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Latest in Ukraine: IAEA Says Mines Found at Nuclear Plant Site

  • Between 3,450 and 3,650 Wagner group mercenaries have arrived in Belarus since the group’s short-lived rebellion, a military monitoring group said Monday. The fighters are camped close to Asipovichy, a town 230 kilometers north of the Ukrainian border. The Wagner mercenaries are training Belarusian troops as part of an agreement to end the Wagner revolt brokered by the Belarusian president between the Kremlin and Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.
  • The Russian defense industry says it is now producing more munitions per month than it did in the whole of 2022, the RIA news agency reported.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said its staff saw directional anti-personnel mines located on the perimeter of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

The IAEA said in a statement the mines were seen Sunday “in a buffer zone between the site’s internal and external perimeter barriers.” The agency said no mines were seen “within the inner site perimeter.”

Russia has controlled the site since the early stages of its invasion of Ukraine. The IAEA has repeatedly warned of the potential for a nuclear catastrophe as it advocated for safety and security measures at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, June 9, 2023. Though the plant is located in Ukraine, it has been under Russian occupation since 2022.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, June 9, 2023. Though the plant is located in Ukraine, it has been under Russian occupation since 2022.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said was told the placement of the mines was a military decision and done in an area controlled by the military.

“But having such explosives on the site is inconsistent with the IAEA safety standards and nuclear security guidance and creates additional psychological pressure on plant staff — even if the IAEA’s initial assessment based on its own observations and the plant’s clarifications is that any detonation of these mines should not affect the site’s nuclear safety and security systems,” Grossi said.

IAEA experts are also continuing to monitor the availability of water to cool the plants reactors following the June destruction of the Kakhovka dam that affected a reservoir near the plant, the agency said.

“The site continues to have sufficient water for some months,” the IAEA said.

The U.S. Treasury Department said Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson will address how Russia’s exit from the Black Sea Grain Initiative will hurt African states as he makes a visit this week to Kenya and Somalia.

A Treasury spokesperson said Nelson will argue that Russia abandoned the grain deal despite U.S. efforts to facilitate the flow of Russian grain and fertilizer exports.

Russia withdrew from the grain deal last week, arguing it was not benefitting enough from a parallel initiative allowing Russian food and fertilizer exports despite Western sanctions.

“He will highlight the exemptions in U.S. sanctions that have always allowed the continued flow of food and agriculture transactions,” the spokesperson said.

Putin courts African leaders

Nelson’s trip comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to host African leaders in St. Petersburg Thursday and Friday promising them free Russian grain “to replace Ukrainian grain.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to Russia to revive the U.N.-brokered grain deal to allow the flow of grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

During his speech at the opening of a three-day food summit in Rome, Guterres said the world’s hungry will be the most adversely affected if the deal is not renewed. “The most vulnerable will pay the highest price,” he said.

Some information was provided by The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters

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