KYIV: Ukrainian and Russian-installed officials reported shelling near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine on Monday (Aug 15), with both sides blaming each other after the International Atomic Energy Agency warned of disaster if the fighting does not stop.
Russia and Ukraine have traded accusations of shelling near the plant in recent days amid fears of a nuclear catastrophe at the complex, which dominates the south bank of a vast reservoir on the Dnipro River.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned Russian soldiers who attack Europe’s largest nuclear power station or use it as a base to shoot from that they will become a “special target”.
The plant is in the now Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar.
Yevhen Yevtushenko, head of the administration of the Nikopol district, which lies across the river from Enerhodar, blamed Russian forces for shelling the city.
Vladimir Rogov, a Russia-installed official in the city, said that over the past two hours about 25 heavy artillery strikes from US-made M777 howitzers had hit near the nuclear plant and residential areas.
Russia’s Interfax news agency, quoting the press service of Enerhodar’s Russian-appointed administration, said Ukrainian forces opened fire, with blasts near the power plant.
The IAEA, which is seeking access to the plant, has warned of possible disaster. Nuclear experts fear fighting might damage the plant’s spent fuel pools or reactors.
“The Russians think they can force the world to comply with their conditions by shelling the Zaporizhzhia NPP (nuclear power plant),” Andriy Yermak, chief of the Ukrainian presidential staff, wrote on Twitter. “This will not happen. Instead, our military will punish them by hard hitting with precision on pain points.”