Russian missile barrage forces Ukraine to shut nuclear power plants

Russian missile barrage forces Ukraine to shut nuclear power plants
Damaged cars seen at the scene of Russian shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday. Authorities reported power outages in multiple cities of Ukraine. (AP)
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Updated 23 November 2022

Russian missile barrage forces Ukraine to shut nuclear power plants

Russian missile barrage forces Ukraine to shut nuclear power plants
  • All of the Kyiv capital region, where over three million people live, lost electricity and running water
  • “The murder of civilians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure are acts of terror,” Zelensky said in a tweet

KYIV: Russia unleashed a missile barrage across Ukraine on Wednesday, forcing shutdowns of nuclear power plants and killing at least six civilians as Moscow pursued a campaign to pitch Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in.
All of the Kyiv capital region, where over three million people live, lost electricity and running water, Kyiv’s governor said, as were many other regions where emergency blackouts were necessary to help conserve energy and carry out repairs.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was expected to brief a special session of the UN Security Council shortly by video link about Russia’s assault on civilian infrastructure.
“The murder of civilians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure are acts of terror,” Zelensky said in a tweet. “Ukraine will continue to demand a decisive response from the world to these crimes.”
Officials across the border in Moldova said electricity was also lost to more than half of their country, the first time a neighboring state has reported such extensive damage from the war in Ukraine triggered by Russia’s invasion nine months ago.
Blackouts forced the shutdown of reactors at Ukraine’s Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant in the south and the Rivne and Khmelnitskyi plants in the west, all in government-held territory, the state-run nuclear energy firm Energoatom said.
“Currently, they (power units) work in project mode, without generation into the domestic energy system,” Energoatom said.
Ukraine’s largest nuclear complex, at Zaporizhzhia near the front lines in the south, is Russian-controlled and was previously switched off because of shelling that both sides blame on each other.
SIRENS, EXPLOSIONS, DARKNESS
Air raid sirens blared across Ukraine in a nationwide alert.
Explosions reverberated throughout Kyiv on Wednesday afternoon as Russian missiles bore down and Ukrainian air defense rockets were fired in efforts to intercept them.
Four civilians had been killed and 34 injured, five of them children, in Kyiv, regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said in a statement posted on Telegram. Ukraine’s defense ministry said two people were killed by missile strikes elsewhere.
“Our little one was sleeping. Two years old. She was sleeping, she got covered. She is alive, thanks be to God,” said Fyodr, a Kyiv resident walking away from a smoldering apartment building that was hit in Kyiv, dragging a suitcase.
Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Wednesday evening at least 80 percent of people in the capital remained without power and water, but Kuleba said repair crews were working hard and “electricity will begin to appear in the coming hours. Don’t panic!“
By 6 p.m., electricity in half of the western city of Lviv had been restored following repairs, its mayor said.
Most thermal and hydro-electric power plants were forced to shut down as well, Ukraine’s energy ministry said earlier. As a result, it said, the great majority of electricity consumers in areas of the country under Ukrainian control were cut off.
Earlier, Russian missiles hit a maternity hospital in the Zaporizhzhia region overnight, killing a baby, the regional governor said on the Telegram messaging service.
Blasts were also reported in other cities, where further information about casualties was not immediately available.
Ukraine’s top military commander, General Valeriy Zaluzhniy, said air defenses had shot down 51 of 67 Russian cruise missiles launched, including 20 of the 30 that targeted Kyiv.
Since October, Russia has acknowledged targeting Ukraine’s civilian energy grid far from front lines with long-range missiles and drones as a Ukrainian counter-offensive has wrested back territory from Russian occupiers in the east and south.
Moscow says the aim of its missile strikes is to weaken Kyiv’s ability to fight and push it to negotiate; Ukraine says the attacks on infrastructure amount to war crimes, deliberately intended to harm civilians to break the national will.
That will not happen, Zelensky vowed in an earlier video address posted on the Telegram messaging app.
“We’ll renew everything and get through all of this because we are an unbreakable people,” he said.
SPILLOVER BLACKOUT IN MOLDOVA
Moldova, like Ukraine a former Soviet republic once dominated by Moscow but now pro-Western, has long worried about the prospect of fighting spreading across its borders.
“Massive blackout in Moldova after today’s Russian attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure,” Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu said on Twitter, adding the grid operator was trying to reconnect “more than 50 percent of the country to electricity.”
With the first snow of Ukraine’s generally frigid winter falling, authorities worry about the impact of power cuts affecting millions of people.
Zelensky on Tuesday announced special “invincibility centers” would be set up around Ukraine to provide electricity, heat, water, Internet, mobile phone links and a pharmacy, free of charge and around the clock.
In addition, Europe’s biggest cities will donate power generators and transformers to help Ukrainians get through the harsh winter ahead.
A series of Russian battlefield setbacks in the east and south included a Russian retreat earlier this month from the key southern city of Kherson to the east bank of the Dnipro River that bisects the country.
Ground battles continue to rage in the east, where Russia is pressing an offensive along a stretch of front line west of the city of Donetsk, which has been held by its proxies since 2014.
For their part, Ukrainian forces killed about 50 Russian soldiers in an attack on an ammunition depot in the eastern Luhansk region, and up to 15 Russians in a separate attack in the Zaporizhzhia region, Kyiv’s military said on Wednesday.
No further details were given and Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports.
Moscow says it is carrying out a “special military operation” to protect Russian speakers in what President Vladimir Putin calls an artificial state carved from Russia. Ukraine and the West call the invasion an unprovoked land grab.
Western responses have included billions of dollars worth of financial aid and state-of-the-art military hardware for Kyiv and waves of punitive sanctions on Russia.


At least 23 dead as dozens of wildfires torch forests in Chile

At least 23 dead as dozens of wildfires torch forests in Chile
Updated 05 February 2023

At least 23 dead as dozens of wildfires torch forests in Chile

At least 23 dead as dozens of wildfires torch forests in Chile
  • Hundreds of wildfires have hit large areas in the country's southern regions, sparked by soaring temperatures
  • The sparsely populated three regions hit by fire are home to many farms, plus extensive tracts of forest land

SANTIAGO, Chile: Dozens of wildfires blazing though Chile caused the government to extend an emergency order to another region on Saturday, as a scorching summer heat wave complicates efforts to control fires that have claimed at least 23 lives so far.
More than 1,100 people have sought refuge in shelters while at least 979 people have been reported injured by the raging fires, according to an official briefing later on Saturday.
The latest emergency order covers the southern region of Araucania, next to the previously declared Biobio and Nuble regions, located near the middle of the South American country’s long Pacific coastline.
“Weather conditions have made it very difficult to put out (the fires) that are spreading and the emergency is getting worse,” Interior Minister Carolina Toha told reporters at a news conference in the capital Santiago.
“We need to reverse that curve,” she added, noting that on Friday 76 more fires had ignited.
Another 16 fires sparked to life on Saturday, according to officials, as local temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere summer exceeded 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius).
The sparsely populated three regions covered by the emergency orders are home to many farms, including where grapes, apples and berries are grown for export, plus extensive tracts of forest land.
Officials told reporters on Saturday that the governments of Spain, the United States, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela have offered help, including planes and firefighters.
On Friday, an emergency-support helicopter in La Araucania crashed, killing its pilot and a mechanic, according to officials.
Authorities reported that 11 of the victims, or nearly half of the casualties reported so far, died in the town of Santa Juana in Biobio, located some 310 miles (500 km) south of Santiago.
Since late last week, helicopters have dropped fire retardant over raging fires as billowing clouds of smoke obstruct roadways. Firefighters and local residents alike are struggling to contain the flames against the backdrop of a hazy orange-tinted sky.
The orders allow for the deployment of soldiers and additional resources to deal with the natural disaster.
Some 40,000 hectares (99,000 acres) have been burnt by the fires, according to official data released late on Friday, an area larger than the US city of Philadelphia.
National forestry agency CONAF reported on Saturday that 80 of 231 total wildfires are being actively battled, while 151 of them are under control.
Officials said that over 90 percent of the wildfires have been smothered before they spread beyond 12 acres (5 hectares).
But for those unlucky enough to get caught up in one of the uncontrolled wildfires, immediate evacuation was the only option.
“I left with what I had on,” said Carolina Torres, who fled from an approaching fire near the city of Puren, in the region of Araucania.
“I think everyone here did the same thing because the winds shifted and you just had to grab everything right away.”
On Friday, President Gabriel Boric cut short his summer vacation and traveled to Nuble and Biobio, pledging to make sure the affected areas receive all necessary support.
Boric also pointed to “signs” that some fires may have been started intentionally, but did not provide any additional details.

Decoder


Ukraine says latest Russian assault on Bakhmut beaten back

Ukraine says latest Russian assault on Bakhmut beaten back
Updated 05 February 2023

Ukraine says latest Russian assault on Bakhmut beaten back

Ukraine says latest Russian assault on Bakhmut beaten back

KYIV: Ukraine fought off a fresh Russian assault on the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut, its leaders said Saturday, as it endured a fresh wave of shelling in the disputed Donetsk region.
Officials meanwhile recovered the bodies of two British volunteers, killed trying to help evacuate people from the eastern warzone.
And the southern city of Odesa suffered a massive power cut affecting half a million households after an accident at a war-damaged electrical substation.
“This week, the Russian occupation forces threw all their efforts into breaking through our defense and encircling Bakhmut, and launched a powerful offensive in the Lyman sector,” said Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar.
“But thanks to the resilience of our soldiers, they did not succeed.”
Ukraine’s border guard service reported that its soldiers had stopped the latest attack, killing four and wounding seven of the opposing forces.
Russia unleashed a fresh wave of bombardment across the eastern front lines Saturday morning. Ukrainian officials reported shelling in the Chernigiv, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv Lugansk, Donetsk and Mykolaiv regions.
In his evening address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged that the situation was getting tougher.

Russia, he said, was “throwing more and more of its forces at breaking down our defense.”
“It is very difficult now in Bakhmut, Vugledar, Lyman and other areas,” he added, referring to the frontline cities in the east of the country.
France, Italy and the United States on Friday all promised fresh deliveries of weapons to Ukraine.
Germany’s leader said in an interview Sunday there was agreement that weapons supplied by the West would not be used to attack Russian territory.
“There is a consensus on this point,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview with the weekly Bild am Sonntag.
Kyiv, while expressing its gratitude for the pledged weapons, is already pressing for more, including fighter jets.

2 British rescuers killed

Officials in Kyiv said Saturday that the bodies of the two Britons killed while trying to help people evacuate from the eastern warzone had been recovered in a prisoner swap.
Chris Parry, 28, and Andrew Bagshaw, 47, were undertaking voluntary work in Soledar, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, when their vehicle was reportedly hit by a shell.

Their bodies were returned to Ukraine authorities as part of a wider exchange, in which Kyiv got 116 prisoners and Russia 63.
“We managed to return the bodies of the dead foreign volunteers,” said Zelensky’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak, naming them as the two British men.
Concern had grown about their fates after the head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, which helped capture Soledar from Ukrainian forces, said on January 11 that one of the missing men’s bodies had been found there.
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin had also published online photographs of passports that appeared to belong to Parry and Bagshaw, which he claimed were found with the corpses.
On Friday, news emerged of the death of an American medic killed in Bakhmut when his evacuation vehicle was hit by a missile.
Global Outreach Doctors, with whom he was working, said 33-year-old Pete Reed was a former US Marine Corps rifleman who also worked as a paramedic.
The Odesa power cut hit hundreds of thousands of people.
“As of today, almost 500,000 customers have no electricity supply,” said Maksym Marchenko, of the Odesa regional administration. Energy Minister Herman Galushchenko said that came to “about a third of consumers” there.
“The situation is complex, the scale of the accident is significant,” Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said on messaging app Telegram.
Ukrenergo, the country’s energy operator, reported an accident at a substation supplying both the city and the region of Odesa.
The power network there had been gradually degraded by repeated Russian bombardment in recent months, it added: “As a result, the reliability of power supply in the region has decreased.”

More embargo on Russian products

On Sunday, Russia faces a fresh turn of the sanctions screw, with an embargo on ship deliveries of its refined oil products.
The European Union, the Group of Seven industrialized nations and Australia will cap the price of Moscow’s refined oil products.
Already in December, the EU imposed an embargo on Russian crude oil coming into the bloc by sea and — with its G7 partners — imposed a $60-per-barrel cap on Russian crude exports to other parts of the world.
The new embargo and price caps starting Sunday will target Russian refined oil products such as petrol, diesel and heating fuel arriving on ships.
The Kremlin has warned that the measures will destabilize world markets.


’Consensus’ with Zelensky that Western arms do not hit Russia: Scholz

’Consensus’ with Zelensky that Western arms do not hit Russia: Scholz
Updated 05 February 2023

’Consensus’ with Zelensky that Western arms do not hit Russia: Scholz

’Consensus’ with Zelensky that Western arms do not hit Russia: Scholz
  • “Again and again we are forced to repel the aggression of the collective West,” he said Thursday on the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad

BERLIN: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky agrees that weapons supplied by the West will not be used to attack Russian territory, Germany’s leader said in an interview Sunday.
“There is a consensus on this point,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview with the weekly Bild am Sonntag.
Ukraine’s Western allies have pledged to arm it with precision rockets and missile systems, as well as tanks, as it tries to push back Russian troops in its east.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has compared the intervention of countries such as Germany with his nation’s struggle during World War II.
“Again and again we are forced to repel the aggression of the collective West,” he said Thursday on the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad.
But Scholz rejected the comparison.
“His words are part of a series of absurd historical comparisons that he uses to justify his attack on Ukraine,” he said.
“But nothing justifies this war.
“Together with our allies, we are supplying battle tanks to Ukraine so that it can defend itself. We have carefully weighed each delivery of weapons, in close coordination with our allies, starting with America.”
He said that such a consensus-based approach “avoids an escalation.”
 

 


China plays down Blinken’s canceled visit over balloon

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning attends a news conference in Beijing, China, February 3, 2023. (REUTERS)
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning attends a news conference in Beijing, China, February 3, 2023. (REUTERS)
Updated 05 February 2023

China plays down Blinken’s canceled visit over balloon

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning attends a news conference in Beijing, China, February 3, 2023. (REUTERS)
  • The Pentagon rejected that out of hand — as well as China’s contention that the balloon was not being used for surveillance and had only limited navigational ability

TAIPEI: China played down the cancellation of a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a large Chinese balloon suspected of conducting surveillance on US military sites roiled diplomatic relations, saying that neither side had formally announced any such plan.
“In actuality, the US and China have never announced any visit, the US making any such announcement is their own business, and we respect that,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Saturday.
Blinken was due to visit Beijing on Sunday for talks aimed at reducing US-China tensions, the first such high-profile trip after the countries’ leaders met last November in Indonesia. But the US abruptly canceled the trip after the discovery of the huge balloon despite China’s claim that it was merely a weather research “airship” that had blown off course.
The Pentagon rejected that out of hand — as well as China’s contention that the balloon was not being used for surveillance and had only limited navigational ability.

HIGHLIGHTS

• US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to visit Beijing on Sunday for talks aimed at reducing US-China tensions.

• The US abruptly canceled the trip after the discovery of the huge balloon despite China’s claim that it was merely a weather research ‘airship’ that had blown off course.

Uncensored reactions on the Chinese internet mirrored the official government stance that the US was hyping up the situation.
Many users made jokes about the balloon. Some said that since the US had put restrictions on the technology that China is able to buy to weaken the Chinese tech industry, they couldn’t control the balloon.
Others called it the “wandering balloon” in a pun that refers to the newly released Chinese sci-fi film called “The Wandering Earth 2.”
Still others used it as a chance to poke fun at US defenses, saying it couldn’t even defend against a balloon, and nationalist influencers leapt to use the news to mock the US. One wrote wryly: “The US, because of the balloon incident, delays Blinken’s visit to China.”
Censorship was visible on the topic — the “wandering balloon” hashtag on Weibo was no longer searchable by Saturday evening.
“The US is hyping this as a national security threat posed by China to the US. This type of military threat, in actuality, we haven’t done this. And compared with the US military threat normally aimed at us, can you say it’s just little? Their surveillance planes, their submarines, their naval ships are all coming near our borders,” Chinese military expert Chen Haoyang of the Taihe Institute said on Phoenix TV, one of the major national TV outlets.

 


How centuries of Middle Eastern influence shaped Indian architecture

People visit the Jama Masjid complex in the walled city area of New Delhi, India on Nov. 26, 2022. (AFP)
People visit the Jama Masjid complex in the walled city area of New Delhi, India on Nov. 26, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 05 February 2023

How centuries of Middle Eastern influence shaped Indian architecture

People visit the Jama Masjid complex in the walled city area of New Delhi, India on Nov. 26, 2022. (AFP)
  • Earliest examples of Islamic architecture to survive in India are from the 12th century
  • Exchanges with the Muslim world yielded architecture that is neither strictly Islamic nor Hindu

NEW DELHI: Middle Eastern influence on Indian architecture is most famously represented by the iconic Taj Mahal, but the mausoleum is not the only fine example of the unique style that throughout centuries developed into a blend of Arab, Persian and indigenous designs.

The earliest examples of Islamic architecture to survive in the Indian subcontinent date from the late years of the 12th century, but the cultural influence of Islamic art had already been present there since the Arabs conquered the Sindh region — now in Pakistan — in 712.

As Muslims came to India, new features and architectural techniques were introduced in building design, including the use of the arch and dome, the construction of which was further refined by the Hindu craftsmen who long before had mastered the art of stonework.

The Taj Mahal is seen through morning air pollution in Agra, India, Jan. 12, 2019. (Reuters)

The Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque in the Qutb Minar complex in Delhi is the earliest surviving mosque in India. Its construction began in 1192, under Qutb-ud-din Aibak, a Turkic general, who later became the first ruler of the Sultanate of Delhi.

The mosque’s arched facade gives it an Islamic feel, but rich floral ornamentation is an Indian feature.

“Cultural interactions started from the Sultanate period onwards…The coming of Turks and their local interactions led to Hindu architecture influencing mosque architecture,” said Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi, professor of history at Aligarh Muslim University and secretary of the Indian History Congress.

“Muslim rulers brought architects and engineers from Iran, the Arab world and Central Asia…but the master craftsmen and artisans were locals. The end result was the amalgamation of traditions.”

A tourist takes photos while visiting the Qutub Minar complex in New Delhi on March 9, 2021. (AFP)

As time passed, new Muslim powers arrived in India, bringing their architectural heritage. At the same time, local sultanates emerged and flourished as well, developing their own forms. The Hindu kingdoms that retained different degrees of independence during the time of Muslim supremacy also produced important works and influenced predominant styles.

These multilevel exchanges yielded an architecture that was neither strictly Islamic nor strictly Hindu.

“There are many places in Gujarat where it is not easy to identify mosques and temples. In the northern Hindu city of Ayodhya, temples look similar to mosques because they have domes,” Rezavi told Arab News. “If you are talking about India’s history, you cannot talk in terms of Hindus and Muslims. There was no distinction between them.

They borrowed each other’s characteristic features.” But it was the Mughals who brought the Indo-Islamic style to its full bloom.

The advent of the Mughal dynasty, which ruled the subcontinent between the 16th and 19th centuries, marked the global revival of Islamic architecture with works that until today are examples of the highest quality and refinement.

Originally from Central Asia, the Mughals carried cultural elements borrowed from Arabs, Persians and Ottomans. As they settled in India, they fused them with the various provincial styles they found in their new domains.

For Anuj Srivastva, one of the most renowned Indian architects who teaches at the New Delhi School of Planning and Architecture, it is no wonder that when the British took control of the subcontinent in the 19th century, they regarded Mughal architecture as the classic Indian style.

“Indo-Saracenic architecture is an amalgamation of styles. It drew stylistic and decorative elements from native Indo-Islamic architecture,” he told Arab News.

“When the Mughals came, they carried Central Asian, Arab and Persian influences, and they created their own style and integrated it with the existing architecture in India.”

The 1570 tomb of Humayun, the son of Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire, inaugurated the Mughal dynasty’s style. The first garden tomb on the subcontinent, it inspired other major architectural innovations, which three generations later culminated in the construction of the Taj Mahal.

One of the most significant architectural achievements of Humayun’s son, Akbar, was the great fort at Agra and the city of Fatehpur Sikri. They also brought Middle Eastern styles deeper into the Indian realm.

“Fatehpur Sikri displays distinct Persian and Arabic influence,” Rezavi said.

“Some of the temples in the Hindu city of Mathura have the same carvings as Mughal King Akbar’s capital Fatehpur Sikri. You have the same architecture, the same carvings, the same styles, big vaults. Entire temple grounds are similar to the typical features that were used in mosques.”

It was during the reign of Akbar’s grandson, Shah Jahan, when Mughal architectural creativity reached its zenith.

He built the great Red Fort complex at Delhi in 1648, where the planning of the palace was based on Islamic prototypes but the pavilions and garden design reflect a fusion of all traditions of the subcontinent at that time. The structure influenced later buildings and gardens in Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra and beyond.

The Jama Masjid was built by Shah Jahan in Delhi in 1656. Constructed in red sandstone and marble, it is one of the largest and finest mosques in India. It took a decade to complete and the work of thousands of artisans.

But the greatest masterpiece of Shah Jahan’s time is the Taj Mahal, a white-marble mausoleum he built in Agra in 1648, in memory of the emperor’s wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

Known as one of the world’s wonders and a “monument of love,” it is recognized by UNESCO as “the greatest architectural achievement in the whole range of Indo-Islamic architecture.”

For Rezavi, it is also a structure where native Indian styles reached their finest display.

“The architecture in India is an amalgamation of indigenous and Indo-Islamic traditions,” he said.

“Look at the Taj Mahal. It has both Indian and Iranian influences, but I feel that indigenous influences are more prominent.”