Ukraine war: Zaporizhzhia 'blackmail', Hungary imports more gas, Ukraine anthem taunts

Bombing of Ukraine nuclear plant continues as more accusations fly

Kyiv and Moscow once again accused one another of firing on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station on Sunday.

Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom claimed there had been “new provocations” over the weekend, with alleged Russian shells hitting the plant with intervals of 3 to 5 seconds.

Russian-backed authorities in occupied areas around Zaporizhzhia claimed Ukrainian forces were behind the shelling, which damaged a pump and caused a fire to break out at the plant.

Euronews cannot independently verify these claims.

Russia seized the plant — which is the largest in Europe — early on into the war, and has since been accused by Ukraine of using it as a military base.

It has been shelled multiple times in recent weeks, raising fears of a nuclear disaster and leading the UN to call an urgent meeting last week.

In his daily address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced what he called “Russian blackmail” over the nuclear station.

“The occupiers are trying to intimidate people in an extremely cynical way by using the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant,” he said, claiming that Russian forces are bombing Ukrainian-held towns from the site.

Zelenskyy warned that Russia’s occupation of the site is increasing the “nuclear threat to Europe”. He called for new sanctions and said that those behind the “blackmail” should “be tried in an international court.”

The Ukrainian authorities, supported by their Western allies, are calling for the demilitarisation of the area and the withdrawal of Russian troops who have occupied the site since March.

Hungary steps up imports of Russian gas

Hungary announced on Saturday that it is importing more Russian gas than previously planned under trade deals, following a visit by its top diplomat to Moscow in July.

Russian energy giant Gazprom delivered “higher volumes [of gas] than those mentioned in the contract” to Hungary, according to the country’s foreign ministry.

Senior official Tamas Menczer said this was because of trade negotiations between Budapest and Moscow, which had “made it possible to reach an agreement.”

“It is the duty of the Hungarian government to ensure a secure gas supply for the country, and we are up to it,” he wrote on Facebook.

An extra 2.6 million cubic metres of Russian gas will be imported into Hungary in August via the Turkstream pipeline, Menczer added, saying that negotiations were ongoing regarding September deliveries.

One cubic metre of gas supplies approximately the same amount of energy as a litre of diesel.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto made a surprise visit to Moscow last month to discuss ramping up deliveries of Russian gas, on top of the 4.5 billion it received each year before the invasion.

“In light of what we know about the current state of the European market, it is clear that acquiring such a large volume is impossible without Russian sources,” said Menczer.

Hungary, like many other European countries, is highly dependent on Russian energy, with around 80 per cent of its gas coming from Russia.

Budapest has staunchly opposed any potential EU sanctions on Russian gas, although it has not voted against Brussel’s punitive packages.

Finns blast Russian tourists with Ukrainian anthem

Finland is playing the Ukrainian national anthem at the country’s hot spots for Russian tourists, in a bid to show solidarity with Ukraine.

At the Imatrankoski rapids — a popular attraction in eastern Finland — the Ukrainian national anthem sounds every day when a century-old dam opens in front of hundreds of spectators, including many Russians.

Music by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius was traditionally played alone during the spectacle but since July it has been preceded by Ukraine’s anthem to protest the Russian invasion.

“It’s bad for Russians who love Finland,” said Mark Kosykh, a 44-year-old Russian tourist who came to see the rapids with his family.

“But we understand the government of Finland,” he added, pointing out that not all of his compatriots support the war.

“Not all Russians are for Putin. The government and all people have to understand that,” he says.

The Ukrainian national anthem is also played each evening from Lappeenranta town hall, which overlooks a popular shopping mall with Russian tourists.

“The objective is to express strong support for Ukraine and to condemn the war of aggression,” mayor Kimmo Jarva told AFP.

Many Russians travel to Lappeenranta to buy clothes and cosmetics, and Russian license plates are aplenty throughout the town.

Since the start of the conflict, Finns have taken an increasingly dim view of these tourists.

58% of Finns are in favour of limiting tourist visas for Russian citizens, according to a poll published last week by public television Yle.

“In my opinion, their number should be restricted very strongly,”  said Antero Ahtiainen, 57, a resident of Lappeenranta. “I see no other way to make Russian politicians think.”

UN grain ships ready for Africa

More ships are due to depart from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports loaded with vital food supplies for Africa.

A United Nations-chartered ship MV Brave Commander will leave Ukraine for the African continent in the coming days after it finishes loading more than 23,000 tons of much-needed wheat.

The cargo was funded by donations from the UN World Food Programme, US Agency for International Development and several private donors.

16 ships in total have now left Ukraine following the internationally brokered deal with Russia to allow a resumption of grain exports from the country’s Black Sea ports.

Ukrainian wheat and maize have languished in silos since Ukraine’s ships were blockaded by Russia at the outbreak of war.

The agreement was reached last month amid fears that the loss of Ukrainian grain supplies would lead to severe food shortages and even outbreaks of famine in parts of the world

The ship will be the first humanitarian food aid cargo bound for Africa since the start of the invasion five months ago.

Ukraine has some 20 million tonnes of grain left over from last year’s crop, while this year’s wheat harvest is also estimated at 20 million tonnes.

So far most of the cargoes under the deal have carried grain for animal feed or for fuel.

As part of the UN deal, all ships are inspected in Istanbul by the Joint Coordination Centre, where Russia, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN personnel work.

Macron rubber stamps Finland and Sweden’s NATO bids

France’s president Emmanuel Macron signed protocols on the NATO accession of Finland and Sweden on Saturday.

“This sovereign choice of Finland and Sweden, two European partners, will strengthen their security in the face of the current threat in their immediate neighbourhood,” said the Elysée.

“[This] will make a significant contribution, given the capabilities of these two partners, to the collective posture and to our European security,” it added.

Sweden and Finland began trying to join the western alliance after Russia invaded Ukraine, with both putting in membership applications this year.

The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO must be ratified by all members of the bloc. To date, more than 20 of the 30 countries that make up the alliance have done so.

“Twenty allies” have “already ratified the protocols”, had indicated, during the adoption by the French Parliament, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna.

Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO on 18 May, but Turkey immediately blocked the accession process.

Ankara demanded that these countries declare Kurdish organisations terrorist, extradite those it accuses of terrorism or participating in a coup attempt in 2016, and lift bans on weapons supply to Turkey.

Foreign Ministers of Turkey, Sweden, and Finland signed a memorandum that removes obstacles to the accession of the two countries to NATO.

However, Ankara later said that it was not final and the Turkish parliament might not approve it if Stockholm and Helsinki did not comply with its demands.

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