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"No Fighting Near Nuke" - Guterres

FILE: Russian-issued image of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine. Taken 8.7.2022

Continued hostilities around Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant could "lead to disaster," the United Nations chief warned Thursday, hours before a Security Council meeting over the facility which Kyiv and Moscow accuse each other of bombing.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has issued a call for forces "to cease immediately" all military activity near the power plant, the largest of its kind in Europe, "and not to target its facilities or surroundings."

"Urgent agreement is needed at a technical level on a safe perimeter of demilitarization to ensure the safety of the area," Guterres said.

"Regrettably, instead of de-escalation, over the past several days there have been reports of further deeply worrying incidents that could, if they continue, lead to disaster," he added.

Bombing continued on Wednesday night along the front line in Ukraine, including near the plant in the southeast of the country occupied by Russian troops.

Russia's occupation of the plant has alarmed the international community, with the G7 group of most industrialized nations warning on Wednesday that it "endangers the region," and calling for return of the facility to Ukrainian control.

Guterres echoed the warning, saying "potential damage to Zaporizhzhia or any other nuclear facilities in Ukraine, or anywhere else, could lead to catastrophic consequences not only for the immediate vicinity, but for the region and beyond."

The secretary-general's statement comes ahead of a UN Security Council emergency meeting called by Russia for Thursday afternoon to address the crisis at the complex.

The UN nuclear safety watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said its Director General Rafael Grossi would brief the Security Council meeting "about the nuclear safety and security situation" at the plant as well as his "efforts to agree and lead an IAEA expert mission to the site as soon as possible."

The United States supports calls by the United Nations and others to establish a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, now occupied by Russian forces, the State Department said Thursday.

"We continue to call on Russia to cease all military operations at or near Ukrainian nuclear facilities and return full control to Ukraine, and support Ukrainian calls for a demilitarized zone around the nuclear power plant," said a State Department spokesperson.

Ukraine and Russia have been at war since Moscow invaded its neighbor in late February and their forces have clashed at and around Zaporizhzhia.

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Lavrov Lashes at "Russophobia"

FILE: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov looks into the camera during a news conference after his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken about tensions over Ukraine, in Geneva, Switzerland,. Taken 1.21.2022

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, at the UNGA podium, bitterly criticized Western nations Saturday over the Ukraine war, telling the United Nations that the United States and its allies sought to "destroy" his country.

"The official Russophobia in the West is unprecedented. Now the scope is grotesque," Lavrov said in a fiery UN General Assembly speech delivered Saturday afternoon.

"They are not shying away from declaring the intent to inflict not only military defeat on our country but also to destroy and fracture Russia."

"Declaring themselves victorious in the Cold War, Washington erected themselves almost into an envoy of God on Earth, without any obligations but the sacred right to act with impunity wherever and wherever they want," he said.

After days of Western leaders denouncing Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Lavrov used Russia's turn at the General Assembly rostrum to hit back at pressure on Moscow led by Washington.

The United States, he said, was expanding the Monroe Doctrine -- its 19th-century declaration of Latin America as its exclusive sphere of influence -- and "trying to turn the entire world into its own backyard."

Lavrov added "It's pure, unadulterated dictatorship, or an attempt to impose it."

He also defended referendums Friday in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, describing them as people claiming land "where their ancestors have been living for hundreds of years."

"The West is now throwing a fit" on the referendums, Lavrov said.

US President Joe Biden and other Western leaders have vowed never to accept results from what he and other leaders call the "sham" referendums, seeing them as part of an effort to change borders by force.

Biden rebuffed statements by Putin that Russia was threatened, telling the General Assembly "No one threatened Russia. No one but Russia sought conflict."

Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin's attack on Ukraine since February is "a significant violation of the U.N. Charter,"

The United States and its Western allies have imposed a barrage of sanctions on Moscow following its attack upon Ukraine, which has caused a notable strain on the Russian economy and walled the nation off from normal international commerce.

This report was compiled with information from Reuters and Agence France-Presse

UN Says "War Crimes" in Ukraine

FILE: A resident looks for belongings in an apartment building destroyed during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces in Borodyanka, Ukraine, April 5, 2022.

UN investigators said Friday that war crimes have been committed in the Ukraine conflict, listing Russian bombings of civilians areas, numerous executions, torture and horrific sexual violence.

"Based on the evidence gathered by the Commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine," Erik Mose, the head of the investigation team, told the UN Human Rights Council.

The categorical nature of the statement was unusual.

UN investigators typically couch their findings on international crimes in conditional language, referring the final confirmation of war crimes and similar violations to courts of law.

The council was set up by the Commission of Inquiry (COI) -- the highest-possible level of investigation -- in May to investigate crimes in Russia's war in Ukraine.

The team of three independent experts was presenting their first oral update to the council, after it launched initial investigations looking at the areas of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions, and said it would broaden the probe going forward.

Speaking a day before the seven-month anniversary of Russia's invasion of its neighbor, Mose pointed to "the Russian Federation's use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas," which he said was "a source of immense harm and suffering for civilians."

- Torture, sexual violence -

He highlighted that a number of attacks the team had investigated "had been carried out without distinguishing between civilians and combatants," including attacks with cluster munitions in populated areas.

The team, he said, had been especially "struck by the large number of executions in the areas that we visited," and the frequent "visible signs of executions on bodies, such as hands tied behind backs, gunshot wounds to the head, and slit throats."

Mose said the commission was currently investigating such deaths in 16 towns and settlements, and had received credible allegations regarding many more cases which it would seek to document.

The investigators had also received "consistent accounts of ill-treatment and torture, which were carried out during unlawful confinement."

Some of the victims had told the investigators they were transferred to Russia and held for weeks in prisons. Others had "disappeared" following such transfers.

"Interlocutors described beatings, electric shocks, and forced nudity, as well as other types of violations in such detention facilities," Mose said.

The commission chief said the investigators had also "processed two incidents of ill-treatment against Russian Federation soldiers by Ukrainian forces", adding that "while few in numbers, such cases continue to be the subject of our attention."

The team had also documented cases of sexual and gender-based violence, Mose said, in some cases establishing that Russian soldiers were the perpetrators.

"There are examples of cases where relatives were forced to witness the crimes," he said.

"In the cases we have investigated, the age of victims of sexual and gendered-based violence ranged from four to 82 years."

The commission had documented a wide range of crimes against children, he said, including children who were "raped, tortured, and unlawfully confined."

New Tigray Dronestrike Kills Again

FILE - People are seen in front of clouds of black smoke from fires in the aftermath at the scene of an airstrike in Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. Taken 10.20.2021

An air strike in the capital of Ethiopia's northern Tigray region killed one person on Friday, a hospital chief executive said, the latest in a series of strikes since fighting resumed late last month.

Kibrom Gebreselassie of the Ayder Referral Hospital in Mekele told Reuters a drone attack on the city's Adi Hawsi area wounded a 60-year-old cattle herder who died on the way to hospital.

Ethiopian military spokesperson Colonel Getnet Adane and government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

There have been at least five air strikes in Mekele since fighting between Tigrayan forces and the national government and its allies resumed on Aug. 24, breaking a five-month-old ceasefire.

Ethiopian authorities have not commented on the strikes.

The war started in November 2020 after Tigrayan forces seized control of military bases, saying they believed an attack by Ethiopia's military was imminent.

The conflict has killed thousands, displaced millions and created a humanitarian disaster.

The party that leads the regional government, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), dominated Ethiopia's ruling coalition until Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018.

Abiy's government accuses the TPLF of trying to reassert Tigrayan dominance over Ethiopia. The TPLF accuses Abiy of over-centralizing power and oppressing Tigrayans.

Violence Displaces Thousands in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region

Violence Displaces Thousands in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region
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Thousands have been displaced by the conflict in Ethiopia's Oromia region, where the rebel Oromo Liberation Army has been launching attacks since June. Neighboring Amhara region militias have been accused of abuses against civilians. Henry Wilkins reports from a displacement camp in Debre Birhan.

UN to Probe Russia's "Catalog of Cruelty"

FILE: Workers carry the body of people found dead to a cemetery in Bucha, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. Taken 4.5.2022

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday urged a probe into the "catalog of cruelty" in Ukraine's war as he opened a Security Council meeting with the top Russian and US diplomats.

Reports from the United Nations rights body show "a catalog of cruelty -- summary executions, sexual violence, torture and other inhumane and degrading treatment against civilians and prisoners of war," Secretary General Guterres said.

"All these allegations must be thoroughly investigated, to ensure accountability," he said, without directly pointing the finger at Russia.

"Perpetrators must be held to account in fair and independent judicial proceedings. Victims and their families have a right to justice, remedy and reparation."

France, the current head of the Security Council, called the session on accountability in Ukraine during the UN General Assembly.

"There is no peace without justice," French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told reporters before entering the session.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in attendance along with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has refused one-on-one talks with his Russian counterpart since the invasion, doubting Moscow's willingness for any peace efforts.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, addressing the General Assembly on Wednesday, demanded a special tribunal and "punishment" for Russia over its invasion and abuses.

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