Worries grow over safety of Ukraine nuclear plant amid Russian evacuations

The ongoing evacuation of a town close to the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine has prompted the UN nuclear watchdog to warn of an increasingly unpredictable situation. Meanwhile, Russia's Wagner mercenary group appeared to ditch plans to withdraw from Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, saying they had been promised more arms by Moscow. Follow our blog to see how the day's events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).


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1:43am: At least five wounded due to Russian strikes on Kyiv, city officials say

At least five people were wounded due to Russian strikes on Kyiv, city officials said early on Monday, as Moscow launched another large-scale attack on Ukraine.

Three people were injured in blasts in Kyiv's Solomyanskyi district and two others were injured when drone wreckage fell onto the Sviatoshyn district, both west of the capital's centre, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on his Telegram messaging channel.

Klitschko said drone wreckage fell on a two-storey building in the Sviatoshyn region, adding that blasts continued in Kyiv.

The city's military administration said there was destruction as a result of the attacks.

12:45am: More than 1,600 evacuated from areas near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plan

Some 1,679 people, including 660 children, have been evacuated from areas near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, a Moscow-installed official in the Russia-controlled parts of the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine said late on Sunday.

The head of the UN's nuclear power watchdog warned on Saturday that the situation around the plant has become "potentially dangerous" as Moscow-installed officials began evacuating people from nearby areas.

Ukraine is expected to start soon a much-anticipated counteroffensive to retake Russian-held territory, including in the Zaporizhzhia region.

11:48pm: Brussels plans sanctions on Chinese companies aiding Russia’s war machine

The European Union has proposed sanctions on Chinese companies accused of selling equipment that could be used in weapons to support Russia's war machine, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

Seven Chinese businesses have been listed in a new package of sanctions that will be discussed by EU member states this week, the report said, citing a copy of the sanctions list seen by the FT.

According to the FT, the sanctions list includes two mainland Chinese companies, 3HC Semiconductors and King-Pai Technology, along with five from Hong Kong including Sinno Electronics, Sigma Technology, Asia Pacific Links, Tordan Industry and Alpha Trading Investments.

11:25pm: Russia's Wagner group appears to do U-turn on Bakhmut withdrawal

Russia's Wagner mercenary group appeared on Sunday to ditch plans to withdraw from Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, saying they had been promised more arms by Moscow and suggesting they may keep up their assault on what Russia sees as a stepping stone to other cities in the Donbas region.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin had said on Friday that his fighters, who have spearheaded a months-long assault on Bakhmut, would pull out after being starved of ammunition and suffering "useless and unjustified" losses as a result.

But in an audio message posted on his Telegram channel on Sunday, he said: "We have been promised as much ammunition and weapons as we need to continue further operations. We have been promised that everything needed to prevent the enemy from cutting us off (from supplies) will be deployed."

8:44pm: Russian evacuations near Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility raise suspicions

As Russian forces evacuate residents from the town that serves the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, residents of the region have become suspicious.

FRANCE 24 correspondent Gulliver Cragg spoke to a woman from the region who said the evacuations have "made everybody nervous", because "one wonders what the Russians are playing at and why they are evacuating".



7:45pm: Pro-Kremlin writer says won't be intimidated after surviving car blast

Zakhar Prilepin, who was wounded in a car blast on Saturday that killed his friend and assistant Alexander Shubin, said he would not be scared off.

"Thanks to everyone who prayed, because it should have been impossible to survive such an explosion," Prilepin said on Telegram, "I tell the demons: you will not intimidate anyone. God exists. We will win."

6:00pm: Russians return at judo worlds, Ukraine boycotts

Russians returned to international judo competition on Sunday for the first time in nearly a year at the world championships as Ukraine boycotted the key Olympic qualifier.

Competing under the name of “Individual Neutral Athletes,” the Russians had a slow start in Doha as their first competitor, Sabina Giliazova, lost her opening contest to France's Blandine Pont. Three more Russians are due to compete Monday.

3:48pm: Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant situation 'very concerning'

As Russian evacuates residents from the town that serves the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, the UN nuclear watchdog is expressing growing anxiety about its safety.

“The situation is very concerning,” Princeton University scholar Sébastien Philippe told FRANCE 24. Its operators are under "massive pressure" to keep the plant running safely, he said. 

“Ideally, a buffer zone between the plant and any military operation that could happen would be created.”

Watch FRANCE 24's interview with Philippe here:



12:24pm: Russia says it destroyed 22 Ukrainian drones over the Black Sea

Russia's air defences detected and destroyed 22 Ukrainian drones over the Black Sea overnight, the country's defence ministry said on Sunday in a daily briefing.

Reuters was not able to independently verify Russia's claim. A Russian-installed official said earlier that Ukraine had launched drones at Crimea overnight, without providing details.

Separately, the defence ministry said its forces had gained more ground in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, claiming two "blocks" in the northwestern and western parts of the city.

12:24pm: Polish border patrol plane narrowly avoids collision with Russian fighter jet

A Polish border guard aircraft on patrol for the European Union's border agency Frontex narrowly avoided a collision with a Russian fighter jet over the Black Sea near Romania on Friday, Romania and Poland said.

A Russian SU-35 jet carried out "aggressive and dangerous manoeuvres" approaching the Polish aircraft without keeping a secure distance, leading to turbulence, loss of altitude and a temporary loss of control of the plane by the Polish crew, Anna Michalska, a border guard spokesperson, wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

"The Russian jet flew just in front of the nose of the Polish plane, crossing its trajectory at a dangerous distance, estimated by the crew at about five metres," Michalska said.

After three approaches the Russian jet flew away, Michalska added. The incident took place in international airspace.

12:23pm: Wagner chief says Moscow promised more ammo after Bakhmut pull-out threat

Russian paramilitary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Sunday he had received "a promise" of more ammunition from the Russian army after he threatened to pull his frontline Wagner troops out of Bakhmut.

"They promised to give us all the ammunition and armaments we need to continue the operations," said Prigozhin, following his blistering attack on military chiefs over the situation in Bakhmut, the epicentre of Ukraine's fight against Moscow's forces.

He said they had been assured "that everything necessary will be provided" to fighters around Bakhmut.

11:00am: Russian evacuation prompts watchdog warning over Ukraine nuclear plant

The UN nuclear chief warned of dangerous conditions around Europe's largest nuclear power plant as Russia's evacuation of civilians from near the Zaporizhzhia station sparks fears of escalating conflict in the area.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly raised concerns over the safety of the six-reactor plant in southern Ukraine, which has been on the front line since Russian forces seized it last year. 

Blaming stepped-up shelling from the Ukrainian side, Russia last week ordered families with children and elderly to temporarily evacuate the nearby town of Enerhodar. 

FRANCE 24's correspondent in Ukraine Gulliver Cragg breaks down the reasons why the situation around Zaporizhzhia is becoming increasingly worrying.



10:53am: Ukraine attacks on Russia's Belgorod damage gas pipeline and power lines, says governor

Overnight Ukrainian shelling of the Belgorod region on Russia's border with Ukraine damaged a gas pipeline and power lines as well as a house in the village of Spodaryushino, the region's governor said on Sunday.

"Most importantly, there were no casualties," Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the report.

10:50am: Ukraine launches more than 10 drones on Crimea, says Russia-installed official

Ukraine launched more than 10 drones overnight on the Crimean Peninsula, including three on the port of Sevastopol, a Russian-installed official said early on Sunday. He added that air defence systems had repelled all the attacks targeting Sevastopol.

"No objects (in Sevastopol) were damaged," Moscow-installed Sevastopol governor said on the Telegram messaging app.

There were no immediate details of any damage from the strikes elsewhere on the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Baza, a Telegram channel with links to Russia's law enforcement agencies, reported earlier on Sunday that according to the channel's preliminary information, there were no casualties in what it said was a series of attacks on Crimea.

  • Key developments from Saturday, May 6:

The chief of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner on Saturday asked Moscow to let him hand over his positions in the hotspot city of Bakhmut to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

"I ask you to issue a combat order before 00:00 on May 10 concerning the transfer of the positions of the Wagner paramilitary units in Bakhmut and its periphery, to the units of the Akhmat battalion," Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a letter to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The Akhmat battalion refers to the Chechen combat units under the command of strongman Kadyrov, who has ruled Russia's Muslim-majority republic Chechnya for the last decade and a half.

Prigozhin said his fighters would be forced to pull out because of a long "ammunition famine".

Read yesterday's live blog to see how the day's events unfolded


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