Shellfire Sounds Around Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant, Making Ukraine Nervous
- The Ukrainian military also said that its troops in the coal-producing town of Avdiivka were able to stop a Russian attack even though they were hit by enemy artillery and planes.
- The ministry said that the Russian Air Force shot down a MiG-29 plane in the Donetsk region of Donbas and destroyed six missile and artillery weapons depots in the Donetsk, Mykolaiv, and Kherson regions.
Both sides kept blaming the other for shelling at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, which was occupied by Russia. At the same time, Russian forces attacked towns on the other side of the river from Europe’s largest nuclear plant.
Even though it was dangerous, UN nuclear watchdog officials were still waiting for permission to go to the plant on the southern front line of the war.
Oleksandr Starukh, the governor of the Zaporizhzhia region, told Ukrainian TV that people were being told how to use iodine in case there was a radiation leak while standing next to a crater at a school that had been mostly destroyed.
He was talking in the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is two hours by car from the plant and is near the large Kakhovka reservoir on the river Dnipro.
Since early March, when Russian troops invaded Ukraine, they have taken over the plant, but Ukrainian workers are still running it. In the past few weeks, each country has blamed the other for shelling near the plant.
The state nuclear company of Ukraine, Energoatom, said that Russian troops shelled the complex again in the last 24 hours. “The damage is being assessed right now,” Energoatom said in a message on Telegram.
On Saturday, Moscow’s Defense Ministry said that Ukrainian forces had fired three shells at the plant complex in the past 24 hours. In a statement, it said that 17 shells had been fired, and four of them had hit the roof of a building that held “168 assemblies of U.S. Westinghouse nuclear fuel.”
It said that 10 shells went off near a dry storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and 3 went off near a building that stores fresh nuclear fuel. It said that there were no problems with radiation at the plant.
Reuters couldn’t check the story from either side.
Friday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the situation at Zaporizhzhia was still “very risky,” even though two of the plant’s six reactors had been reconnected to the grid after shelling shut down the plant for the first time.
Rafael Grossi, who is in charge of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Thursday that the U.N. agency was “very, very close” to being able to send inspectors to the plant.
In a statement released on Saturday, Energoatom said that its staff at the plant had been put under “increased pressure” before the likely visit “to keep quiet about the crimes committed by the occupiers at the station and their use of it as a military base.”
This month, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked that military equipment and people be taken out of the plant so that it doesn’t become a target.
On the other side of the river from the Zaporizhzhia plant, shells hit the towns of Nikopol and Marhanets on Saturday afternoon and evening, the mayor of Nikopol said on Telegram.
Fighting rages on
In the south, Russian forces were trying to stop a Ukrainian counteroffensive that was centred around Kherson. Kherson was the first big city to fall to the Ukrainians after the invasion started six months ago.
The Ukrainian plan has been to destroy the four bridges that Russian forces need to hold in order to get supplies to Kherson, which is at the southern end of the Dnipro.
Vladimir Leontyev, who was put in charge of the Kherson region by Russia, told Russia’s TASS news agency that Ukrainian forces had again shelled the Kakhovsky bridge over a hydropower dam.
Sunday, Ukraine’s southern command said that artillery and missile attacks in the area had killed 35 Russians and destroyed a howitzer, an artillery gun on wheels, and nine armoured and other vehicles.
“Two ammunition stores and one field supply point were also destroyed,” it said.
On Ukraine’s eastern front, defenders continued to stop Russian attempts to break through around the strategic city of Bakhmut and take control of more of the Donbas region.
Russian forces have been focusing on Bakhmut since they took Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk a few weeks ago. A Ukrainian military report says that the town was shelled again on Saturday, along with nearby Soldedar and Zaitsevo. Before the war, the town was home to 80,000 people.
It said that Ukraine stopped moving forward near Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, two other big towns.
The Ukrainian military also said that its troops in the coal-producing town of Avdiivka were able to stop a Russian attack even though they were hit by enemy artillery and planes.
In a daily briefing, the Russian defence ministry said that it had destroyed a large ammunition depot in the Dnipropetrovsk region of Ukraine. The depot had been filled with U.S.-made HIMARS rocket systems and M777 Howitzer shells.
The ministry said that the Russian Air Force shot down a MiG-29 plane in the Donetsk region of Donbas and destroyed six missile and artillery weapons depots in the Donetsk, Mykolaiv, and Kherson regions.
These stories could not be checked by Reuters.
President Vladimir Putin invaded Russia’s neighbour on February 24. He said that a “special operation” was needed to demilitarise the country and get rid of what he saw as threats to Russia’s security.
Both Ukraine and the West have said that this is just an empty excuse for an imperialist war to take over.