The Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, visits the port city of Odessa, in southern Ukraine, on Friday, after warning kyiv and Moscow of the “suicide” that would be damaging the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant.
“We must say things as they are: any potential damage to Zaporizhia would be suicide,” Guterres warned Thursday from Lviv (west), where he met with Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In the hands of Moscow since March, the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia (south), the largest in Europe, is a focus of international concern after being the recent target of bombings attributed to each other by Russians and Ukrainians.
kyiv accuses Moscow of storing past weapons at the plant and bombing its positions from there, something the Russian Defense Ministry denied on Thursday.
On his side, Erdogan expressed Turkey’s support for Ukraine and was alarmed at the danger of “another Chernobyl”, referring to the accident at that Ukrainian plant in 1986, the worst in civil nuclear history.
“While we continue our efforts to find a solution [al conflicto]we remain on the side of our Ukrainian friends,” said Erdogan, who assured that Russia was “ready for some kind of peace.”
Zelensky considered Erdogan’s visit a “strong message of support” and ruled out any peace agreement without a prior withdrawal of Russian troops.
“People who kill, rape, bomb civilians in our cities with cruise missiles every day cannot want peace,” he declared. “Let them first leave our territory and then we will see,” he added.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Erdogan has set himself up as a mediator. Although he condemned the offensive, he wanted to remain neutral and refused to join the sanctions imposed by Western countries against Moscow.
– Two Russian villages evacuated –
At the front, hostilities continue in both directions.
On Thursday, two Russian towns were evacuated after a fire broke out at an ammunition depot in the Russian province of Belgorod, near the border with Ukraine, local authorities said.
Days before, a similar incident occurred at a military base in Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014. The Russian army then denounced “sabotage.”
Fighting continues in the northeastern Kharkov region, where Ukrainians reported Russian shelling of residential neighborhoods that killed 6 on Thursday and 13 on Wednesday.
In the south, one person was killed and two wounded by a shelling on Mykolaiv, its mayor Oleksandr Senkevych announced.
– Intensify cereal exports –
The Zelensky-Erdogan-Guterres meeting and the visit of the UN Secretary General to Odessa take place in a context of intense negotiations to reactivate the export of grain from the ports of Ukraine, one of the world’s leading grain producers.
Guterres promised on Thursday that his organization would try to “intensify” cereal exports before the arrival of winter since they are essential for the food security of several African countries.
About 20 million tons of grain were blocked in the ports of the Odessa region by the presence of Russian warships and mines laid by kyiv to defend its coast.
In July, an agreement signed by both belligerent countries and validated by the UN and Turkey allowed the resumption of trade and the departure of up to 25 bulk carriers.
This week, in addition, the first humanitarian ship chartered by the UN sailed from near Odessa, loaded with 23,000 tons of wheat destined for Africa.
According to the World Food Program (WFP), 345 million people in 82 countries face acute food insecurity – a record figure – and some 50 million people in 45 countries are at risk of starvation if they do not receive humanitarian aid.