NATO body recognizes Russia's crimes against Ukraine as 'genocide'

Flags of NATO members fly outside the NATO headquarters on November 25, 2022 in Brussels. [AP Photo]

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly on Monday unanimously recognized Russia's crimes against Ukraine as genocide, striking "a diplomatic victory [for Ukraine with] far-reaching political consequences," said Yehor Cherniev, the head of Ukraine's delegation at the assembly in Luxembourg. "This is our diplomatic victory. All of our key wishes regarding the final text of the declaration have been taken into account."

The declaration includes support for an international tribunal for Russian war crimes, a pledge to help Ukraine achieve victory, a commitment to restoring Ukraine's territorial integrity, the implementation of further sanctions, and an aid program similar to the Marshall Plan to help restore the country's economy.

In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the declaration from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. "Things are called what they are: a clear recognition of Russia's crimes against our country as genocide, a clear condemnation of ruscist ideology," he said. "This is the right basis for other international organizations as well."

Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant 'extremely vulnerable'

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency characterized the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant as "extremely vulnerable" after Europe's largest atomic power station in occupied Ukraine lost external power temporarily and had to switch to its emergency diesel generators.

This was the seventh time the nuclear plant lost power since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, said Rafael Grossi, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency. "The nuclear safety situation at the plant [is] extremely vulnerable," he said in a tweet. The power was later restored but Grossi appealed for shelling to stop around the Russian- occupied power plant.

"We must agree to protect [the] plant now; this situation cannot continue," he tweeted.

IAEA staff are deployed at the plant, which is occupied by Russian troops. The plant's six nuclear reactors, which are protected by a reinforced shelter able to withstand an errant shell or rocket, have been shut down. But a disruption in the electrical supply could disable cooling systems that are essential for the reactors' safety even when they are shut down. Emergency diesel generators, which officials say can keep the plant operational for 10 days, can be unreliable.

Vehicles destroyed by a Russian missile strike are seen at a damaged fire depot compound in Dnipro, Ukraine May 22, 2023 in this still image taken from handout video. Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine in Dnipropetrovsk region/Handout via REUTERS

Energoatom, Ukraine's state nuclear company, announced that power had been restored at the plant but rang the alarm that the facility is "on the verge of a nuclear and radiation accident." The agency claimed Russian shelling caused the loss of the last high-voltage transmission line to the plant in Russian-occupied southern Ukraine, about 500 kilometers (311 miles) from Kyiv.

It was not possible to independently verify that claim.

Fighting, especially artillery fire, around the plant has fueled fears of a disaster like the one at Chernobyl, in northern Ukraine, in 1986. Then, a reactor exploded and spewed deadly radiation, contaminating a vast area in the world's worst nuclear catastrophe.

F-16s to Ukraine not 'game-changer'

U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said "it will take several months at best" to decide on supplying F-16s to Ukraine. Speaking with reporters with the Defense Writers Group in Washington on Monday, Kendall said the F-16s "will give the Ukrainians an interim capability they don't have right now, but it's not going to be a dramatic game changer." He said "airpower has not been a decisive factor so far," citing the effectiveness of ground-based air defense systems. "The F-16s are going to help the Ukrainians, but it's not going to fundamentally change that equation," he remarked.

Kendall acknowledged, however, that time has come to start thinking on this issue. "We could certainly have started earlier, but there were much higher priorities," he said.

At a meeting Monday in Poland, defense ministers from northern European countries showed "great support" for training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets.

"Great support for the goal of training F-16 pilots for Ukraine," Denmark's Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said in a tweet, adding that Denmark is ready to play a central role.

U.S. President Joe Biden also affirmed U.S. support for a joint effort with allied and partner nations to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighter aircraft such as the F-16.

Responding to a question by VOA's Russian service at the G-7 Summit, Zelenskyy said that discussions on the delivery of F-16s have come a "step further," starting with the training of Ukrainian pilots on the aircraft, which he affirmed that Ukraine plans to complete as soon as possible.

Ukraine has not yet won commitments to receive F-16 jets from allies.

Senior Russian diplomats said Monday the transfer of F-16 jets to Ukraine would raise the question of NATO's involvement in the conflict and would not undermine Russia's military goals.

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