.
“Those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can also turn in their direction.”
China — a nation with strong ties to the Russian Federation — called for a “ceasefire through dialogue and consultation” following Putin’s address on Ukraine, in which he made a thinly-veiled threat to use nuclear weapons.
“We call on the relevant parties to realise a ceasefire through dialogue and consultation, and find a solution that accommodates the legitimate security concerns of all parties as soon as possible,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular press briefing.
Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers have agreed to prepare new sanctions on Russia and increase weapon deliveries to Kyiv after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the country’s first military mobilisation since World War II.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Putin’s announcement – which included moves to annex swaths of Ukrainian territory and a threat to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia – showed panic and desperation.
In other news:
• Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on the international community to adopt a five-point formula to achieve peace and security in Ukraine, in a wide-ranging and impassioned televised speech to the UN General Assembly. The points include punishment for crimes of aggression, protection of life, restoration of security and territorial integrity, security guarantees and the determination of Ukraine to continue defending itself.
• US President Joe Biden and allied leaders reacted angrily to Vladimir Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons and pledged to maintain support for Ukraine. In his speech to the UN, Biden sought to unite the international community in the face of what he called “reckless” threats.
He called Russia’s planned annexation of more regions of Ukraine as “an extremely significant violation” of the UN charter. The US president sought to galvanise the outrage of UN member states at the threat that Putin’s actions and “imperial ambitions” posed.
Earlier, Putin announced a partial mobilisation in Russia in a move that places the country’s people and economy on a wartime footing and sent shockwaves across Russia. The Russian president said in a televised address that the “partial mobilisation” was a direct response to the dangers posed by the west.
According to the decree, the contracts of soldiers fighting in Ukraine will also be extended until the end of the partial mobilisation period.
• More than 1300 protesters have been arrested in anti-mobilisation rallies that are taking place throughout Russia. According to OVD-Info, more than 1311 people were detained in 38 cities across Russia, most of them in Moscow and St Petersburg.
• North Korea said it has never supplied weapons or ammunition to Russia and does not plan to do so in the future, according to a government media statement.
• Russia has released 215 Ukrainians it took prisoner after a protracted battle for the port city of Mariupol earlier this year, including top military leaders, a senior official in Kyiv said. The freed Ukrainians included the commander and deputy commander of the Azov battalion that did much of the fighting, said Andriy Yermak, the head of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office.
• Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of Russian-occupied Melitipol in Ukraine, urged local men to evacuate the city amid mobilisation orders from Russia, the Kyiv Independent reports.
• Five British nationals held by pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine wee safely returned, UK Prime Minister Liz Truss said. Among those released was Aiden Aslin, a British-Ukrainian former care worker from Nottinghamshire.
• The Saudi foreign ministry said Russia had released 10 foreign prisoners of war captured in Ukraine after mediation by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. US citizens Alexander Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh were among those released.
• Liz Truss and the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said Putin’s speech was “a statement of weakness”. They said in a joint statement that Putin’s calls for partial mobilisation were “a sign that Russia’s invasion is failing”.
• Russia fired a series of long-range missiles at Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv, hours after the Kremlin announced plans to annex Ukrainian territory and to carry out the partial mobilisation. Explosions were heard across Kharkiv. At least one missile struck a high-rise apartment in the western Zalutino district. Ten residents were injured.