Russia and the West step up their energy war as the risk of nuclear disaster haunts Ukraine

  • Russia delays the reopening of the pipeline, a blow for Europe
  • G7 finance chiefs agree on Russian oil price cap
  • Ukraine and Russia take responsibility for nuclear power plant

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine, September 3 (Reuters) – As UN inspectors sought to avert a nuclear disaster on Ukraine’s frontline, the West and Russia hurt each other, with Moscow guarding its main gas pipeline to Germany closed on Saturday amid threats of price caps. oil exports.

Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM) on Friday blamed a technical failure of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline for the delay. But the high-level maneuvers in energy policy were seen as an extension of the war, and the ramifications would be felt far beyond Ukraine.

The announcements came as Moscow and Kyiv blamed each other for their actions at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, where UN inspectors arrived Thursday on a mission to help avert disaster.

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Vladimir Rogov, a pro-Russian official in the Zaporizhzhia region, said Ukrainian forces bombed Europe’s largest nuclear power plant several times overnight and the main power line to the plant was downed, the forcing the use of reserve energy sources, as happened last week.

Reuters could not immediately substantiate its account.

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

Nord Stream 1, which runs under the Baltic Sea to supply 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.

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

The United States said it was working with Europe to ensure sufficient supplies were available for the winter. Read more

Finance ministers from the wealthy Group of Seven democracies – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – said Friday that a cap on the price of Russian oil was aimed at “reducing… Russia’s ability to finance its wars of aggression while limiting the impact of Russia’s war on world energy prices.” Read more

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

NUCLEAR FEARS

In the first six months of the war, thousands of people were killed and Ukrainian towns reduced to rubble, and now there is the danger of a nuclear calamity.

A United Nations inspection team, led by its chief Rafael Grossi, braved intense shelling to reach the Zaporizhzhia factory on Thursday. Read more

Grossi, after returning to the territory under Ukrainian control, said that the physical integrity of the plant had been repeatedly violated. On Friday, he said he planned to produce a report early next week and that two experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection team would remain at the plant until further notice. long term.

A reactor at the site was reconnected to the Ukrainian grid on Friday, a day after it was shut down due to a bombardment near the site, Ukrainian nuclear company Energoatom said. Read more

The site is on the southern bank of a huge reservoir on the Dnipro River, 10 km (6 miles) across the water from the Ukrainian positions.

Each side has accused the other of bombing near the facility, which is still operated by Ukrainian personnel and supplies more than a fifth of Ukraine’s peacetime electricity. Kyiv also accuses Russia of using it to protect its weapons, which Moscow denies. Russia has so far resisted international calls to withdraw troops from the plant and demilitarize the area.

Ukraine’s nuclear company said Russia barred the IAEA team from accessing the plant’s crisis center, where Kyiv says Russian troops are stationed, which would make an unbiased assessment difficult.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the IAEA team to go further, despite the difficulties.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t heard the main thing from the IAEA, which is the call for Russia to demilitarize the station,” Zelenskiy said in a video posted on a forum in Italy.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Ukraine continued to use the weapons of its Western allies to bomb the plant. He dismissed claims from Kyiv and the West that Russia had deployed heavy weapons at the plant.

Several towns near the plant were shelled by Russia on Thursday, Zaporizhzhia regional council mayor Mykola Lukashuk said.

Rogov, the pro-Russian official, said Ukrainian forces shelled Enerhodar, the Russian-held town near the power plant. And he repeated accusations that Ukraine staged a commando-style raid on the station with speedboats on the river. Ukrainian officials dismissed this as an invention.

Reuters could not verify the reports from either party.

COUNTEROFFENSIVE

Elsewhere on the front lines, Ukraine this week launched an offensive to retake territories in southern Ukraine, mainly further up the Dnipro in neighboring Kherson province.

Both sides claimed battlefield successes in the early days of what Ukrainians see as a potential turning point in the war. Details have been scarce, with Ukrainian officials releasing little information.

The Ukrainian General Staff said on Friday that Russian forces had shelled dozens of towns and villages, including Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second-largest city – in the north and the Donetsk region in the east.

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Reporting by Tom Balmforth in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, and Reuters offices; Written by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by William Mallard

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