Russia threatens to shut down Ukranian nuclear power station

Russia warned of a man-made disaster at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, which it captured in March, and threatened to shut it down if shelling continued. That would risk “a radiation disaster at the largest nuclear power plant in Europe”, said Energoatom, a Ukrainian nuclear company. António Guterres, the UN’s secretary-general, likened it to “suicide”. On Thursday Russia’s foreign ministry rejected international calls to demilitarise the surrounding area.

I have been following this war with keen interest. It seems that Russia will use any ploy to scare the rest of the world and worse might even get those Chernobyl plant operators to conduct a few tests as well… :astonished:

Well, I’m not sure why a radiation disaster would follow. If you shut it down (drop the rods), then of course it still needs to run the water pumps for a while to do away with the residual heat, but… an emergency shutdown takes 5 seconds. A controlled shutdown takes 10 hours. Unless of course the Russians are deliberately hiding behind a nuclear plant… which I don’t put past them.

At least a Chernobyl-like disaster is not on the cards. These are water-moderated reactors with a proper containment enclosure. It has a missile shield, aircraft crash protection, a core catcher…

The Ukranian engineers are still running the plant, under the control of Rosatom (Russian) company.

They are … whilst shelling the shiite out of everything else round the plant, no one can touch them.

As have I.

Chinese troops will travel to Russia to take part in joint military exercises led by the host and including India, Belarus, Mongolia, Tajikistan and other countries, China’s defence ministry said on Wednesday.

And then we have:
South Korea calls for talks as North Korea test-fires missiles.
Donetsk self-proclaimed leader pledges bilateral cooperation with North Korea.
China carries out more drills near Taiwan.

As long as the “west” keeps at “arm’s length” of this war, the despots in other contested countries are making more and bolder moves siding with Russia.

And if the “west” made/makes any active moves to really end this war, then the drama will really start.

Then we hear this week: Russia threatens to bomb London with cruise missiles …
Ukraine is using British weaponry to successfully destroy bridges that the Russian army is using.

Interesting to note that with Ukraine destroying more and more military bases, munition depots, and bridges, crippling the Russian supply chain surgically, Donetsk Russian fleeing back to Russia for safety, that there are no widely reported Russian civilian casualties to date.

And less we forget …

How embarrassing!
SA has fought on the side that Putin has a problem with for hundreds of years. Is there a way sane South Africans can apologise to our former allies?
I 'm aware that life beyond the ANC isn’t likely to be any better what with the coalitions that will replace them but perhaps we won’t have to suffer these excruciating episodes?

Heads up from the Economist:
Few countries understand the dangers of a nuclear accident as keenly as Ukraine. On April 26th 1986 reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant went out of control during a test. This triggered a series of explosions and the melting of the reactor core. Now, as shelling intensifies around Europe’s largest nuclear plant, in Zaporizhia province in south-eastern Ukraine, the country is calculating the risks of another disaster. The Russian armed forces, which have occupied the plant, claim Ukraine is planning to bomb it and blame Moscow. On August 19th, Russia’s security chief, Nikolai Patrushev, said the responsibility for any future catastrophe would lie squarely with “Washington, London and their accomplices”. Is there anything in such alarming rhetoric?

Russia has concentrated military equipment and vehicles in the Zaporizhia power station since capturing it in fierce fighting in early March. Witnesses say it is now using the station as cover to fire rockets on Ukrainian positions in Nikopol and Marhanets, two cities on the opposite shore of the Dnipro river. Shells are landing in the territory of the plant itself, but away from critical infrastructure. Russia blames Ukraine for the incoming fire. Pyotr Kotin, the head of Enerhoatom, the Ukrainian state nuclear operator, says the shells are in fact coming from Russian-controlled positions near the plant. He also claims the invading army has stationed trucks with explosives near two of the station’s five reactors.

The fog of propaganda from both sides makes it unclear how dangerous a moment this is. The 10,000 or so workers who remain at the plant are trained for all kinds of situations, from earthquakes to a commercial plane crashing at the plant. Zaporizhia’s safety-first design, which includes a containment dome and water cooling systems, should protect it against a Chernobyl-style meltdown. But the plant was not designed to be used as a military base in an active war zone, and there are no protocols for the exhausted staff to follow in the case of sustained artillery strikes. Russian commanders have already signalled their intention to shut down the reactors—supposedly as a precaution against Ukrainian shelling.

Mr Kotin, who used to be in charge of the plant, says that would actually increase the risks by forcing the station to rely on backup power for cooling. Two of four power lines into and out of it have already been destroyed; relying on diesel generators would be risky. If they are taken out by shelling, the plant is about 90 minutes away from releasing radioactive emissions, he says. “You know these generals know nothing about nuclear energy.” The Ukrainian atomic chief believes the Kremlin is engineering a crisis for the benefit of those back home, to justify switching the power station from the Ukrainian to the Russian grid. Workers at the plant have already been given instructions to that effect, he says. Something is afoot: all but the most critical employees were told not to come in on August 19th.

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They have no choice. The west, aka NATO, does not want to inflame the situation, and their own rules makes it impossible to get involved in Ukraine. They are however doing EVERYTHING short of actually getting involved by supplying the Ukranians with weapons and training.

Sweden and Finland however joined NATO. Which means Russia essentially can’t touch anyone to the west without the full force of “the West” descending on it.

I’ve had a particular fascination with WW2 for a while now. So I tend to look at the similarities between Germany back in the 1930s, and what Russia is doing now. Similar to that time, Germany broke the rules of the treaty of Versailles, and there was little resistance against it (in fact, some would point to Chamberlain and say that the opposite even happened). Similarly, Russia walked into Crimea in 2014, and there was little resistance. Only when Germany marched into Poland (on the 1st of September, 1939) did “the west” declare war, and probably only because they had promised Poland protection.

In any case, Russia has killed itself economically for at least a decade to come. Even if they win this war, it’s the end of the line for them, for a really long time. At the moment it seems Ukraine is slowly winning, but at a great great cost in lives (up to 200 soldiers a day, apparently even more on the Russian side). But winter is coming (literally). It seems Russia planned this “operation” to coincide with spring (March 2022), and they thought it was going to be over. It’s an open question how things will be going by the end of the year.

I have the same views.

Where this thing is going, I have no idea. Just know it is not a “storm in a teacup”.

There are most probably going to be repercussions at one time or another, I just hope Putin is stopped by Russians before he gets the idea to take on a NATO country.

That he has lost the plot, losing more and more face and international credibility, except from despot countries like i.e. now SA, is not good for global stability.

There are so many factors in this ‘special operation’ in Ukraine. Trying to get one’s head around the most significant ones is a challenge.
One of them is that Putin is ill and besides his age has a limited time left to leave his legacy as a great Russian dictator.
Also Russia isn’t a democracy so they can’t vote the man out so how does change come about??
I’m not keen on revolutions especially the Russian kind. (I still have doubts about the French one)
This is not an international crisis however. Russia as a superpower is iets van die verlede. So this war is a local (European) affair. The country that runs Europe is Germany and it needs to step up and deal with this crisis but as you know this is a sensitive topic given the history of an armed Germany. (Merkyl was fairly pro Russia so and that clearly hasn’t worked so it’s perfect timing that she has departed with no ill feeling and left it to those that have succeeded her)

The ill part, has been heavily debated, so far it seems not true.

Change, there seems to be more and more information leaking into Russia which most hope will make the populace stand up against Putin. The latest bombing, Ukraine hitting more and more precise Russian targets, is making a small difference so far.

It not being an international crisis … the parts that are affecting the entire world, is the grain and other exports from Ukraine now being stopped, slowly getting maybe started, and the big one, the energy crisis in Europe, it affects international trade and moves. SA is exporting coal now to Germany.

So the jumping on the scarce resources (fertilizer affecting SA farmers substantially) is affecting the global markets to some degree. Notwithstanding the fringe moves made by China, N/Korea whilst Putin is left untouched, Biden (Democrats) not really getting " into it", Pelosi visiting S/Korea, upsetting China severely etc.

Russia, also an exporter having made billions selling to Europe, big corps selling in Russia now having pulled out … global trade has been affected.

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Yeah, I love how they called it The age of reason/enlightenment, but it culminated in the chopping off of heads. Reason can be quite bloody at times.

(Or as one man once put it. Science tells me that if I stab you with this knife you will die. Science cannot tell me that it is wrong to do that. Humanity, for whatever reason, has too often trusted science only to find out that reason was never the problem…).


This is the likely prognosis for what happens to Russia. (and maybe there are some members out there that will recall what it was like for SA…)
When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, “Oleg”, a senior executive at a Russian airline, braced for turbulence. It did not take long to arrive. Within days Western countries had barred his firm’s aircraft from entering their airspace. They also prohibited exports of plane parts and semiconductors to Russia: a problem, since three-quarters of the country’s commercial fleet comes from America, Europe or Canada and parts are needed for repairs. Many analysts predicted the industry would crash before the summer. In fact, airlines have managed to rotate their planes to keep viable routes open. But they will not be able to defy gravity for ever. Some are starting to cannibalise grounded aircraft for parts. Oleg expects many planes to be unsafe to fly within a year or two.

The delayed but dangerous descent of Russian aviation illustrates the insidious power of Western sanctions. Since February America and its allies have unleashed an unprecedented arsenal to try to squash Russia’s economy, the world’s 11th largest, hoping to stall the war effort, prod people and plutocrats to protest and deter other foes (namely China) from similar escapades. Some sanctions, such as freezing the assets of Kremlin cronies, are old tactics on a new scale. Those meant to cut Russia from the global financial system—the exclusion of commercial banks from swift, a messaging network, and the immobilisation of $300bn in central-bank reserves—are novel bazookas. A third type, export bans, had previously targeted single firms, not an entire country.

Yet wave after wave of penalties—the EU passed its seventh package in July—have not razed Fortress Russia. Meanwhile, as natural-gas prices rocket, the sanctions’ political costs are mounting. So is the West losing the economic war? Not quite. As with the aviation industry, it will take time for the damage to materialise. Russia, a country with low external debt and heaps of foreign-exchange reserves, was always unlikely to succumb to a financial heart attack. Even when sanctions are most successful, such as when they forced Libya to abandon weapons of mass destruction in 2003, past regimes have taken years to work. To assess how effective the West’s arsenal is proving, The Economist has ranked a trio of measures—the freezing of oligarch assets, financial sanctions and trade restrictions—on a scale from pretty useless to truly hurtful. Our analysis suggests that they will, in time, start to seriously impair Russia’s economy.

The least effective sanctions are those that have won the most publicity: the blacklisting of apparatchiks deemed close to the Kremlin. World-Check, a data firm, reckons that 1,455 members of Russia’s kleptocratic elite are now unable to travel to some or all Western countries, or to access their possessions there, or both. The frozen assets comprise bank deposits and market securities, held in escrow accounts at Western banks. They also include must-have tycoon toys such as country cottages, football clubs, jewellery and yachts, seized by livestreamed crews of policemen at rivieras around the planet.

Targeting oligarchs is an attractive approach for governments that need to be seen to be doing something. It also gives Russia few direct means of retaliation. Western moguls own little there; many American and European firms have already written off their Russian investments. Accordingly, Western enforcers are seeking greater powers to go after the Fabergé eggs. America’s Department of Justice wants to use anti-mafia laws to liquidate the assets seized and give the proceeds to Ukraine. The EU is proposing to make the violation of sanctions a crime, which would toughen up enforcement across the bloc.

Yet most of the assets targeted by the West end up slipping through the net. Anders Aslund, a former adviser to the Russian and Ukrainian governments, reckons that just $50bn, out of $400bn of offshore assets that are blocked on paper, has so far been frozen. Oligarchs have hidden some of their offshore treasures behind as many as 30 layers of shell companies incorporated in the Cayman Islands, Jersey and other havens, with disclosure documents redacted in multiple languages. Others keep a grip on assets they ostensibly no longer control by transferring ownership to kin or placing puppets on the board.

Missing the boat

Meanwhile, the enforcement of these sanctions is left to the private custodians of said assets, from Swiss wealth managers to marinas in St Tropez, which often lack the means or inclination to probe all that deeply. Big banks often refuse to move funds on behalf of suspicious entities if they are found to be at least 25% controlled by designated Russians (the legal threshold is 50%). Yet smaller fintech and crypto firms are less diligent; companies supposed to monitor physical assets, such as harbour managers, are generally clueless. A similar discrepancy exists between jurisdictions. America recently scolded Switzerland and the uae, where dozens of Russian-owned private jets are grounded in the desert, for not doing enough to uncover sanction-evaders.

It is not clear that freezing such assets does much to hobble Russia’s economy anyway. Most oligarchs hold little political influence. A former Ukrainian energy boss reckons that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, is quite happy to see them taken down a notch. Meanwhile, efforts to confiscate the assets and send the proceeds to Ukraine have gone nowhere.

Financial measures, the second type of sanctions, target the nerve centres of the Russian economy: commercial lenders and the central bank. The former have faced a sliding scale of prohibitions since the invasion, depending on their size and proximity to the Kremlin. Capital-market sanctions, the softest kind, bar Western investors from buying or selling bonds or shares issued by 19 Russian banks. Ten lenders, including the two biggest by assets, have been kicked out of swift, which more than 11,000 banks use globally for cross-border payments. Twenty-six can no longer facilitate international transfers in American dollars, after Uncle Sam banned its own banks from offering “correspondent-banking” services to them.

Such measures have bite. Research by Stefan Goldbach and colleagues at the Bundesbank shows that, between February 1st and April 30th, the swift suspensions caused a near-total collapse of money transfers between the excluded Russian banks and the German branch of Target 2, the system for clearing payments between euro-zone banks. Alternatives to swift, such as telex, are clunky and slow. Bans on correspondent banking are powerful, too. Not only is the dollar used directly to settle about 40% of cross-border trade, but it also serves as a staging post in many transactions involving second-tier currencies. Now Russia must sometimes resort to barter, a cumbersome and risky option.

Yet financial sanctions have failed to choke off most payments. Banks that process Europe’s voluminous purchases of Russian fuel, notably Gazprombank, are still allowed to use swift. Much of the rest is being channelled, legally, through smaller banks that remain connected to the network. Doing without dollars is trickier. India, which has been guzzling Russian oil since February, is still looking for a viable way to pay for it in rupees. But a jump in payment volumes going through cips, China’s homegrown swift, from May to July suggests China is having more luck. Trading volumes in the yuan-rouble pair on the Moscow exchange have reached records of late.

Freezing the reserves held by the Central Bank of Russia (cbr) in the West, equal to about half of its $600bn-worth total stash, has had similarly mixed results. Within hours of the measure being announced, the rouble’s value against the greenback, which the central bank could no longer defend, cratered by more than 30% (see chart). As the cbr cranked up interest rates to halt the fall, from 9.5% to 20%, domestic credit tightened, hurting demand and pushing Russia into recession. In June the sanction also forced Russia into its first major foreign-debt default for more than a century after it prevented the central bank from processing $100m in payments due to bondholders.

Yet it took just a few weeks for the rouble to rebound, allowing the cbr to slash rates fast, to 8% on July 25th. The official exchange rate does not reflect the true appetite for the currency: capital controls, first imposed in the wake of the cbr freeze, remain largely in place. But it still points to a flaw in the West’s original plan. While the cbr’s foreign stash of dollars and euros remains off-limits, Russia earns fresh hard currency every day, thanks to its giant oil-and-gas exports. This means it does not need to borrow, making its default largely inconsequential.

Which leaves trade restrictions, another two-pronged measure. Actions to curb Russia’s oil-export revenues, which last year contributed 36% of its federal budget, have received more attention than they deserve. America no longer imports any Russian oil, but it bought little in the first place. The EU has pledged to stop buying seaborne crude oil from Russia in December, and refined petroleum in February. It is already buying a little less: a combined 2.4m barrels per day (bpd) in July, against 2.9m before the war. Most of those barrels, however, are being picked up by India and China, albeit at a discount of around $25 relative to the price of Brent crude, the global benchmark currently at $97. No embargo is planned on Russian gas, which is harder to replace and brings in less than 10% of the Kremlin’s revenue.

Whether Russia is earning less now than it would without sanctions is debatable. Rystad Energy, a consultancy, reckons it will lose $85bn in oil-and-gas tax income this year, out of a potential bounty of $295bn, because of the discount. Then again, it is partly the threat of a Western embargo that has kept global oil prices at such high levels. Capital Economics, another consultancy, estimates that Russia has sold its oil at an average price of $85 per barrel since February, higher than 90% of the time since 2014. And contrary to early expectations, Russia is continuing to export nearly as much petroleum as it has in recent years.

Might that change when the EU’s import ban comes into force in the next few months? Finding new buyers to mop up the 2.4m bpd shunned by the bloc will be difficult. Moreover, from December 31st EU and British insurers, which dominate the oil-shipping market, will be barred from serving tankers carrying Russian cargo. That could prove a big obstacle. Many ports and canals may not allow ships through if the risk of oil spills is not covered. Reid l’Anson of Kpler, a data firm, thinks such frictions will force Russia to cut production by 1.1m bpd by the end of 2022, equivalent to about 14% of exports.

Yet there is already talk that Europe will delay its bans if the winter proves too harsh. Commodity traders say that, at such discounts, there will always be buyers. China and India may self-insure; Russia has said it will offer reinsurance. If its oil exports really do dwindle, the market is so tight that prices may jump, nullifying the impact. America, realising this, is trying to convince its allies to impose a price cap on Russian oil—something which could prove hard to implement. Shadowy traders in Bahrain or Dubai may cheat to secure bigger volumes. Russia may retaliate by withholding oil for a short period, provoking a price spike and putting pressure on the West to back down.

Let the chips fall

The most potent sanctions are, in fact, the least discussed: export controls. In successive salvos since February, Western governments have made it compulsory for a range of domestic industries to seek licences before selling to Russia, and they are rarely granted. The restrictions go well beyond “dual-use” products—those with both military and commercial applications, like drones and lasers—to cover advanced kit such as chips, computers, software and energy equipment. They also target low-tech goods, such as chemicals and commodities, that are usually restricted only if set for Iran or North Korea.

The breadth of such sanctions is remarkable. What makes America’s particularly vicious, however, is the “Foreign Direct Product Rule” (fdpr), which extends the controls not just to products made in the United States, but also to foreign ones made using American software and tools or containing American inputs. When America pioneered the fdpr in 2020 to prevent Huawei, a Chinese telecoms giant it suspected of spying, from acquiring advanced semiconductors, it nearly bankrupted the firm, even though plants in America account for just 15% of global chipmaking capacity. This time America claims that global chip exports to Russia are down 90% from last year.

That is bad news for the country’s manufacturing sector, which needs imported inputs. Mr Putin has worked hard since 2014 to insulate Russia’s financial system against Western sanctions—by de-dollarising its trade, diversifying its central-bank reserves and developing home-grown payment networks—but the same is not true of the country’s industry, which up until the war began remained woven into the global trading order, even if less so than other countries.

Chips and other electronic components from 70 different American and European firms have been found in Russian weaponry. Other industries, from mining to transport, require foreign parts and expertise to carry out maintenance. A German supplier to the Moscow metro reckons that, if it stopped providing servicing, the network would see disruptions within a month and be paralysed after three. Russia also needs nifty software and hardware to develop new products, from consumer electronics to electric cars.

Some effects are already visible, even though export controls kicked in late (most had a one-to-three-month grace period). Manufacturing output fell by 7% between December and June, led by carmaking (a 90% fall), pharma (25%) and electrical equipment (15%). In May Russia eased safety standards to allow for the production of cars without airbags and antilock brakes. A lack of high-tech kit has hampered Russia’s 5g rollout. The country’s cloud-computing champions, such as Yandex, an internet firm, and Sberbank, a lender, are struggling to expand data centres. The chip shortage is hindering new plastic-card issuance on mir, the domestic payment system. A lack of specialised vessels may hobble Russia’s Arctic drilling plans; a dearth of foreign technology and know-how could even slow down old-school oil-and-gas extraction. Basic industries, such as the mining and refining of metals, have slumped, too.

Russia is trying to fight back. Previously it tapped the unauthorised grey market to source sensitive Western tech and military kit, often from resellers in Asia and Africa. In June it went further by legalising “parallel” imports, allowing Russian firms to bring in goods, such as servers and phones, without the trademark holder’s consent. Artem Starosiek of Molfar, a Ukrainian intelligence firm, says there has been a boom in “credit-card tourism”, as tour operators that once organised covid-vaccine trips for Russians now fly them to buy Visa-issued cards in Uzbekistan. Trade between Western countries and Russia’s neighbours, such as Georgia and Kazakhstan, has grown rapidly since the invasion.

Yet it is hard for an entire economy to be run on smuggled goods, especially when some of them are scarce everywhere. Chinese firms, which usually supply a quarter of Russia’s imports, have been slow to help, since they too fear losing access to essential Western parts. Even Huawei has curtailed its links with Russia. The shortages will therefore last, with their effects compounding over time as wear and tear takes its toll and the rot spreads from one industry to the next. The result will be a slow, grinding degradation of Russia’s economy.

This degradation will be compounded by the sanctions’ less tangible effects. Konstantin Sonin of the University of Chicago reckons several hundreds of thousands of Russians—many of them highly skilled—have left the country since the invasion. More than 1,200 foreign firms have also pledged to leave, according to scholars at Yale University. The imf forecasts that the country’s growth rate in 2025-26 will have fallen by roughly half, compared with estimates from before the outbreak of war. So long as America and its allies maintain their sanctions, Russia’s industrial backbone, intellectual brawn and international links will fade, and its future will be one of sagging productivity, little innovation and structural inflation. Economists were wrong to predict an instant crash. What Russia is getting, instead, is a one-way ticket to nowhere.

From 3h ago


Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant disconnected from grid, says operator

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant under occupation by Russian troops was disconnected from the national power supply on Thursday, the state energy operator said.

In a statement, Energoatom said the plant was disconnected from Ukraine’s national grid after a power line was damaged by fires at ash pits in a nearby thermal power plant.

Energoatom said:

The actions of the invaders caused a complete disconnection of the (Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant) from the power grid - the first in the history of the plant.

Three of the nuclear plant’s power lines “were earlier damaged during terrorist attacks” by Russian forces, the operator said.

As a result, the two remaining working of the plant’s six reactors still functioning “were disconnected from the network”.

The operator added that the plant’s security systems were working normally and work was under way to reconnect one of the reactor blocks to the grid.

Updated at 15.04 BST

1h ago17.36

Power line to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant restored, says Ukraine

The last regular power line supplying electricity to the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine has been restored, according to the UN nuclear watchdog, citing Ukraine.

It comes after Ukraine’s nuclear power operator, Energoatom, said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was disconnected from Ukraine’s national grid for the first time in nearly 40 years of operation.

The final power line connecting the plant to the grid was cut twice by fires at the ash pits of a nearby coal-fired power plant, the operator said earlier today.

Disconnecting the plant raises the risk of catastrophic failure of cooling systems for its reactors and spent fuel rods, which run on electricity.

In a statement, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said:

Ukraine told the IAEA that the ZNPP, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, at least twice lost connection to the power line during the day but that it was currently up again.

Updated at 17.36 BST