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Russian attacks on key bridge may affect Ukraine’s grain export plans

Russia launched two missile strikes and damaged a strategic bridge in Ukraine’s Odessa region, state railways and local officials said on Wednesday, an event that could affect Ukrainian plans to expand exports through Danube ports.
The bridge links mainland Ukraine with part of the Odessa region near the mouth of Danube.
The bridge across the Dniester Estuary is a part of the only fully Ukrainian-controlled railway route to Ukraine’s ports on Danube, which Kyiv regarded as a promising route for exports in a situation where Black Sea ports are blocked.
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Ukraine, a major agricultural producer, used to export most of its goods through seaports but since Russia’s invasion in February has been forced to export by train via its western border or via its small Danube river ports.
The first attack was on Tuesday evening, and as a result of a rocket hit, the bridge over the estuary was damaged, however, according to local officials, it could be quickly restored.
The second blow was on Wednesday morning and the condition of the bridge has not yet been reported.
The state-run Ukrzaliznytsia railways declined to comment.
“The railway branch suffered, of course. Effect is minus 150 or more wagons/containers with metal and grain per day,” Roman Rusakov, the representative of the Ukrainian agriculture ministry, told Reuters.
He said the share of grain cargos in Izmail’s overall shipments was not so high and “there will be no significant changes.”
The railways data showed that around 1,000 wagons with various cargos as of mid-April, including 238 wagons with grain, were at Izmail station, Ukraine’s major Danube port.
Ukrainian agriculture and transport officials have said the country is seeking to boost the export capacity of Danube river ports which allow grain to be shipped through the Danube to Romanian Black Sea ports.
European Union member Romania shares borders of the Black Sea with Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia and Ukraine.
The Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta this week said Ukraine had sent around 80,000 tons of grains to the port so far, with more expected to arrive.
The port, which has a storage capacity of around two million tons handled exports of some 24 million tons last year.
Ukrainian traders say that in the absence of a direct railway route, grain deliveries can be carried out by already actively used road routes.
Grain can also be delivered from the north along the already existing route through Moldova.
There was another rail route to Izmail, passing through the territory of Moldova’s breakaway region of Trans-Dniester, but in early March a key bridge of the route was also blown up.
Ukraine accused Moscow on Tuesday of trying to drag Trans-Dniester into its war on Kyiv after authorities in the Moscow-backed region said they had been targeted by a series of attacks.
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IAEA loses transmission from Ukraine’s Russian-held nuclear plant surveillance system

The UN atomic watchdog said on Wednesday it had again lost its connection to its surveillance systems keeping track of nuclear material at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe’s largest, which the watchdog wants to inspect.
“The fact that our remote safeguards data transmission is down again –- for the second time in the past month –- only adds to the urgency to dispatch this mission (to Zaporizhzhia),” the
International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

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The connection was lost on Saturday “due to a disruption of the facility’s communication systems,” it added.

Read more: UN watchdog ‘concerned’ about Ukraine nuclear plant access

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Anti-coup protesters in Sudan shot dead: Report

Four protesters were killed in Sudan on Thursday, medics said, as large crowds took to the streets despite heavy security and a communications blackout to rally against the military leadership that seized power eight months ago.

In central Khartoum, security forces fired tear gas and water cannon as they tried to prevent swelling crowds from marching towards the presidential palace, witnesses said.

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They estimated the crowds in Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Bahri to be in the tens of thousands. In Omdurman witnesses reported tear gas and gunfire as security forces prevented protesters from crossing into Khartoum.

The protests mark the third anniversary of huge demonstrations during the uprising that overthrew long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir and led to a power-sharing arrangement between civilian groups and the military.

Last October, the military led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan toppled the transitional government, triggering rallies that have called on the army to quit politics.

Some protesters carried banners calling for justice for those killed in previous demonstrations. Others chanted, “Burhan, Burhan, back to the barracks and hand over your companies,” a reference to the Sudanese military’s economic holdings.

Earlier, protesters barricaded some of the capital’s main thoroughfares with stones and burning tires.

It was the first time in months of protests against the October coup that internet and phone services had been cut. After the military takeover, extended internet blackouts were imposed in an apparent effort to hamper the protest movement.

Staff at Sudan’s two private sector telecoms companies, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities had ordered them to shut down the internet once again on Thursday.

Bridges shut

Phone calls within Sudan were also cut and security forces closed bridges over the Nile linking Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri – another step typically taken on big protest days to limit the movement of marchers.

In recent days there have been daily neighborhood protests in the build-up to Thursday’s rallies.

On Wednesday, medics aligned with the protest movement said security forces shot dead a child during protests in Bahri. Thursday’s four deaths, all in Omdurman, brought the number of protesters killed since the coup to 107.

There was no immediate comment from Sudanese authorities.

The United Nations envoy in Sudan, Volker Perthes, called this week on authorities to abide by a pledge to protect the right of peaceful assembly. “Violence against protesters will not be tolerated,” he said.

Military leaders said they dissolved the government in October because of political paralysis. As a result, however, international financial support agreed with the transitional government was frozen and an economic crisis has deepened.

Burhan said on Wednesday the armed forces were looking forward to the day when an elected government could take over, but this could only be done through consensus or elections, not protests.

Mediation efforts led by the United Nations and the African

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UN: Almost 16 million people in Ukraine need humanitarian aid

As Russia presses on with its invasion of Ukraine, some 16 million people inside the country need humanitarian aid, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine said Thursday.

“Almost 16 million people in Ukraine today need humanitarian assistance: water food, health services,” Osnat Lubrani told a press briefing.

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Six million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes for other parts of the country since the war started, though around 5 million have since returned, she said.

But “many know that they might be forced to flee again,” she added.

Over 5.3 million more Ukrainians have fled abroad, Lubrani said.

She said the UN tally of casualties since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 was likely much higher.

“The number we have of almost 5,000 civilians killed and more than 5,000 injured is just a fraction of the frightening reality,” she said.

She also said it was “extremely difficult if not… impossible” for humanitarian groups to access areas that are no longer under Kyiv’s control.

Lubrani called on Russia and Ukraine “to do more to protect the people of this country and to make our work possible.”

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