Monday August 29, 2022

Russian shelling near Ukraine nuclear plant fuels disaster fears

Russian shelling near Ukraine nuclear plant fuels disaster fears

A view shows a residential building destroyed by a Russian military strike in Donetsk Region, Ukraine. Reuters

Russian forces have pounded Ukrainian towns across the river from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, officials said, while reports of shelling around the facility fuelled fears of a radiation disaster.

Captured by Russian troops in March but run by Ukrainian staff, Zaporizhzhia, Europe's largest nuclear power plant, has been a major hotspot in the six-month conflict with both sides trading blame for recent shelling near the plant.


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Russian forces fired at Enerhodar, the city where the plant is located, the chief of staff of Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said late on Sunday on his Telegram channel alongside a video of fire fighters dousing burning cars.

"They provoke and try to blackmail the world," chief of staff Andriy Yermak said.

Russian shelling near Ukraine nuclear plant fuels disaster fears
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Kyiv. File photo

Russian forces also kept up their shelling in the Donbas, Ukraine's industrial heartland in the east, officials there said.

Zelensky, in his nightly address on Sunday, vowed "the occupiers will feel their consequences — in the further actions of our defenders".

"No terrorist will be left without an answer for attacks on our cities. Zaporizhzhia, Orykhiv, Kharkiv, Donbas — they will receive an answer for all of them," he said.

Since Russian troops poured over the Ukrainian border in February in what Russian President Vladimir Putin termed a "special military operation," the conflict has settled into a war of attrition fought primarily in the east and south of Ukraine.

The US State Department said on Sunday that Russia did not want to acknowledge the grave radiological risk at the south Ukraine plant and had blocked a draft agreement on nuclear non-proliferation because it mentioned such risk.

Russian shelling near Ukraine nuclear plant fuels disaster fears
A local woman looks at an apartment building damaged by a Russian military strike in Donetsk region. File/Reuters

The United Nations and Ukraine have called for a withdrawal of military equipment and personnel from the plant to ensure it is not a target.

However, Russia's defence ministry reported more Ukrainian shelling at the plant over the weekend.

Nine shells fired by the Ukrainian artillery landed in the plant's grounds, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

"At present, full-time technical personnel are monitoring the technical condition of the nuclear plant and ensuring its operation. The radiation situation in the area of the nuclear power plant remains normal," he said in a statement.

As fears mount of a nuclear accident in a country still haunted by the Chernobyl disaster, Zaporizhzhia authorities are handing out iodine tablets and teaching residents how to use them in case of a radiation leak.

Ukrainian nuclear company Energoatom said it had no new information about attacks on the plant and Reuters could not verify the accounts.

Russian shelling near Ukraine nuclear plant fuels disaster fears
A Russian serviceman stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. File/Reuters

Regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said on Telegram on Sunday that Russian forces struck residential buildings in the main city of Zaporizhzhia, about a two-hour drive from the plant, and the town of Orikhiv further east.

Ukraine's military reported shelling of nine more towns in the area on the opposite side of the Dnipro river, while the Russian state news agency cited authorities as saying they had downed a Ukrainian drone which planned to attack the nuclear-waste storage facility at the plant.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is waiting for clearance for its officials to visit the plant, which the head of the UN nuclear watchdog has said should be "very, very close". Two of the plant's reactors were cut off from the electrical grid last week due to shelling.




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