Sunday, October 2, 2022
Home POLITICS Russia and Ukraine exchange claims of attacks on nuclear plants

Russia and Ukraine exchange claims of attacks on nuclear plants

SLOVIANSK, Ukraine (AP) — Russia and Ukraine traded claims of rocket and artillery attacks on or near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant on Sunday, heightening fears the fighting could cause a massive radiation leak. .

Ukraine’s atomic energy agency painted an ominous picture of the threat on Sunday by issuing a map forecasting where radiation could spread from Zaporizhzhia. Nuclear power plant, which Russian forces have controlled since shortly after the war. it started.

Attacks were reported over the weekend not only in Russian-controlled territory adjacent to the plant along the left bank of the Dnieper River, but also along the Ukrainian-controlled right bank, including the cities of Nikopol and Marhanets, each about 10 kilometers (six miles). ) of the installation.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Sunday that Ukrainian forces attacked the plant twice in the last day and that shells landed near buildings that store reactor fuel and radioactive waste.

“One shell fell in the area of ​​the sixth power unit and the other five in front of the pumping station of the sixth unit, which provides cooling for this reactor,” Konashenkov said, adding that radiation levels were normal.

The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency also reported on Sunday that radiation levels were normal, that two of the six reactors at the Zaporizhzhia plant were operational, and that while a full assessment had not yet been carried out, recent fighting had damaged a water pipe, which has since been repaired.

In another apparent attack on Sunday, Russian forces shot down an armed Ukrainian drone that was targeting one of the Zaporizhzhia plant’s spent fuel storage sites, a local official said. Vladimir Rogov, a regional official based in Russia, said on the Telegram messaging app that the drone crashed into the roof of a building, causing no significant damage or injuring anyone.

Nearby, heavy gunfire overnight left parts of Nikopol without power, said Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region. The rocket attacks damaged a dozen residences in Marhanets, according to Yevhen Yevtushenko, the head of administration for the district that includes the city of about 45,000 people.

The city of Zaporizhzhia, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) up the Dnieper River from the nuclear plant, was also attacked by the Russians, who damaged dozens of apartment buildings and houses and wounded two people, councilor Anatoliy Kurtev said. Russian forces attacked a Ukrainian air force helicopter repair shop in Zaporizhzhia, Konashenkov said.

Neither party’s claims could be independently verified.

Downstream from the nuclear plant, Ukrainian rockets hit the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant and the adjacent town three times on Sunday, said Vladimir Leontyev, head of the Russian-installed local administration.

The plant’s dam is a major highway across the river and a potentially key supply route to Russia. The dam forms a reservoir that provides water for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The radiation map issued by Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom showed that, based on wind forecasts for Monday, a nuclear cloud could spread across southern Ukraine and southwestern Russia. The publication of the map may have been intended to warn that if Russian forces were responsible for a radiation leak, their own country would suffer. In the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, the world’s worst nuclear power catastrophe, radiation spread from Ukraine to several neighboring countries.

Last week, authorities began distributing iodine tablets to residents living near the Zaporizhzhia plant in case of radiation exposure. Much of the concern centers on the plant’s nuclear reactor coolant systems. The systems require electricity, and the plant was temporarily taken offline Thursday due to what officials said was fire damage to a transmission line. A failure in the cooling system could cause a nuclear meltdown.

Periodic shelling has damaged the infrastructure of the power station, Energoatom said on Saturday.

“There are risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive substances, and the danger of fire is high,” he said.

The IAEA has tried to reach an agreement with Ukrainian and Russian authorities to send a team to inspect and secure the plant, but it was not clear when the visit might take place.

In eastern Ukraine, where Russian and separatist forces are trying to take control, shelling hit the large and strategically important cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, with no reported casualties, said Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region. Konashenkov said Russian missile strikes killed 250 Ukrainian soldiers and reservists in and near Sloviansk. Ukrainian officials did not comment on the claim, in keeping with their policy of not discussing losses.

Kostiantyn Daineko, a resident of Sloviansk, told The Associated Press that he was falling asleep when an explosion blew out the windows of his apartment.

“I opened my eyes and I saw the window frame fly at me, the frame and pieces of broken glass,” he said.

Russian and separatist forces control much of the Donetsk region, one of two that Russia has recognized as sovereign states.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed again on Sunday to retake breakaway areas.

“The invaders brought degradation and death and they think they are there forever,” Zelenskyy said Sunday in his late-night video address. “But it’s a temporary thing for them. Ukraine wants to return. Safely. Life will return.”

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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Andrew Katell contributed to this report from New York.

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An earlier version of this story was corrected to show that the Sloviansk resident’s given name is Kostiantyn, not Konstiantyn.

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