UN nuclear boss seeks breakthrough to protect Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia plant

UN nuclear boss seeks breakthrough to protect Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia plant

By Mykhailo Moskalenko and Oleksii Orlov

DNIPRO, Ukraine (Reuters) - The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday his attempt to broker a deal to protect Ukraine's Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant was still alive, and that he was adjusting the proposals to seek a breakthrough.

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, spoke to Reuters a day before he is expected to travel to Europe's largest nuclear power station in the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia region of southeastern Ukraine.

Grossi has been pushing for a safety zone to be created at the plant to prevent a possible nuclear disaster as Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling the site of the power station since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.

"We are making some adjustments on the proposals that we are putting on the table," Grossi said in an interview in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro.

"I am confident that it might be possible to establish some form of protection, perhaps not emphasising so much the idea of a zone, but on the protection itself: what people should do, or shouldn't do to protect (the plant) instead of having a territorial concept."

The contours of the proposed deal have not been made public.

Diplomats say Grossi's latest proposal no longer includes a defined radius around the plant to mark the zone.

Ukraine does not want a deal that will in effect recognise or allow a Russian military presence at the plant. Other elements of Grossi's plan include no firing at or from the plant, and the removal of heavy weapons.

"I am not giving up in any way. I think on the contrary we need to multiply our efforts, we need to continue," Grossi said.

He said there had been increasing military activity in the region without giving details.

"VERY DANGEROUS" SITUATION

Grossi, who met President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday, described the situation at the plant as "very dangerous" and very unstable. It has lost its external power supply six times since Russia's invasion, forcing emergency diesel generators to kick in to cool its reactors.

Grossi said the water level in a nearby reservoir controlled by Russian forces was another potential danger. Water supplied by the reservoir is used to cool the reactors.

"If the reservoir level goes down beyond a certain level, then you don't have water to cool down the reactors, and we have seen especially in January that the levels of the water were going down significantly. They recovered somehow in the past few weeks," he said.

The IAEA has had its own monitors stationed at the Zaporizhzhia plant since last year. Grossi blamed a recent delay in their rotation on a row between Russia and Ukraine over the route they were supposed to take.

"We had an agreed route. All of a sudden that route was not agreed anymore... It took an awful lot of time to come to an agreement," he said.

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2023-03-28 22:32:00     Come from : Reuters

Russian whose daughter drew anti-war picture gets two years' jail but flees

Russian whose daughter drew anti-war picture gets two years' jail but flees

By Mark Trevelyan

(Reuters) -A Russian who was investigated by police after his daughter drew an anti-war picture at school was sentenced on Tuesday to two years in a penal colony on charges of discrediting the armed forces.

But the whereabouts of the convicted man, Alexei Moskalyov, were unclear. The court said in an official posting on VKontakte, similar to Facebook (NASDAQ:META), that he had fled from house arrest.

Moskalyov has been separated from his 13-year-old daughter Masha since he was placed under house arrest at the start of this month and she was moved to a children's home in their hometown of Yefremov, south of Moscow.

The case has provoked an outcry among Russian human rights activists and sparked an online campaign to reunite father and daughter.

Moskalyov's lawyer Vladimir Biliyenko said he had not seen his client since Monday and did not know whether Moskalyov had fled, as he had only the spokesperson's statement to go by.

"At the moment, to be honest, I'm in a state of shock," he told Reuters.

He said the defence would appeal against the verdict and Masha would remain in the children's home for the time being.

Moskalyov was convicted over comments he himself had posted online about the war in Ukraine. But the investigation started after Masha, then 12, drew a picture last April showing Russian missiles raining down on a Ukrainian mother and child, prompting the head of her school to call the police.

The drawing featured a Ukrainian flag with the words "Glory to Ukraine" and a Russian tricolour with the slogan "No to war".

Police began examining Moskalyov's social media activity and he was initially fined 35,000 roubles ($460) for comments critical of the Russian army. In December, investigators opened another case against him on suspicion of discrediting the armed forces, this time based on a social media post in June.

The banned Russian human rights group Memorial said it considered Moskalyov to be a political prisoner.

Biliyenko visited Masha on Tuesday in the children's home, officially named "Social Rehabilitation Centre For Minors Number 5", and came away with drawings she had made for her father. He was also allowed to photograph a letter she had written him that read "Dad, you are my hero".

Shortly after invading Ukraine last year, Russia outlawed the act of discrediting the armed forces and provided for jail sentences of several years.

($1 = 76.5500 roubles)

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2023-03-28 22:17:00     Come from : Reuters

Kamala Harris exhorts Africans to innovate, empower women in Ghana speech

Kamala Harris exhorts Africans to innovate, empower women in Ghana speech

By Cooper Inveen

ACCRA (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris challenged Africans to step up innovation and the empowerment of women in order to play their full part in the future of the world, as she delivered a speech to thousands of young Ghanaians on Tuesday in Accra.

Her visit to Ghana, the first stop on an African tour that will also take her to Tanzania and Zambia, is part of a charm offensive by Washington as it seeks to counter-balance the growing influence of China and Russia on the continent.

Standing in front of Black Star Gate, a monument built on the site where Ghana declared independence from Britain in 1957, Harris started by noting that by the middle of the century, one in four people in the world will be African.

"That of course means what happens on this continent impacts the entire world," she said.

Citing examples such as the pioneering of mobile phone payments in Kenya or healthcare deliveries by drone in Rwanda before such services existed in the United States, Harris said innovation would be key to Africa's future success.

"We must invest in the African ingenuity and creativity which will unlock incredible economic growth and opportunities, not only for the people of the 54 countries that make up this diverse continent, but for the American people and people around the world," she said.

Turning to the theme of women's empowerment, Harris underlined deep gender disparities in Africa, saying the United States would work alongside African partners to close those gaps.

"On the continent of Africa we know women grow a majority of the food, yet they are less likely to own the land they farm. They represent a majority of frontline healthcare workers, but face disparities in health outcomes," she said.

"Women are entrepreneurs, yet have limited access to capital and markets. They are peacemakers and bridge builders, yet continue to be under-represented at the table where decisions are made."

To cheers, she said that the economic empowerment of women would benefit not only themselves but also their children, families, communities and the entire economy.

The two other areas where Harris said the United States would work with African partners to make progress were digital inclusion and good governance and democracy.

She described the latter as "a work in progress, including in my own country", an apparent allusion to the turbulence seen in U.S. politics and elections in recent years.

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2023-03-28 21:07:00     Come from : Reuters

Freed 'Hotel Rwanda' hero Rusesabagina leaves Kigali, reaches Qatar

Freed 'Hotel Rwanda' hero Rusesabagina leaves Kigali, reaches Qatar

By Imad Creidi and Philbert Girinema

DOHA/KIGALI (Reuters) -Paul Rusesabagina, who was portrayed as a hero in the film "Hotel Rwanda" about the 1994 genocide, has arrived in Qatar after being released from prison in Rwanda last week, Rwanda's government spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Rusesabagina, a U.S. permanent resident, was sentenced in September 2021 to 25 years over his ties to a group opposed to Rwandan President Paul Kagame that has an armed wing.

He was released on Friday after his sentence was commuted following months of negotiations between Washington and Kigali.

Washington's historically close ties with Rwanda have been strained by Rusesabagina's detention and by U.S. allegations, denied by Kigali, that Rwanda has sent troops into neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and supports rebels there.

Rwanda has said that Rusesabagina's release is the result of a shared desire to reset the U.S.-Rwanda relationship.

The 68-year-old former hotelier landed in Doha on Monday, Rwanda's government spokesperson Yolande Makolo told Reuters.

From Doha, he will return to the United States, U.S. officials have said.

"Hotel Rwanda" portrays Rusesabagina's success in saving more than 1,000 people during the genocide in 1994 by sheltering them in the besieged hotel that he managed in Kigali.

During his trial Rusesabagina acknowledged having a leadership role in an opposition group but denied responsibility for attacks carried out in Rwanda by its armed wing.

The trial judges said the two wings of the group were indistinguishable.

In a letter to Kagame earlier this month, Rusesabagina wrote that if he was pardoned and freed, he would abandon politics and spend the rest of his days in the United States "in quiet reflection".

Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front took power after capturing the capital Kigali in 1994, ending the genocide during which an ethnic Hutu-led government and militias had killed 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus over 100 days.

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2023-03-28 18:16:00     Come from : Reuters