Concerns grow as Kyiv and Moscow blame bombardment near nuclear power plant
The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is seeking to inspect the Zaporizhzhia plant, has warned of a nuclear disaster unless the fighting stops.
Kyiv and Moscow have swapped responsibility for fresh bombings around Europe’s biggest nuclear facility, with the strikes raising fears of a nuclear disaster.
The factory in Zaporizhzhia, in southeastern Ukraine, has been occupied by Russian forces since March and has come under repeated fire in the past week. It dominates the southern bank of a vast reservoir on the Dnipro River.
In his televised address on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of nuclear “blackmail” and using the plant to “intimidate people in an extremely cynical way”.
“They are organizing constant provocations with shelling of the territory of the nuclear power plant and trying to bring their additional forces in this direction to blackmail our state and the whole free world even more,” Zelenskyy said.
Backed by Western allies, Ukraine called for a demilitarized zone around the plant and demanded the withdrawal of Russian forces. kyiv accuses Moscow of basing hundreds of soldiers there and stockpiling weapons there.
In his address, Zelenskyy added that Russian forces were “hiding” behind the factory to stage bombardments on the Ukrainian-held towns of Nikopol and Marganets.
“Every Russian soldier who shoots at the factory, or shoots using the factory as cover, must understand that he becomes a special target for our intelligence agents, for our special services, for our army,” Zelenskyy said.
Pro-Moscow officials in the occupied areas of Zaporizhzhia blamed the shelling on Ukrainian forces.
“Energodar and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are again under fire from Zelenskyy militants,” said Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Moscow-based administration.
The missiles fell “in the areas located on the banks of the Dnipro river and in the factory”, he said, without reporting any casualties or damage. The river divides the areas occupied by Russia and those under Ukrainian control.
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Ukraine said the first strikes on August 5 hit a high-voltage electrical cable and forced one of the reactors to stop working. Then Thursday’s strikes damaged a pumping station and radiation sensors.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak accused Russia of “hitting the part of the nuclear power plant where the energy that supplies southern Ukraine is generated”.
“The goal is to disconnect us from (the factory) and blame the Ukrainian military for this,” Podolyak wrote on Twitter.
Ukraine’s Energoatom nuclear agency has warned residents of the town of Energodar, where the plant is located, to stay off the streets as much as possible to avoid Russian shelling.
“According to the locals, there are new shellings in the direction of the nuclear power plant… the time between the start and the arrival of the shelling is 3 to 5 seconds,” Energoatom said on Saturday in a message shared on Telegram by a local chief. in the city of Energodar, which remains loyal to kyiv.
kyiv has said for weeks that it is planning a counteroffensive to retake Zaporizhzhia and neighboring Kherson provinces, most of the territory Russia seized after launching its Feb. 24 offensive.
Russian and Ukrainian forces earlier battled for control of Chernobyl, the still-radioactive site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, also raising fears of disaster.
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Source: TRTWorld and agencies