UN agency inspecting Russia’s unfounded ‘dirty bomb’ claim

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Experts from the United Nations’ nuclear power agency inspected two sites in Ukraine on Tuesday that Russia identified in unfounded claims that Ukrainian authorities planned to set off radioactive “dirty bombs” in their own invaded country.

Russian strikes targeting eight regions of southeastern Ukraine killed at least four civilians and wounded four others in 24 hours, the Ukrainian president’s office said. Tens of thousands of people faced power blackouts and water shortages following Russian shelling of energy infrastructure in 10 regions on Monday.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi said the inspections for evidence of a so-called dirty bomb, requested by Kyiv in the wake of the unsubstantiated Russian allegations, would be completed soon.

In the wake of battlefield setbacks for Russia in its war in Ukraine, top Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, made unsubstantiated accusations that Ukraine was manufacturing such an explosive device, which scatters radioactive waste. The Russians, without providing evidence, alleged the Ukrainians planned to make the purported bomb look like Russia’s doing.

Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, alleged in a letter to Security Council members last week that Ukraine’s nuclear research facility and mining company “received direct orders from (President Volodymyr) Zelenskyy’s regime to develop such a dirty bomb.”

Western nations have called Moscow’s repeated claim “transparently false.” Ukrainian authorities dismissed it as an attempt to distract attention from Moscow’s own alleged plans to detonate a dirty bomb as a way to justify a further escalation of hostilities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said the investigated sites “are under IAEA safeguards and have been visited regularly by IAEA inspectors,” whose mission is detecting undeclared nuclear activities and materials related to the development of dirty bombs.

“The IAEA inspected one of the two locations a month ago and no undeclared nuclear activities or materials were found there,” the agency said in a statement Monday.

The U.N.’s atomic energy watchdog also has had on-site monitors at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Fighting around near Europe’s largest nuclear power station has created worries of a possibly catastrophic leak there.

The Ukrainian president’s office said Tuesday that cities and towns around the plant experienced more heavy shelling between Monday and Tuesday. In Nikopol, a city which faces the plant from across the wide Dnieper River, over a dozen apartment buildings, a kindergarten, and various private businesses were damaged, the office said.

Russian shelling hit 14 towns and villages in the eastern Donetsk region Monday and into Tuesday, destroying sections of railway track, damaging a power line and taking down mobile communications in some areas. A missile also struck the city of Kramatorsk, which hosts the Ukrainian army’s headquarters.

The shelling killed three civilians and wounded three others, the region’s governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said. Donetsk is one of four regions illegally annexed by Moscow last month, and continues to see fierce clashes as Russian forces press their grinding attack on the cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka.

Another woman was killed after Russian rockets slammed into apartment buildings and a school in the southern city of Mykolayiv, its mayor reported Tuesday.

Ukraine was still grappling Tuesday with the consequences of Mondays’ massive barrage of Russian strikes, which disrupted power and water supplies in multiple Ukrainian cities and villages.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said authorities restored electricity and running water in the capital’s residential buildings but that rolling power outages would continue in the city because of significant power shortages.

Kyiv region Gov. Oleksiy Kuleba said Tuesday that 20,000 apartments remained without power.

“Russia has opened an energy front, and is using energy to blackmail the civilian population, provoking hunger and cold in Ukraine,” Kuleba said on Ukrainian TV.

Ukraine’s state energy company, Ukrenergo, said in a statement Tuesday that seven regions would experience rolling blackouts “to reduce the load on the (energy) grid, maintain a stable balance within the system and avoid repeated failures.”

In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, subway service was suspended again on Tuesday, according to the subway’s Telegram page. No reason for the suspension was given.

In the occupied Kherson region, Russian-installed authorities sought to evacuate up to 70,000 more people living within 15 kilometers (9 miles) of the Dnieper River in anticipation of a Ukrainian counteroffensive pushing deeper into the region. The effort was already underway on Tuesday morning, according to the Kremlin-appointed governor of the region Vladimir Saldo.

In Russia, the regular fall draft got underway Tuesday with a total of 120,000 men expected to be conscripted within the next two months. Russian military officials have assured that conscripts will not be sent to fight in Ukraine, including to the annexed regions.

This year’s fall draft was scheduled to start in October, but was delayed by one month because of the partial mobilization of 300,000 men, which was declared completed on Monday. Kremlin critics have warned that the call-up could resume after the fall draft is over and military enlistment offices are freed up from processing conscripts.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that of the 300,000 men drafted in the partial call-up announced by Putin on Sept. 21, 87,000 were deployed to Ukraine. Some 3,000 military instructors with combat experience acquired this year in Ukraine are involved in training draftees, Shoigu said.

Activists and reports by Russian media and The Associated Press said many of the mobilized reservists were inexperienced, were told to procure basic items such as medical kits and flak jackets themselves, and did not receive training before they were sent off to fight. Some were killed within days of being called up.

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