CONCLUSION 1-Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of bombing the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
By Max Hunder
KYIV, Aug 27 (Reuters) – Moscow and Kyiv on Saturday traded fresh accusations of shelling around the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, which is the subject of international concern that fighting in the region could trigger a disaster.
Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, has been controlled by Russian forces since early March, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine. Ukrainian personnel continue to operate it and in recent weeks the two sides have swapped responsibility for shelling near the plant.
Ukraine’s nuclear company Energoatom, the energy agency, said Russian troops had shelled the grounds of the plant complex again in the past 24 hours.
“The damage is being assessed,” Energoatom wrote in a statement on Telegram.
Moscow’s Defense Ministry accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the factory complex three times in the past 24 hours.
Reuters could not verify the battlefield report.
“A total of 17 shells were fired, four of which hit the roof of special building No. 1, where 168 US nuclear fuel assemblies WestingHouse are stored,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
He said 10 shells exploded near a dry storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and three more near a building that houses fresh nuclear fuel storage. He said the radiation situation at the factory remained normal.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday the situation in Zaporizhzhia remained “very risky” after two of its six reactors were reconnected to the grid following a bombardment that caused the nuclear plant to go offline for the first time. of its history.
Energoatom said on Friday evening that the plant’s two operating reactors had been reconnected to the grid and were again supplying electricity after being completely disconnected on Thursday.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, wants to visit the plant in the south of the country and the agency’s head, Rafael Grossi, said on Thursday that he was ” very, very close” to being able to send officials there.
Energoatom’s statement on Saturday said its plant staff had come under “increased pressure” ahead of the likely visit.
“The (Russians), preparing for the visit of the IAEA, increased the pressure on the personnel of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – in order to suppress their testimonies on the crimes of the occupants of the plant and to use it as military base,” he said.
Foreign ministers of the G7 countries have previously urged Russia to return the plant to Ukraine. Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said military equipment and personnel should be removed from the factory and called for efforts to ensure it does not is not the target of military operations.
THE FIGHT RAGES ON
Ukraine’s armed forces said in a briefing note on Saturday morning that they had repelled Russian assaults on three towns in the eastern Donetsk region.
All three are approaching the larger city of Bakhmut, an important strategic outpost for Ukraine due to its size and road connections.
A separate Facebook post from Ukraine’s Southern Command said it hit Russian air defense systems in the Kherson region with airstrikes and Ukrainian artillery destroyed two Smerch MLRS systems.
The Russian ministry, in its daily briefing, said it had destroyed a major ammunition depot in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region that contained US-made HIMARS rocket systems and M777 howitzer shells.
The Russian Air Force shot down a MiG-29 aircraft in the eastern Donetsk region, the ministry said, and destroyed six other missile and artillery weapons depots in the Donetsk, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions .
Reuters was unable to verify these accounts.
In a potential boost to an internationally negotiated deal that has seen Ukraine resume shipping grain from its Black Sea ports this month, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Saturday merchant seamen will be allowed to leave Ukraine if they receive approval from their local military administration. body.
The change would cover male crew members of sea and river vessels, as well as students who need to undergo practical training on board ships, he added.
Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 have largely been banned from leaving Ukraine under a state of martial law imposed as the country battles Russian invasion. Women of all ages were free to leave throughout the war.
President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Russia’s neighbor on February 24, saying a “special operation” was needed to demilitarize the country and eliminate perceived security threats to Russia.
Ukraine and the West dismissed this as a baseless pretext for a war of imperialist conquest.
(Reporting by Max Hunder and Reuters bureaus edited by Frances Kerry)