- Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of bombing a factory
- The nuclear power plant has been worrying for weeks
- The UN watchdog will issue a report on this later on Tuesday.
- Ukraine says Russia is bombing Kharkiv and the city of Zelenskiy
KYIV, September 6 (Reuters) – Explosions erupted and power was cut off on Tuesday in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, hours before a report by the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations that could shed light on the threat of catastrophe.
The two belligerent countries accuse each other of risking a nuclear disaster by bombing the Zaporizhzhia factory, which the invading Russian forces seized at the start of the conflict but which is still operated by Ukrainian technicians.
It is located in the front line on one bank of a Russian-controlled reservoir and across the water from Ukrainian-controlled positions.
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Dmytro Orlov, the Ukrainian mayor of the surrounding town of Enerhodar which operates from outside Russian-held territory, said on social media that a powerful explosion sounded shortly after noon. Residents were left without electricity or water.
Moscow repeated its longstanding accusations that Ukrainian forces were shelling the plant.
Kyiv claims that it was Russia that staged such incidents, to undermine international support for Ukraine and as a possible pretext to cut the plant off the Ukrainian power grid and steal its output. Russia has so far rejected international calls to withdraw its forces from the site and demilitarize the area.
The long-awaited report from the International Atomic Energy Agency follows a fact-finding mission to the plant last week, led by IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, who braved bombardment to cross the line of forehead and reach it. Two IAEA experts remained on site to maintain a long-term presence.
It was unclear whether the IAEA report would assign responsibility for the incidents there. After returning to Ukrainian territory, Grossi said there was evidence of damage, but he refrained from pointing fingers, although he later retweeted the EU Council president’s remarks, Charles Michel, who said: “Russia has put the world in danger”.
Grossi is expected to brief the UN Security Council in New York on his findings later on Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned on Monday of a ‘radioactive disaster’ near the plant and said Russia’s bombing of it showed Moscow ‘doesn’t care what the IAEA will say’ .
He was speaking after IAEA officials, citing information provided by Ukraine, said the only remaining reactor shut down after the plant’s emergency power line was cut to put out a fire .
They said the line itself was undamaged and would be reconnected and the plant had enough power to operate safely. The reactor would be reconnected to the grid once emergency power is restored.
The Russian diplomatic mission to international organizations in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, said on Telegram that three Ukrainian shells landed near the plant’s fuel storage unit, solid radioactive waste storage and near of one of the power units.
He posted footage of shell impacts to back up his claim. Reuters could not verify the claims of either party.
Thousands have died and millions have fled Ukraine since Russia launched what it calls a special military operation in February, saying it aimed to demilitarize its neighbor. Kyiv and the West call it a brazen war of conquest.
Last week, the fighting focused on the south, where Ukraine launched a long-awaited counterattack to retake territory seized at the start of the war.
Little information has emerged on the progress of this campaign, with Kyiv banning journalists from the front line and publishing only limited reports, to preserve surprise.
Russia claims to have repelled the assault. According to Western military experts, Ukraine’s objective appears to be to trap thousands of Russian troops on the western bank of the wide Dnipro River and cut them off by destroying their rear supply lines.
Meanwhile, Russia continued to bomb Ukrainian towns elsewhere. Rescuers have found the body of a woman under the rubble of a building in Kharkiv after an overnight bombardment of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said. The governor said two other people were also killed in the province. Read more
Ukrainian officials said Russia also struck an oil depot in Kryvy Rih, the hometown of President Zelenskiy.
“There is a big fire at the oil depot. The fire services are working on the site. We are working to establish the extent of the destruction and information about the victims,” said Valentyn Reznychenko, a local regional official.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin was shown with his defense minister as he inspected a major military exercise in Russia’s Far East. Read more
The New York Times reported that US intelligence believed Russia was buying artillery munitions from North Korea as sanctions began to reduce its ability to maintain operations in Ukraine. There was no immediate reaction to this from Moscow.
Fears in Europe grew during a potentially bleak winter after Russia announced it was maintaining the closure of its main gas pipeline to Germany.
Moscow blames equipment maintenance disruptions caused by Western sanctions for cutting off the flow of gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipe. European countries call it nonsense.
Gazprom pipeline operator (GAZP.MM) Deputy Chief Executive Vitaly Markelov told Reuters on Tuesday that Nord Stream 1 would not resume shipments until Siemens Energy. (REC1n.DE) repaired faulty hardware. Read more
Siemens said it did not understand Gazprom’s portrayal of the situation.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blamed the United States for the energy crisis. She said it had pushed European leaders towards what she called the “suicidal” step of cutting economic and energy cooperation with Moscow. Read more
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Reporting by Reuters Writing by Peter Graff and Andrew Osborn Editing by Angus MacSwan
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