Wed, 28 Sep 2022

Ukraine's state nuclear power company Energoatom said a Russian hacker group launched a major three-hour attack on its website on Tuesday but had not caused significant problems. Earlier in the day, explosions rocked an ammunition depot in Russian-annexed Crimea. Follow FRANCE 24's live coverage of the Ukraine crisis. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

9:02pm: Macron says he discussed Ukraine crisis with India's Modi

French President Emmanuel Macron discussed via telephone on Tuesday the crisis in Ukraine with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the two agreed to work together to try to end the conflict, said the French presidency.

Macron also held a call earlier on Tuesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which the French leader underlined his concerns about risks to Ukraine's nuclear facilities as result of the fighting with Russia.

8:42pm: Ukraine nuclear power company says Russian hackers attacked website

Ukraine's state nuclear power company Energoatom said a Russian hacker group launched a major three-hour attack on its website on Tuesday but had not caused significant problems.

"The Russian group 'People's Cyber Army' carried out a cyber attack using 7.25 million bot users, who simulated hundreds of millions of views of the company's main page," Energoatom said in a statement. "(This) did not significantly affect operations of the Energoatom website."

7:46pm: Estonia removes Soviet-era memorial from city of Narva

Estonia on Tuesday removed a Soviet-era World War II memorial from Narva - a city with a large Russian-speaking minority - accusing Russia of using such monuments to stir up tensions.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in a statement that the move was a response to "increasing tensions and confusion around memorials in Narva".

"We must act quickly to ensure public order and internal security," she said.

Local opposition to removing the monument had sparked fears of a repetition of the rioting that broke out in Tallinn in 2007 due to the removal of a Soviet monument.

A World War II era T-34 tank that formed part of the memorial in Narva will be taken to the Estonian War Museum and a mass grave of wartime victims will instead be given a "neutral grave marker".

6:49pm: Zelensky, Erdogan and Guterres to meet in Ukraine on Thursday

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet in Ukraine on Thursday, the United Nations announced.

"At the invitation of President Volodymyr Zelensky, the secretary-general will be in Lviv on Thursday to attend a trilateral meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and the Ukrainian leader," Guterres' spokesman said Tuesday.

Guterres will then visit the Ukrainian port city of Odesa on the Black Sea on Friday before heading to Turkey.

5:55pm: European gas prices surge to six-month peak

European gas prices surged Tuesday to a six-month peak, exacerbating recession fears as the region faces the prospect of rationing following cuts to Russian supplies.

In Europe, the natural gas reference price Dutch TTF rallied around 10 percent at 1 point to over €250 per megawatt hour - the highest level since the start of March, or not long after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Energy prices are soaring in Europe," market analyst Fawad Razaqzada at City Index and FOREX.com told AFP.

"Reduced Russian energy shipments of around only 20 percent of capacity through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline have increased the risk of rationing in the coming months," he added.

5:40pm: Ship carrying first Ukraine grain cargo docks in Syria's Tartous

The first ship to depart Ukraine under a deal to resume grain exports from the country two weeks ago was docked in Syria's Tartous on Tuesday, according to a shipping source and satellite data.

The Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni set sail from Ukraine's Odesa port on August 1 under the grain deal but did not unload in Lebanon as planned. Its location had not been clear in recent days as it had kept its transponder off.

5:03pm: Macron underlined concerns over nuclear risks in phone call with Zelensky

French President Emmanuel Macron underlined his concerns over risks to Ukraine's nuclear facilities to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a phone call between the two leaders on Tuesday, the French presidency said.

Macron added that he backed a proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) watchdog for a mission to be sent to Ukraine to examine the situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

4:56pm: Ukraine wants to 'take back' Crimea

According to FRANCE 24's international affairs editor Philip Turle, one reason Ukraine has only hinted at responsibility for the explosions in Russian-annexed Crimea may be because it 'is actually planning quite a lot of secret missions, sabotage missions" and "doesn't want to give any information out about what it's doing".

"This is perceived by Ukraine as being the next step in what it wants to do, which is to [...] take back full control of Crimea and also the Donbas region," Turle said.

4:35pm: Germany seeks discussions with EU Commission to curb cost of new gas levy

Germany is seeking swift discussions with the EU Commission to find a solution to curb the costs of a new gas levy on German consumers, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

The commission said on Tuesday it was not possible to exempt the new German levy from value-added tax as requested by Berlin, but said the EU executive wants to find a solution that would accommodate Germany's request in another way.

"We will discuss this way with the commission very quickly so that it is legally sound and can be implemented before the levy is charged," Scholz said in Berlin.

4:21pm: 'Nowhere is safe for the Russian military in Crimea'

Explosions and fires ripped through an ammunition depot in Russian-annexed Crimea on Tuesday in the second suspected Ukrainian attack on the peninsula in just over a week.

"The Ukrainian authorities are not claiming responsibility - although they're sort of hinting at it by saying that demilitarisation is under way in Crimea; in other words, the Russian military in Crimea is being degraded," FRANCE 24's chief foreign editor Robert Parsons reported from Kyiv.

"What this does signify is that nowhere is safe for the Russian military in Crimea," Parsons said. "Crimea [is] so important for the Russians - for the supply of their forces in the south of Ukraine, but also in the Donbas as well."

"Even though before [Russian forces] felt safe in Crimea, that is no longer the case."

2:57pm: Zelensky condemns 'Russia's nuclear terrorism' in call with Macron

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had discussed what he described as "Russia's nuclear terrorism" at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine during a call on Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Zelensky, writing on Twitter, gave no further details of their discussions on the plant, which Russia seized in March following its invasion of Ukraine.

Zelensky urged the world on Monday to show "strength and decisiveness" to defend the nuclear power station, Europe's largest, following shelling in its vicinity, which Kyiv and Moscow have blamed on each other.

1:12pm: Russia fines veteran rock star for criticising Ukraine conflict

A Russian court has found Soviet rock legend and Kremlin critic Yuri Shevchuk guilty of "discrediting" the Russian army after he condemned Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine.

He received the maximum fine of 50,000 rubles ($815), the press service of a court in the central city of Ufa said via Telegram.

The court said Shevchuk made a speech during his concert that contained "public calls to prevent the use of Russia's Armed Forces", the statement added.

Shevchuk did not attend the hearing in person due to a coronavirus-related quarantine but conveyed a written statement with his lawyer.

"I, Yuri Shevchuk have always been against war, in any country, at any time ... I think all problems and difficulties of a political nature between countries and people should be resolved through diplomacy," the statement said.

The frontman of the 1980s Soviet rock band DDT, Shevchuk has over the years publicly criticised Putin and opposed the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

12:45pm: Finland to drastically cut Russian tourist visas

Finland will limit Russian tourist visas to 10 percent of current volumes as of September 1 due to rising discontent over Russian tourism amid the war in Ukraine, the government has said.

"Tourist visas will not stop completely, but their number will be significantly reduced," Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters in Helsinki.

Tourist visas from neighbouring Russia will be limited by restricting the allotted opening hours for tourism visa applications, as an outright ban based on nationality is not possible, Haavisto said.

"This means that other types of visas - visits to relatives, family contacts, work, study - will be given preference and more time," the minister explained.

Currently, Finland processes around 1,000 Russian visa applications a day, Haavisto told public broadcaster Yle.

11:47am: Blasts shake Russian-held Crimea

Explosions have rocked an ammunition depot and disrupted trains in Russian-annexed Crimea in the latest such incident in a region Moscow uses as a supply line for its war in Ukraine.

Moscow's senior representative in the region, Sergei Aksyonov, confirmed that two people were wounded, railway traffic halted and about 2,000 people evacuated from a village near the military depot, but he provided no details of the likely cause of the blasts.

Ukraine hinted at involvement which, if true, could show it has new capability to strike deeper into Russian-held territory, potentially changing the dynamic of the six-month war.

An electricity substation also caught fire near the town of Dzhankoi in the north of Crimea, according to footage on Russian state TV. It showed large explosions on the horizon which authorities said came from the ammunition detonations.

Ukraine has not officially confirmed or denied responsibility for explosions in Crimea, though its officials have openly cheered incidents in Russian-controlled territory.

11:20am: Macron to speak to Zelensky about situation at nuclear plant

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to discuss the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, the French presidential office has said.

Tuesday's phone conversation between the two leaders follows their last telephone exchange on August 1.

Russia captured the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, Europe's largest, shortly after the start of the invasion.

Both sides have traded accusations over renewed shelling of the plant, which has raised fears of a nuclear catastrophe.

10:12am: Dilemma facing Ukrainians if they push 'too hard too soon'

Reporting from Kyiv, FRANCE 24's Rob Parsons says the Ukrainian counteroffensive is currently focused on the southern city of Kherson, the only metropolitan area west of the Dnieper River that the Russians have managed to capture since the February 28 invasion.

But progress has been incremental, Parsons explained, with the Ukrainian forces concentrating on destroying bridges and infrastructure around Kherson to cut Russian supply lines.

"There is a window of opportunity at the moment. If the Ukrainians push their offensive before the onset of the winter, they have a chance of taking the city," said Parsons. "But the dilemma facing Ukraine at the moment is, if they press too hard too soon they could suffer the consequences. They could suffer a heavy military defeat and the effect on the morale of the Ukrainian people would be immense."

9:50am: US seeking to 'prolong this conflict', Putin says

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Washington of seeking to prolong the conflict in Ukraine and of fuelling conflicts elsewhere in the world, including in Taiwan.

"The situation in Ukraine shows that the US is trying to prolong this conflict. And they act in exactly the same way, fuelling the potential for conflict in Asia, Africa and Latin America," Putin said in televised remarks.

"The American adventure in relation to Taiwan is not just a trip of an individual irresponsible politician, but part of a purposeful, conscious US strategy to destabilise and make chaotic the situation in the region and the world," he added, referring to the recent Taiwan visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

8:03am: Russia's Black Sea fleet 'struggling to exercise' sea control, says UK

Russia's Black Sea fleet is "struggling to exercise effective sea control" with surface vessels still locked in an extremely defensive posture, according to the daily UK military intelligence briefing posted on Twitter.

Russian patrols are generally limited to waters within sight of the Crimean coast with the Black Sea fleet primarily using long-range cruise missiles to support ground offensives, the statement added.

Turkey says five more grain ships leave Ukrainian ports

7:28am: Turkey says five more grain ships leave Ukrainian ports

Five more ships have left Ukrainian ports carrying corn and wheat, three from Chornomorsk and two from Pivdennyi, under a UN-brokered grain export deal, says Turkey's defence ministry.

It added that four more ships bound for Ukraine were to be inspected on Tuesday by the joint co-ordination centre, set up by Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations in Istanbul.

One of the ships leaving on Tuesday was the Brave Commander, carrying the first cargo of humanitarian food aid bound for Africa from Ukraine since Russia's invasion, Refinitiv Eikon data showed.

6:35am: Brave Commander bound for Africa leaves Ukrainian port

The ship Brave Commander has left the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi, carrying the first cargo of humanitarian food aid bound for Africa from Ukraine since Russia's invasion, Refinitiv Eikon data showed on Tuesday.

The bulk carrier, with 23,000 tonnes of wheat aboard, left for the African port of Djibouti with supplies destined for consumers in Ethiopia, Ukraine's infrastructure ministry said.

"The ministry and the United Nations are working on ways to increase food supplies for the socially vulnerable sections of the African population," it said in a statement.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

Originally published on France24

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