Ukraine calls on world to ‘show strength’ after shelling near nuclear reactor

  • Zelenskiy calls for new sanctions on Russia’s nuclear industry
  • Ukraine and Russia blame shelling near plant
  • The IAEA has warned of disaster at the plant if the fighting does not stop

KYIV, Aug 16 (Reuters) – Ukraine called for new sanctions on Russia and highlighted the risks and consequences of a disaster at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, where fresh shelling has sparked renewed retaliation between the two sides.

Ukrainian and Russian-based authorities have blamed each other for the attacks near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned Russian soldiers that they will become a “special target” if they attack the base in the currently Russian-held city of Enerhodar or use it as a base for firing.

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“If there is a catastrophe caused by Russia’s actions, the consequences may hit those who have remained silent for the time being,” he said in a speech on Monday night, calling for new sanctions on Russia’s nuclear sector.

“Now if the world does not show the strength and determination to protect a nuclear power plant, it means the world is lost.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency has warned of a catastrophe if the fighting is not stopped.

Vladimir Rokov, a Russian-installed official at Enerhodar, said on Monday that about 25 heavy artillery strikes from US-made M777 howitzers hit the nuclear plant and residential areas in a two-hour period.

Russia’s Interfax news agency cited the press service of Enerhoder’s Russian-appointed administration as saying that Ukrainian forces opened fire and detonated explosives near the power plant.

But according to the administrative head of Nikopol district, across the river from Enerhodar, which is under Ukrainian control, Russian forces tried to make it appear that it was the Ukrainian city that was attacking it.

“The Russians think they can force the world to comply with their terms by shelling the Zaporizhia NPP (nuclear power plant),” Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak wrote on Twitter.

Russian forces continued to shell towns and cities – Velika Kostryumka and Marhanets in the south – opposite the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, according to a Facebook statement from the Southern District of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Ukrainian forces killed 23 Russian soldiers and destroyed two fortified positions.

Reuters could not immediately verify the battlefield reports.

The United Nations says it has the logistical and security capabilities to support an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visit if both Russia and Ukraine agree. read more

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke with Guterres by phone and discussed conditions for safe operation of the plant, the ministry said Monday.

“In close cooperation with the agency and its leadership, we will do everything necessary to have IAEA experts on station and truthfully assess the destructive actions of the Ukrainian side,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

But Igor Vishnevetsky, deputy head of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Nuclear Proliferation and Arms Control, was later quoted as saying that it would be too dangerous for any IAEA mission to pass through the capital, Kiev, to inspect the plant. read more

“Imagine what it means to go through Kyiv – it means they are coming to the nuclear power plant through the front line,” RIA news agency quoted Vishnevetsky as saying.

Ukraine, whose parliament on Monday extended martial law for another three months, has said for weeks it was planning a counteroffensive to retake Zaporizhzhia and neighboring Kherson province, the largest swath of territory Russia captured and still holds after the February 24 invasion.

Death Penalty

The conflict, which has displaced millions and killed thousands, has put a huge strain on relations between Moscow and the West.

A pro-Russian separatist court in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on Monday charged five foreigners with being mercenaries who they said were caught fighting with Ukrainian forces, Russian media reported. Three of them could face the death penalty. read more

Late Monday, Russia said a British spy plane violated its airspace over a peninsula east of Finland between the Barents Sea and the White Sea, and a fighter jet ejected the British plane from Russian airspace.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” to militarize its neighbors and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and Western supporters accuse Moscow of waging an imperialist-style war of conquest.

The Ukrainian military announced Monday evening that Russian forces were shelling advances on various front lines in the east and south.

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The Joint Coordination Center, set up by the United Nations, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, said it had approved the departure of Brave Commander, the first humanitarian food aid shipment from Ukraine to Africa since the invasion. Set to leave on Tuesday.

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Report by Reuters Bureau; Written by Kostas Pitas and Lincoln Feist; Editing by Rosalpa O’Brien, Stephen Coates & Simon Cameron-Moore

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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