Ukraine: Millions flee as tensions rise over nuclear power plant
By Stefan J. Bos
The world faced more nuclear insecurity on Tuesday, with Russia effectively suspending the 2010 New Start treaty. Under the deal signed over a decade ago, Russian and U.S. inspectors could visit each other's nuclear weapons sites.
Mutual inspections have been suspended as a health precaution since the start of the Covid pandemic. But Moscow now says it is unwilling to restart them, citing Western sanctions, in what critics view as a fresh blow to arms control.
Russia also helped launch a satellite for Iran, which is being accused by several countries of developing a nuclear weapons program.
The heightened tension came after Ukraine and Russia accused each other of shelling and damaging Europe's largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine's south-eastern city Zaporizhzhia.
These attacks have triggered international warnings of a potential atomic disaster. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky lashed out at advocacy group Amnesty International, which accused Ukrainian forces of setting up bases among civilians, including hospitals and schools. "Even though the Russian shelling of the nuclear power plant is one of the most dangerous crimes against Ukrainians and all Europeans, against the right to life of every human being, for some reason, there is still no report or even a simple message from Amnesty International," he said.
"It is a very eloquent silence that, once more, indicates the manipulative selectivity of this organization." the president added.
But his words have done little to ease tensions there and elsewhere in Ukraine. On Tuesday, heavy fighting was reported in frontline towns near the eastern city of Donetsk. Kyiv said Russian troops were launching waves of attacks.
The self-proclaimed leader of the Russia-backed self-established Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin, confirmed the fighting on the outskirts of Bakhmut and Soledar. He also said his republic negotiated with North Korea to help rebuild the occupied territory.
Pushilin also announced the establishment of a tribunal to try alleged Ukrainian war criminals" with the first to trial be held in occupied Mariupol.
Though Russia gained ground, the U.S. claims the offensive comes at a massive cost, with between 70,000 and 80,000 dead or injured Russian soldiers.
Despite the clashes, two other grain-carrying ships sailed from Ukraine's Chornomorsk port on Tuesday as part of a deal with Russia to unblock Ukrainian sea exports.
While that brought hope to hungry people, millions continue to flee Ukraine. The United Nations refugee said more than 10.5 million people crossed the borders from Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24.