‘Playing with fire’: UN warns as team to inspect damage at Ukraine nuclear plant

  • IAEA chief warns: “You are playing with fire!” after the explosions
  • Russia and Ukraine are accused of commercial shooting
  • President Zelensky said that the eastern region was hit by heavy artillery fire
  • Zelensky says “heaviest fighting” in Donetsk region

LONDON/LVIV, Ukraine, Nov 21 (Reuters) – The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog warned that whoever fired a cannon at Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant was “playing with fire” as his team on Monday for The inspection of damage from the Ukrainian nuclear power plant is being prepared. holiday strike.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said the attack on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine took place as fighting rages in the east and Russian forces hit Ukrainian frontline positions.

The attack on the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant follows the failure of Russian forces in Kherson province in the south and Russia’s response, which has included missile strikes across the country, mostly on energy facilities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that more than ten explosions rocked the nuclear power plant on Saturday and Sunday. Rafael Grossi, head of the IAEA, said the attacks were extremely alarming and completely unacceptable.

“Whoever is behind this needs to stop immediately. As I have said many times, you are playing with fire!” Grossi said in a statement.

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the facility, as they have done several times in recent months following attacks on or near it.

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Citing information provided by plant management, an IAEA team on the ground said some buildings, systems and equipment were damaged, but none of them were critical to nuclear safety and security.

Grossi said the team planned to complete the assessment on Monday, but Russian nuclear power operator Rosenergoatom said there were limits to what the team could examine.

“If they inspect a facility that has nothing to do with nuclear safety, access will be denied,” Renat Karchaa, adviser to Rosenergoatom’s CEO, told TASS.

Repeated explosions at the plant have raised fears of a major accident just 500 kilometers (300 miles) from the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The Zaporizhzhia plant supplied about a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity before the Russian invasion and has had to operate with backup generators several times. It has six Soviet-designed VVER-1000 V-320 water-cooled reactors with a uranium-235 moderator.

The reactors are shut down, but there is a risk of the nuclear fuel overheating if power to the cooling systems is cut. Shells cut the power line many times.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukraine had fired a projectile at power lines that supply the plant, but the Ukrainian Nuclear Energy Company accused the Russian military of shelling the site and said the Russians were targeting infrastructure needed to restart parts of the plant. have decided to further limit the supply of electricity to Ukraine.

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A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant from the city of Nikopol, during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region, November 7, 2022. The photo is taken from a glass. REUTERS/Valentin Ogirenko/File photo

“THE MOST SEVERE WARS”

In a video address, Zelensky said that in the east of Ukraine, Russian forces hit the positions of the Ukrainian front with artillery fire, and the most intense attacks were observed in the Donetsk region.

Russia this month withdrew its forces from the southern city of Kherson and moved some of them to strengthen positions in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, an industrial region known as Donbass.

Zelensky said: “The heaviest battles are taking place in Donetsk region as before. Although there were fewer attacks today due to bad weather, unfortunately, the number of Russian shelling remains very high.”

He said: “In Luhansk region, we are slowly moving forward during the war. So far, there have been about 400 artillery attacks in the east since the beginning of the day.”

Ukraine’s military confirmed heavy fighting over the past 24 hours in an early Monday report, saying its forces had repelled Russian attacks in Donetsk region while Russian forces shelled eastern Luhansk and northeast Kharkiv.

In the south, Zelensky said troops were “continuously and very calculatedly destroying the potential of the occupiers,” but did not elaborate.

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The city of Kherson remains without electricity, running water and heat.

Ukraine said on Saturday that up to 60 Russian soldiers were killed in a long-range artillery attack in the south, the second time in four days that Ukraine has claimed heavy casualties in an incident.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that up to 50 Ukrainian soldiers were killed on the southern frontline of Donetsk and 50 others elsewhere.

Reuters could not immediately verify any reports from the battlefield.

Russia calls the invasion of Ukraine a “special operation” to demilitarize and “de-azify” its neighbor, although Kyiv and its allies say the attack is a war of aggression.

Oleh Zhdanov, a military analyst in Kyiv, said that according to his information, Russian attacks are taking place on the Bakhmut and Avdiivka front lines in the Donetsk region, etc.

“The enemy is trying to break through our defenses, without success,” Zhdanov said in a video posted on social media. “We’re fighting – they’re taking big losses.”

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in London, Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv, Caleb Davies in Gdansk and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Vienna and Lydia Kelly in Melbourne; Written by Guy Faulconbridge, David Ljunggren and Sri Navaratnam; Edited by Robert Birsel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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