After Rockets Strike Near Nuclear Plant, Ukraine and Russia Trade Blame

Ukraine on Sunday accused Russian forces of attacking an occupied nuclear power plant, saying a catastrophic radiation leak was “miraclely avoided” after the rocket landed on the site of the complex. It is the latest threat to Europe’s largest nuclear facility, where fighting in the southern region has prompted fear of a big accident.

The missiles fired on Saturday night hit near a dry fuel storage depot containing 174 barrels, each containing 24 barrels of spent nuclear fuel, according to Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear energy company. Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear energy company. One person was wounded by shrapnel and several windows were damaged in the attack, which a pro-Russian regional official blamed on Ukrainian forces.

Russian forces have controlled the Zaporizhzhia plant since March, using it as a base to launch artillery attacks on the Ukrainian-controlled town of Nikopol across the Dnipro River over the past month. Saturday’s attack included a salvo of rockets that Ukrainian officials said damaged 47 apartment and residential buildings, adding that Ukraine was unable to respond to the attacks for fear that a counter-attack would result. will cause a radioactive disaster.

The stakes were doing better on Saturday night.

“Obviously, they specifically targeted used fuel containers, which were stored outdoors near the site of the shelling,” Energoatom said in a Telegram post. Three radiation detection monitors at the site were damaged, making it “currently unable to recognize and respond promptly to radiation leaks,” the post said.

The nuclear energy company said in an earlier post: “There is still a risk of hydrogen leakage and splashing of radioactive materials, and the risk of fire is also high.”

The fighting, coupled with Russia’s occupation of parts of the plant and tensions caused by factory workers, has prompted Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog. of the United Nations, warning last week that “all principles of nuclear safety have been violated.”

He added in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, in an interview with the AP news agency.

Russia hit back at Ukraine’s assertions on Sunday. The head of pro-Russian administration in Zaporizhzhia, Yevgeny Balitsky, wrote on Telegram, a messaging platform, that Ukrainian forces used a Uragan cargo missile – a cluster weapon – to target the containment area. spent fuel and damaged administrative buildings. . The Russian Defense Ministry earlier accused Ukraine of attacking the plant, and said on Thursday that Ukraine had launched an artillery attack against it.

But Ukraine insists Russia is responsible. In a televised appeal on Sunday, the head of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia regional military administration, Oleksandr Starukh, said there was only a three-second delay between firing and landing of each projectile – evidence suggests that the attack had come from nearby Russian forces.

Since invading Ukraine in February, Russia has prioritized seizing critical infrastructure such as power plants, ports, transportation and storage of agricultural products and production facilities. It has also targeted infrastructure in Ukrainian hands.

Spokesman for the General Intelligence Service of Ukraine, Andrei Yusov, said that Russia is shelling the Zaporizhzhia site in order to destroy infrastructure and damage power lines supplying Ukraine’s national electricity grid and, ultimately, is a power cut in the south of the country. There is no independent confirmation of his assertion.

Yusov said on Telegram that Russian forces have also laid mines at the plant’s power units.

Safety concerns in Zaporizhzhia have grown since March, when a fire broke out in one of its buildings during fighting when Russian forces took control. Ukrainian authorities say that Russian forces have since stored weapons, including artillery, at the plant; in recent weeks, they began shelling Nikopol from its base.

Ukraine also accuses Russia of causing the explosions at the plant to distrust Ukraine’s European allies on nuclear safety and perhaps discourage them from arming Ukraine any further.

The danger the plant can pose to an entire continent is another example of the war’s ability to devastate areas of the world far beyond the battlefield.

Since the Russian invasion, Ukraine’s grain has disappeared from world markets, raising global food prices and endangering millions of people. risk of going hungry. The five-month shortage is just beginning to ease with agreement last month allow Ukrainian agricultural products to leave embargoed ports.

Four ships The United Nations said it was carrying more than 160,000 tonnes, or about 176,000 tonnes, of sunflower oil, corn and flour from Ukrainian ports on Sunday as part of the deal. But experts have warned global food crisis could persist for years, fueled by continued fallout from various wars, the Covid-19 pandemic, and extreme weather made worse by climate change.

The war in Ukraine has also pushed the world back into the politics of the Cold War all too familiar, with the United States and its Western allies uniting against Russia, China and others, prompting many nations to fight back. The less powerful were trapped.

The division is once again display on Sunday, when Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken arrived in South Africa, becoming the third senior US official to visit Africa in two weeks. Mr. Blinken’s visit turned hot after a glamorous tour of African countries by his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, in which Mr. blame misdirection for food shortages.

To date, there have been no reports of radioactive leaks at Zaporizhzhia. However, the prospect of a Ukrainian counterattack to regain land in Kherson province, southwest of Zaporizhzhia, also increased instability around the plant.

Ukraine was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, the 1986 reactor fire at Chernobyl in the north of the country, which spread deadly radiation across the region and put Europe in danger.

Chernobyl has also seen skirmishes this year. But Mr. Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency said he was much more worried about Zaporizhzhia, noting that while his agency was able to restore the sensors and resume regular checks at Chernobyl, Russia’s occupation and continued shelling of Zaporizhzhia prevented the watchdog. access critical parts of its reactor.

The Russian occupation of the factory has caused its employees to suffer great pressureAccording to Energoatom, as Russian forces hunted down the saboteurs subjected them to harsh interrogations that included torture with electric shock, Ukrainian officials assert. The exiled mayor of the nearby city of Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, said that several workers had disappeared and at least one had been killed.

Ukrainian officials warn that severe stress makes it possible for employees to make a number of mistakes that can lead to accidents.

Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Emma Bubola and Ruth Maclean contribution report.

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