Russian forces seize huge Ukrainian nuclear plant, fire extinguished

LVIV, Ukraine/KYIV/PARIS, March 4 (Reuters) – A huge blaze in a building at the site of Europe’s biggest nuclear power station was extinguished on Friday and officials said the plant was operating normally, seized by Russian forces in heavy fighting that caused global alarm.

Officials said the fire at the Zaporizhzhia compound was in a training centre and not at the plant itself. An official at Energoatom, the state enterprise that runs Ukraine’s four nuclear plants, said there was no further fighting, the fire was out, radiation was normal and Russian forces were in control.

The prospect that fighting at the plant could cause a potential nuclear disaster had set world financial markets tumbling.

Even with that scenario seemingly averted, Russia’s grip on a plant that provides more than a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity was a big development after eight days of war in which other Russian advances have been stalled by fierce resistance.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and other Western officials said there was no indication of elevated radiation levels at the plant.

Earlier, a video from the plant verified by Reuters showed one building aflame, and a volley of incoming shells, before a large incandescent ball lit up the sky, exploding beside a car park and sending smoke billowing across the compound.

“Europeans, please wake up. Tell your politicians – Russian troops are shooting at a nuclear power plant in Ukraine,” Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address. In another address later he called on Russians to protest.

He also called on Russians to protests over the attack.

The mayor of the nearby town of Energodar about 550 km (342 miles) southeast of Kyiv said fierce fighting and “continuous enemy shelling” had caused casualties in the area, without providing details.

Thousands of people are believed to have been killed or wounded and more than 1 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Feb. 24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two.

Russian forces advancing from three directions have besieged Ukrainian cities and pounded them with artillery and air strikes. Moscow says its aim is to disarm its neighbour and capture leaders it calls neo-Nazis. Ukraine and its Western allies call that a baseless pretext for a war to conquer the country of 44 million people.

Russia had already captured the defunct Chernobyl plant north of Kyiv, which spewed radioactive waste over much of Europe when it melted down in 1986. The Zaporizhzhia plant is a different and safer type.

FIGHTING RAGES, SANCTIONS MOUNT

Loud explosions could be heard in Kyiv on Friday morning and an air raid siren blared. Reuters journalists in the capital were not immediately able to determine the cause of the blasts.

Only one Ukrainian city, the southern port of Kherson, has fallen to Russian forces since the invasion was launched on Feb. 24, but Russian forces continue to surround and attack other cities.

The southeastern port city of Mariupol has been encircled by Russian forces and subjected to intense strikes, Britain said in an intelligence update on Friday.

“Mariupol remains under Ukrainian control but has likely been encircled by Russian forces,” the Ministry of Defence said. “The city’s civilian infrastructure has been subjected to intense Russian strikes.”

The northeastern cities of Kharkiv and Chernihiv have been under attack since the start of the invasion, but defenders are holding out.

Kyiv, the capital of 3 million people, has been shelled but has so far been spared a major assault, with Russia’s main attack force stalled for days in a miles-long convoy on a highway to the north. In Washington, a U.S. defence official said Russians were still 25 km (16 miles) from Kyiv city centre.

On Thursday, Russia and Ukraine negotiators agreed at peace talks on the need for humanitarian corridors to help civilians escape and to deliver medicines and food to areas of fighting.

In Russia itself, where Putin’s main opponents have largely been jailed or driven into exile over the past year, the war has been accompanied by a further crackdown on dissent. Authorities have banned reports that refer to the “special military operation” as a “war” or “invasion”. Anti-war demonstrations have been quickly squelched with thousands of arrests.

The last major independent broadcasters, TV Dozhd (Rain) and Ekho Moskvy radio, were shuttered on Thursday. The State Duma lower house of parliament introduced legislation on Friday to impose jail terms on people for spreading “fake” reports about the military.

Mining companies may pause growth plans amid Ukraine war, inflation

March 4 (Reuters) – Flush with cash after bumper earnings, mining companies straddle a delicate balancing act as they benefit from soaring commodity prices amid the Ukraine-Russia crisis but also potentially face high inflation that could hit short-term demand and slow down growth plans, analysts said.

The world’s largest listed miners, including BHP Group (BHP.AX), Anglo American (AAL.L) and Glencore (GLEN.L) are sitting on huge piles of cash after skyrocketing prices for copper, iron ore, coal, nickel and other resources buoyed profits.

High metals prices have so far outpaced inflation, which, partly driven by pandemic-related supply bottlenecks and tightening labour markets, is a thorn in the side of mining giants because it pushes costs up.

But the Ukrainian conflict could roil the world’s economic outlook in unpredictable ways, exacerbating those inflationary pressures, analysts say.

The United States and Europe imposed sanctions against Russia’s central bank and disconnected key Russian banks from the main global payments system. In retaliation, Russia could launch counter-sanctions and shut energy supplies altogether, the analysts said.

“Energy is a big cost input for mining operations,” said Andrew Swart, head of Deloitte’s mining & metals practice, adding that mining companies should brace for higher global energy prices given that Russia is a big oil producer.

A typical mine sees about 20-25% of its costs linked to energy.

“The Russian invasion in Ukraine has brought a whole bunch of new inflationary constraints into the global economy,” said Tyler Broda, head of European metals and mining research at RBC Capital Markets.

Whether it is the potential for scarcity of metals, meaning that we can’t actually produce things, or the potential for Russia to implement counter-sanctions and shut gas supplies, but also just the impact of inflation on aggregate demand at these high levels,” he added.

POTENTIAL RIPPLE EFFECTS

Russia is the world’s biggest supplier of palladium and third largest producer of oil, nickel and aluminium. It is also a top exporter of coal and steel.

“The biggest impact for the industry right now is losing access to metals,” Broda said.

So far, mining companies say, the impact of the conflict on business has been limited.

“The effects to look out for will likely be around disruptions to the flows of physical products, but it’s still too early to see, albeit the metals markets seem to be pricing in concerns around constrained supply,” Anglo American said in an email.

Western companies, including energy producers BP and Shell are severing ties with Russia, abandoning or exiting their operations and investments there.

Glencore, which has a 10.5% stake in EN+ Group, the parent company of Russian aluminium producer Rusal (RUAL.MM), , did not go as far, but said on Tuesday that it is reviewing its stakes in Russian entities, including a 0.57% stake in oil giant Rosneft.

Rio Tinto said it is “closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine and related sanctions.” It, too, has an alumina refinery joint venture with Rusal in Australia.

After the bumper profits reported in the last earnings seasons, analysts had predicted that rampant demand for metals to feed the energy transition and constrained supply would encourage miners to approve more projects, even in jurisdictions previously shunned for reports of human rights abuses or considered risky, such as Congo and Zambia.

“The big miners, the likes of Rio and BHP, have no use for their cash right now. Their cupboard is bare in terms of options to invest in projects,” said Glyn Lawcock, head of mining research at Barrenjoey. “They believe right now with elevated pricing comes elevated equity pricing.”

UN resolution against Ukraine invasion: Full text

UN General Assembly demands Russia stop its offensive in Ukraine, voting 141 to five with 35 abstentions.

The United Nations General Assembly has voted to demand that Russia stop its offensive and immediately withdraw all troops, with world powers and tiny island states alike condemning Moscow.

The vote on Wednesday saw 141 states vote in favour of the motion, five against and 35 abstentions.

Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but can reflect and influence world opinion.

The vote came after the 193-member assembly convened its first emergency session since 1997. The only countries to vote with Russia were Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea. Cuba spoke in Moscow’s defence but ultimately abstained.

Here’s the full text:

Aggression against Ukraine

The General Assembly, Reaffirming the paramount importance of the Charter of the United Nations in the promotion of the rule of law among nations,

Recalling the obligation of all States under Article 2 of the Charter to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations, and to settle their international disputes by peaceful means,

Recalling also the obligation under Article 2 (2) of the Charter, that all Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfil in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the Charter,

Taking note of Security Council resolution 2623 (2022) of 27 February 2022, in which the Council called for an emergency special session of the General Assembly to examine the question contained in document S/Agenda/8979,

Recalling General Assembly resolution 377 A (V) of 3 November 1950, entitled “Uniting for peace”, and taking into account that the lack of unanimity of the permanent members of the Security Council at its 8979th meeting has prevented it from exercising its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security,

Recalling also its resolution 2625 (XXV) of 24 October 1970, in which it approved the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming the principles contained therein that the territory of a State shall not be the object of acquisition by another State resulting from the threat or use of force, and that any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of a State or country or at its political independence is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter,

Recalling further its resolution 3314 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974, which defines aggression as the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter,

Bearing in mind the importance of maintaining and strengthening international peace founded upon freedom, equality, justice and respect for human rights and of developing friendly relations among nations irrespective of their political, economic and social systems or the levels of their development,

Recalling the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, signed in Helsinki on 1 August 1975, and the Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine’s Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Budapest Memorandum) of 5 December 1994,

Condemning the 24 February 2022 declaration by the Russian Federation of a “special military operation” in Ukraine,

Reaffirming that no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal,

Expressing grave concern at reports of attacks on civilian facilities such as residences, schools and hospitals, and of civilian casualties, including women, older persons, persons with disabilities, and children.

Recognizing that the military operations of the Russian Federation inside the sovereign territory of Ukraine are on a scale that the international community has not seen in Europe in decades and that urgent action is needed to save this generation from the scourge of war,

Endorsing the Secretary-General’s statement of 24 February 2022 in which he recalled that the use of force by one country against another is the repudiation of the principles that every country has committed to uphold and that the present military offensive of the Russian Federation is against the Charter,

Condemning the decision of the Russian Federation to increase the readiness of its nuclear forces,

Expressing grave concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in and around Ukraine, with an increasing number of internally displaced persons and refugees in need of humanitarian assistance,

Expressing concern also about the potential impact of the conflict on increased food insecurity globally, as Ukraine and the region are one of the world’s most important areas for grain and agricultural exports, when millions of people are facing famine or the immediate risk of famine or are experiencing severe food insecurity in several regions of the world, as well as on energy security,

Welcoming the continued efforts by the Secretary-General and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other international and regional organizations to support de-escalation of the situation with respect to Ukraine, and encouraging continued dialogue,

1. Reaffirms its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters;

2. Deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine in violation of Article 2 (4) of the Charter;

3. Demands that the Russian Federation immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine and to refrain from any further unlawful threat or use of force against any Member State;

4. Also demands that the Russian Federation immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders;

5.  Deplores the 21 February 2022 decision by the Russian Federation related to the status of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine as a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the Charter;

6. Demands that the Russian Federation immediately and unconditionally reverse the decision related to the status of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine;

7. Calls upon the Russian Federation to abide by the principles set forth in the Charter and the Declaration on Friendly Relations; 1

8. Calls upon the parties to abide by the Minsk agreements and to work constructively in relevant international frameworks, including in the Normandy format and Trilateral Contact Group, towards their full implementation;

9. Demands all parties to allow safe and unfettered passage to destinations outside of Ukraine and to facilitate the rapid, safe and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance for those in need in Ukraine, to protect civilians, including humanitarian personnel and persons in vulnerable situations, including women, older persons, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, migrants and children, and to respect human rights;

10. Deplores the involvement of Belarus in this unlawful use of force against Ukraine, and calls upon it to abide by its international obligations;

11. Condemns all violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights, and calls upon all parties to respect strictly the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocol I thereto of 1977, 3 as applicable, and to respect international human rights law, and in this regard further demands that all parties ensure respect for and the protection of all medical personnel and humanitarian personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties, their means of transport and equipment, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities;

12. Demands that all parties fully comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law to spare the civilian population, and civilian objects, refraining from attacking, destroying, removing or rendering useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, and respecting and protecting humanitarian personnel and consignments used for humanitarian relief operations;

13. Requests the Emergency Relief Coordinator to provide, 30 days after the adoption of the present resolution, a report on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine and on the humanitarian response;

14. Urges the immediate peaceful resolution of the conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine through political dialogue, negotiations, mediation and other peaceful means;

15. Welcomes and urges the continued efforts by the Secretary-General, Member States, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other international and regional organizations to support the de-escalation of the current situation, as well as the efforts of the United Nations, including of the United Nations Crisis Coordinator for Ukraine, and humanitarian organizations to respond to the humanitarian and refugee crisis that the aggression by the Russian Federation has created;

16. Decides to adjourn the eleventh emergency special session of the General Assembly temporarily and to authorize the President of the General Assembly to resume its meetings upon request from Member States.

Japanese carmakers, airlines cut Russia ties amid war in Ukraine

East Asian country has taken a stronger stand against Moscow than other counties in the region.

Top Japanese carmakers have halted exports to Russia and Japanese airlines suspended flights to Europe, as more firms in the Asian country upend operations in response to the war in Ukraine .

Toyota, the world’s top-selling carmaker, said on Thursday it would halt exports to Russia and production in the country as Western-led sanctions against Moscow scrambled logistics and severed supply chains.

The move comes after local rivals Honda and Mazda announced a halt of exports to Russia, citing similar difficulties in procuring parts and logistical hurdles.

Mitsubishi said it may suspend production and sales in Russia, while Nissan said it will continue operations in the country while monitoring the situation there.

“Toyota is watching the ongoing developments in Ukraine with great concern for the safety of people of Ukraine and hopes for a safe return to peace as soon as possible,” the company said in a statement.

Toyota is Russia’s top Japanese brand, producing about 80,000 vehicles at its St. Petersburg plant, which employs 2,000 staff.

Meanwhile, Japan Airlines and ANA Holdings said they would cancel all flights to and from Europe on Thursday, citing safety concerns amid heavy fighting in Ukraine.

The airlines, which normally use Russian airspace for their Europe flights, join a growing number of carriers that have cancelled or rerouted flights between Europe and northern Asia in the wake of the crisis.

ANA Cargo’s website said the suspension of flights was due to the “high possibility of its operations not being able to overfly Russia due to the current Ukraine situation.”

Brands distancing themselves from Russia

Japanese airlines have not been banned from Russian airspace, unlike carriers from Canada and the European Union, which Moscow has barred in retaliation for flight bans against it. The United States has also banned Russian flights from its skies.

While dozens of Western brands, including Apple, Amazon, H&M and Nike have taken steps to distance themselves from Russia like halting sales, major firms in Asia have been largely muted in the crisis.

Japan, a close US ally, has launched the strongest response against Moscow among governments in the region, most of which have declined to assign blame for the crisis .

Besides Japan, only South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan have announced measures against Moscow.

Tokyo has announced a raft of sanctions since Russian President Vladimir Putin last week ordered a full-scale military assault against Ukraine, including measures targeting Russia’s central bank and the country’s access to the SWIFT international payments system.

Russia has continued what it calls a “special operation” in Ukraine despite condemnation by the United Nations in a historic vote and dozens of countries referring Moscow to be investigated for potential war crimes.

UAE says Ukrainians eligible for visas on arrival, in apparent about-face

The United Arab Emirates says Ukrainian nationals are eligible for visas on arrival in the Gulf Arab state, in an apparent reversal of a decision to suspend visa waivers to them amid war in their country.

Kyiv’s embassy in the UAE had previously said that Emirati authorities had temporarily suspended the waivers as of Tuesday.

“Concerning reports on the issuance of advance visas to Ukrainian nationals to enter the UAE, HE Faisal Lutfi, Assistant Undersecretary for Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, has announced that Ukrainian nationals continue to be eligible for visa on arrival to the UAE,” the Emirati foreign ministry said in a statement.

Russia-Ukraine live news: 1m refugees flee war, ICC opens probe

Kherson becomes the first major urban centre to fall in Ukraine as fighting enters a second week and one million people flee war.

  • UN General Assembly demands Russia stop its offensive in Ukraine, voting 141 to 5, with 35 abstentions.
  • Russia says its troops have taken Kherson as it continues to bombard Kyiv and Kharkiv.
  • Pentagon says Russian convoy north of Kyiv remains stalled due to regrouping and logistical challenges.
  • UN says 227 civilians have been killed and 525 wounded in Ukraine. More than one million people have fled in a week.
  • Russia says second round of talks with Ukraine will take place in Belarus on Thursday.

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