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Ukraine warns of ‘nuclear terrorism’ after strike near plant

KYIV, Ukraine — A Russian missile blasted a crater close to a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on Monday, damaging nearby industrial equipment but not hitting its three reactors. Ukrainian authorities denounced the move as an act of “nuclear terrorism.”

The missile struck within 300 meters (328 yards) of the reactors at the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant near the city of Yuzhnoukrainsk in Mykolaiv province, leaving a hole 2 meters (6 1/2 feet) deep and 4 meters (13 feet) wide, according to Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom.

The reactors were operating normally and no employees were injured, it said. But the proximity of the strike renewed fears that Russia’s nearly 7-month-long war in Ukraine might produce a radiation disaster.

This nuclear power station is Ukraine’s second-largest after the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which has repeatedly come under fire.

Following recent battlefield setbacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened last week to step up Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure. Throughout the war, Russia has targeted Ukraine’s electricity generation and transmission equipment, causing blackouts and endangering the safety systems of the country’s nuclear power plants.

The industrial complex that includes the South Ukraine plant sits along the Southern Bug River about 300 kilometers (190 miles) south of the capital, Kyiv. The attack caused the temporary shutdown of a nearby hydroelectric power plant and shattered more than 100 windows at the complex, Ukrainian authorities said. The U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency said three power lines were knocked offline but later reconnected.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry released a black-and-white video showing two large fireballs erupting one after the other in the dark, followed by incandescent showers of sparks, at 19 minutes after midnight. The ministry and Energoatom called the strike “nuclear terrorism.”

The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately comment on the attack.

Russian forces have occupied the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, since early after the invasion. Shelling has cut off the plant’s transmission lines, forcing operators to shut down its six reactors to avoid a radiation disaster. Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for the strikes.

The IAEA, which has stationed monitors at the Zaporizhzhia plant, said a main transmission line was reconnected Friday, providing the electricity it needs to cool its reactors.

But the mayor of Enerhodar, where the Zaporizhzhia plant is located, reported more Russian shelling Monday in the city’s industrial zone.

While warning Friday of a possible ramp-up of strikes, Putin claimed his forces had so far acted with restraint but warned “if the situation develops this way, our response will be more serious.”

“Just recently, the Russian armed forces have delivered a couple of impactful strikes,” he said. ”Let’s consider those as warning strikes.”

The latest Russian shelling killed at least eight civilians and wounded 22, Ukraine’s presidential office said Monday. The governor of the northeastern Kharkiv region, now largely back in Ukrainian hands, said Russian shelling killed four medical workers trying to evacuate patients from a psychiatric hospital and wounded two patients.

The mayor of the Russian-occupied eastern city of Donetsk, meanwhile, said Ukrainian shelling had killed 13 civilians and wounded eight there.

Patricia Lewis, the international security research director at the Chatham House think-tank in London, said attacks at the Zaporizhzhia plant and Monday’s strike on the South Ukraine plant indicated that the Russian military was attempting to knock Ukrainian nuclear plants offline before winter.

“It’s a very, very dangerous and illegal act to be targeting a nuclear station,” Lewis told The Associated Press. “Only the generals will know the intent, but there’s clearly a pattern.”

“What they seem to be doing each time is to try to cut off the power to the reactor,” she said. “It’s a very clumsy way to do it, because how accurate are these missiles?”

Power is needed to run pumps that circulate cooling water to the reactors, preventing overheating and — in a worst-case scenario — a radiation-spewing nuclear fuel meltdown.

Other recent Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure have targeted power plants in the north and a dam in the south. They came in response to a sweeping Ukrainian counterattack in the country’s east that reclaimed Russia-occupied territory in the Kharkiv region.

Analysts have noted that beyond recapturing territory, challenges remain in holding it. In a video address Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy said cryptically of that effort, “I cannot reveal all the details, but thanks to the Security Service of Ukraine, we are now confident that the occupiers will not have any foothold on Ukrainian soil.”

The Ukrainian successes in Kharkiv — Russia’s biggest defeat since its forces were repelled from around Kyiv in the invasion’s opening stage — have fueled rare public criticism in Russia and added to the military and diplomatic pressure on Putin. The Kremlin’s nationalist critics have questioned why Moscow has failed to plunge Ukraine into darkness yet by hitting all of its major nuclear power plants.

In other developments:

— A governor said Ukraine had recaptured the village of Bilogorivka in the Russian-occupied eastern region of Luhansk. Russia didn’t acknowledge the claim.

— The Russian-installed leaders of Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk and Kherson regions reiterated calls Monday for referendums to be held to tie their areas formally to Russia. These officials have discussed such plans before but the referendums have been repeatedly delayed, possibly because of insufficient popular support.

— The Supreme Court in the Russian-occupied region of Luhansk convicted a former interpreter for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and another person whose duties were not specified of high treason Monday. Both were sentenced to 13 years in prison.

—The Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania closed their borders Monday to most Russian citizens in response to domestic support in Russia for the war in Ukraine. Poland will join the ban on Sept. 26.

— Mega-pop star Alla Pugacheva became the most prominent Russian celebrity to criticize the war, describing Russia in an Instagram post Sunday as “a pariah” and saying its soldiers were dying for “illusory goals.” Valery Fadeyev, the head of the Russian president’s Human Rights Council, accused Pugacheva of insincerely citing humanitarian concerns to justify her criticism and predicted that popular artists like her would enjoy less public influence after the war.

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AP journalist John Leicester in Le Pecq, France, contributed.

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Follow AP war coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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North Korea fires ballistic missiles in latest tests amid tension | News

Japanese official reported that the missiles travelled 400kms (250 miles) and at a maximum altitude of 50km (30 miles).

North Korea has fired two short-range ballistic missiles from the Pyongyang area towards the country’s east coast, according to South Korean and Japanese officials, marking Pyongyang’s fourth missile test launches in a week.

Japan’s NHK national television said multiple missiles were fired from North Korea on Saturday morning and were believed to have landed in the Sea of Japan though outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

“What appears to be a ballistic missile was launched from North Korea,” the Japanese coast guard said in a statement issued at 6:47 am (21:47 GMT) local time on Saturday.

In a second statement issued about 15 minutes later, the coast guard said another apparent ballistic missile was launched.

NHK said the projectiles seemed to have fallen outside Japan’s exclusive economic zones, citing government sources.

The office of Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida tweeted that the latest missile launch was being analysed and instructions issued for the safety of people, aircraft and vessels.

North Korea fired short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Wednesday and Thursday in the hours before and after a visit by US Vice President Kamala Harris to South Korea during which she emphasised the “ironclad” US commitment to the security of its Asian allies.

The latest launch also follows after the navies of South Korea, the United States and Japan staged trilateral anti-submarine exercises on Friday for the first time in five years.

Japan’s Vice Defence Minister Toshiro Ino said North Korea’s repeated missile firings are “persistently escalating provocations”.

“North Korea’s actions threaten the peace and safety not only for Japan but also the region and the international community, and are absolutely impermissible,” Ino said, calling the four launches in one week “unprecedented”.

The missiles rose to a maximum altitude of 50km (30 miles) and flew as far as 400km (250 miles) before landing in the Sea of Japan in areas outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Ino said.

The missiles may have been on “irregular” trajectory, which makes tracking more difficult.

North Korea has conducted a record number of weapons tests this year and analysts see the increased pace of testing as an effort to build its ballistic weapons capacity, as well as to take advantage of a world distracted by the Ukraine conflict and other crises.

Nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches by North Korea have long been banned by the United Nations Security Council.

“Despite North Korea’s internal weaknesses and international isolation, it is rapidly modernising weapons and taking advantage of a world divided by US-China rivalry and Russia’s annexation of more Ukrainian territory,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

A South Korean legislator said on Wednesday that the North has completed preparations for a nuclear test, and a window for such a test could open between China’s party congress in October and the US mid-term elections in November.



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US judge dismisses Mexico lawsuit against gun manufacturers

MEXICO CITY — A U.S. federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Mexican government against U.S. gun manufacturers arguing their commercial practices has led to bloodshed in Mexico.

Judge F. Dennis Saylor in Boston ruled Mexico’s claims did not overcome the broad protection provided to gun manufacturers by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act passed in 2005.

The law shields gun manufacturers from damages “resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse” of a firearm.

Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it would appeal the decision.

Mexico was seeking at least $10 billion in compensation, but legal experts had viewed the lawsuit as a long shot.

The Mexican government argued that the companies know their practices contribute to the trafficking of guns into Mexico and facilitate it. Mexico wants compensation for the havoc the guns have wrought on its people.

Among those sued were some of the biggest names in guns, including: Smith & Wesson Brands Inc., Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc., Beretta U.S.A. Corp., Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC and Glock Inc.

Another defendant was Interstate Arms, a Boston-area wholesaler that sells guns from all but one of the named manufacturers to dealers around the U.S.

The Mexican government estimates 70% of the weapons trafficked into Mexico come from the U.S., according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry. It said that in 2019 alone, at least 17,000 homicides in Mexico were linked to trafficked weapons.

Mexico argued the U.S. protection act did not apply when an injury occurred outside the United States.

Saylor did not agree.

“Mexico is seeking to hold defendants liable for practices that occurred within the United States and only resulted in harm in Mexico,” he wrote. “This case thus represents a valid domestic application of the PLCAA, and the presumption against extraterritoriality does not apply.”

The sale of firearms is severely restricted in Mexico and controlled by the Defense Department. But thousands of guns are smuggled into Mexico by the country’s powerful drug cartels.

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Officials: North Korea fires suspected ballistic missiles

TOKYO — North Korea has fired suspected ballistic missiles, the Japanese Defense Ministry said Saturday.

Further details are still being analyzed, ministry officials said.

Japanese media reported that the missiles are believed to have landed in the Sea of Japan.

Saturday’s firing is the latest of North Korea’s escalating missile launches and a third this week following those fired Friday in the wake of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit in South Korea.

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