Russian shelling near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in eastern Ukraine wounded four people Monday, hours after President Biden spoke with the leaders of France, Germany and the UK about the delicate situation.
A White House readout of Biden’s Sunday call with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Schloz and outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that all four leaders agreed on “the need to avoid military operations near the plant and the importance of an [International Atomic Energy Agency] visit as soon as feasible to ascertain the state of safety systems.”
Kyiv and Moscow have traded blame for heavy shelling in the area over the past few weeks, and fears grew last week that Russian forces would stage a “false flag” operation that could lead to a potential nuclear meltdown.
The latest bombardment targeted the city of Nikopol, about six miles down the Dnieper River from the plant. Authorities said houses, a kindergarten, a bus station and stores were hit.
Earlier this month, the IAEA — the United Nations nuclear watchdog — revealed that parts of the plant were damaged due to nearby fighting and called for an immediate inspection.
The leaders’ call took place two days after the US formally announced it would be sending another $775 million in weapons and military equipment to assist Ukraine’s fight against the six-month-old Russian invasion.
The package includes 15 reconnaissance drones, 40 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, 16 105mm howitzers and 36,000 artillery rounds, an undisclosed number of TOW anti-tank missile systems and 2,000 rounds of anti-armor ammunition for Carl Gustaf rifles.
Since Russia’s invasion began Feb. 24, the US has led the way in providing military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, according to a new report by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
As of Aug. 3, the US had committed $44.5 billion in military, humanitarian and financial aid to Kyiv since Jan. 24. The United Kingdom was a distant second with $6.48 billion in aid, followed by Germany with $3.1 billion, then France with $1.15 billion.
With European support for Ukraine lagging, some experts are saying the continent’s leaders need to get their act together.
Former Estonian defense chief Riho Terras told Politico last week that Europe needs “to wake up.”
“Hundreds are dying every day, not just soldiers but women and children,” the European Parliament member said. “People don’t really understand, we are at war.”
Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks reiterated that concern, telling the outlet, “If we are wanting the war to end as soon as possible, they need to ask themselves, are they doing enough?”