Saturday, October 1, 2022

Shelling near Ukraine nuclear plant fuels disaster fears; Russia pounds Donbas

Shelling near Ukraine nuclear plant fuels disaster fears; Russia pounds Donbas

KYIV (Reuters) - Russian forces have pounded Ukrainian towns across the river from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, officials said, while reports of shelling around the facility fuelled fears of a radiation disaster.

Captured by Russian troops in March but run by Ukrainian staff, Zaporizhzhia, Europe's largest nuclear power plant, has been a major hotspot in the six-month conflict with both sides trading blame for recent shelling near the plant.

Russian forces fired at Enerhodar, the city where the plant is located, the chief of staff of Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said late on Sunday on his Telegram channel alongside a video of fire fighters dousing burning cars.

"They provoke and try to blackmail the world," chief of staff Andriy Yermak said.

Russian forces also kept up their shelling in the Donbas, Ukraine's industrial heartland in the east, officials there said.

Zelenskiy, in his nightly address on Sunday, vowed "the occupiers will feel their consequences - in the further actions of our defenders".

"No terrorist will be left without an answer for attacks on our cities. Zaporizhzhia, Orykhiv, Kharkiv, Donbas - they will receive an answer for all of them," he said.

Since Russian troops poured over the Ukrainian border in February in what Russian President Vladimir Putin termed a "special military operation," the conflict has settled into a war of attrition fought primarily in the east and south of Ukraine.

'RADIATION NORMAL'

The U.S. State Department said on Sunday that Russia did not want to acknowledge the grave radiological risk at the south Ukraine plant and had blocked a draft agreement on nuclear non-proliferation because it mentioned such risk.

The United Nations and Ukraine have called for a withdrawal of military equipment and personnel from the plant to ensure it is not a target.

However, Russia's defence ministry reported more Ukrainian shelling at the plant over the weekend.

Nine shells fired by the Ukrainian artillery landed in the plant's grounds, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

"At present, full-time technical personnel are monitoring the technical condition of the nuclear plant and ensuring its operation. The radiation situation in the area of the nuclear power plant remains normal," he said in a statement.