Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Wednesday demanding ownership of the besieged Zaporizhzhya power plant, while the director of Ukraine’s nuclear power company said he would take over the operation of the plant, Europe’s largest nuclear facility.
This announcement came hours after Putin signed laws to annex the Zaporizhia region. Earlier today, Energoatom President Petro Kotin said he would operate the Russian-controlled plant from the capital, Kyiv.
The plant has been the subject of deep global interest. International nuclear experts have warned that the two sides blame each other for the explosions that destroyed parts of the plant and threaten to cause disaster.
“The need for a Nuclear Safety and Security Protection Zone (NSSPZ) around the #Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is now more urgent than ever,” Rafael Grossi tweeted, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Ukrainian factory manager was kidnapped on Friday and released this week by Russian forces who occupied the facility. Ukrainian workers continue to operate the plant, which stopped power generation last month.
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A former Russian state TV journalist accused of spreading false information after organizing a live protest against the war said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that she had released herself from house arrest. The ex-husband of Marina Ovsyannikova says that she ran away with her young daughter.
Ukraine’s presidential office said that Russian forces used six Iranian drones to strike the town of Bila Tserkva in the Kyiv region, injuring one person. The strikes were the first on the city since March, when the Russians withdrew from the area around the Ukrainian capital.
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Putin signs law to annex Ukraine despite military setbacks
Putin, ignoring international outrage and Struggling his army, he signed laws Wednesday ratifying the annexation of four regions of Ukraine, including two that make up the important Donbass region he has targeted since the start of the war.
“I want the Kyiv authorities and their true masters in the West to hear me, so that everyone remembers this – the people who live in Luhansk and Donetsk, and Kherson and Zaporizhia become our citizens forever,” Putin said.
The papers are vague about the boundaries of the territory claimed by Russia, but Russian media said Putin annexed about 43,000 square miles. Ukraine, roughly the size of Texas, estimates that about 15% of its territory has been annexed. Ukrainian forces have already retaken some territory in recent weeks, and most of the world does not recognize the annexations.
“The worthless decisions of the terrorist state are not worth the paper that was signed,” Andrey Yermak, head of the office of the President of Ukraine, said on Telegram.
The leader of the opposition in Belarus said she believes that Russian military setbacks in Ukraine may shake the grip of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on power. On Wednesday, Svyatlana Tsykhanuskaya said at a security conference in Warsaw that Russia seemed “on the verge of losing this war.” That could make it impossible for Putin to support Lukashenko, Putin’s closest global ally, she said.
Tsykhanuskaya fled to Lithuania after Lukashenko declared victory in the August 2020 elections that the West denounced as fraudulent.
Ukrainian forces began to expel Russian forces from the Luhansk region and are now “Raising the Ukrainian flag”“In some settlements, the region’s governor Serhiy Hayday announced on social media. Russia almost completely took control of the important province and captured half of the neighboring Donetsk region before the Ukrainian counter-offensive began a month ago. About a third of Luhansk was under the control of the Russians. The militias supported before the start of the war , militia leaders tried to form the Luhansk People’s Republic, but only Russia and some other countries recognized the republic.
The European Union, citing annexation, agreed Wednesday to New sanctions imposed on Russia, including an expected price ceiling for Russian oil. Details of the sanctions are expected to be announced as soon as Thursday, but restrictions on EU exports of aircraft components to Russia and restrictions on Russian steel imports are expected to be included in the package.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the eighth round of sanctions, saying that Europe was “determined to continue to push the Kremlin to pay the price” for the invasion of Ukraine.
Contributing: The Associated Press