Thursday Sep 29, 2022
Thursday Sep 29, 2022

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy hosts talks with UN chief, Turkey leader

2022 Aug 18, 19:03,
(AP Photo)

As a potential power broker, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will use his first visit to Ukraine since the war started nearly six months ago to seek ways to expand the export of grain from Europe’s breadbasket to the world’s needy. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres will use his visit to focus on containing the volatile situation at a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is hosting both men Thursday far away from the front lines, in the western city of Lviv, where diplomatic efforts to help end the war will also be on the agenda.

Meanwhile, the screams of incoming shells still overpowered the whispers of diplomacy. At least 11 people were killed and 40 wounded in a series of massive Russian missile strikes on Ukraine’s Kharkiv region on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

The late Wednesday attack on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, killed at least seven people, wounded 20 others and damaged residential buildings and civilian infrastructure, authorities said.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the three leaders will also discuss the situation at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine — which is Europe’s largest nuclear plant. Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling the complex.

In his nightly video address Wednesday, Zelensky reaffirmed his demand for the Russian military to leave the plant, emphasizing that “only absolute transparency and control of the situation” by, among others, the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, could guarantee a return to nuclear safety.

Russia played up the threats the plant posed in wartime. Lt. Gen. Igor Kirillov, the commander of the Russian military’s radiological, chemical and biological protection forces, charged that the Ukrainian troops were planning to strike the plant again Friday while Guterres will still be visiting Ukraine in order to accuse Russia of nuclear terrorism. Ukraine has steadfastly denied that it’s targeting the plant.

Kirillov said an emergency at the plant could see “a discharge of radioactive substances into the atmosphere and spreading them to hundreds of kilometers away ... An emergency of this kind will cause massive migration and will have more catastrophic consequences than the looming gas energy crisis in Europe.”

With such stakes, the role of a go-between like Erdogan could become ever more important.

Erdogan, whose nation is a member of NATO, which backs Ukraine in the war, also oversees a wobbly economy that has been increasingly reliant on Russia for trade. That backdrop turns Thursday’s meetings in Lviv into a walk on a diplomatic tightrope. Earlier this month, the Turkish leader met on the same issues with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Erdogan is set to have a one-hour meeting with Zelenskyy before both are joined by Guterres.

Last month, Turkey and the U.N. helped broker an agreement clearing the way for Ukraine to export 22 million tons of corn and other grain stuck in its Black Sea ports since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. A separate memorandum between Russia and the U.N. aimed to clear roadblocks to shipments of Russian food and fertilizer to world markets.


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