Russia It carried out a deadly missile attack on the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhia in the early hours of Thursday morning, just hours after the Kremlin announced that it had officially taken control of a massive nuclear power plant nearby.
Ukrainian officials said the bombing began with pre-dawn strikes, the first of which hit high-rise apartment buildings while people slept. A woman was killed and seven people, including a 3-year-old girl, were hospitalized. The authorities are still working to rescue people from under the rubble.
More missile attacks were reported after sunrise, prompting local officials to urge residents of towns along the Dnipro River to take cover.
The city of Zaporizhzhia is not far from the front lines of the conflict. Although the city is under Ukrainian control, Russian forces occupy about 75% of the Greater Zaporizhzhya region. This region is one of four Ukrainian regions annexed by Russia in violation of international law. The other three are Donetsk and Luhansk in the east and Kherson in the south.
Russian strikes in Zaporizhia Come in just one day Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree federalizing the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, located about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the city. It is located in the Russian occupied territories along the Dnipro River.
The plant is the largest nuclear power facility in Europe and is under Russian control Since the beginning of the waralthough it is still mostly operated by Ukrainian technicians.
Ukraine’s military claimed on Tuesday that plant employees were being subjected to “moral and psychological pressure” and were forced to obtain Russian passports and sign work contracts with Russia’s state nuclear energy agency. CNN was unable to verify these allegations, but when Putin announced the planned annexation of the four Ukrainian territories Fridayhe said, that the millions of people who live there will be Russian citizens “forever.”
The Zaporizhia factory has come under intense scrutiny since it was occupied shortly after the Russian invasion in late February. Heavy bombing near the facility this summer Raised fears of a nuclear accident, prompting the International Atomic Energy Agency to send a team there.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement that IAEA chief Rafael Grossi visited Kyiv on Thursday to discuss his calls for a nuclear safety zone around the plant “as soon as possible”. Grossi will also visit Russia in the coming days.
Grossi said at a press conference that it was still not clear what the “practical consequences” of Russia’s decision to take over the plant would be, but that he would discuss these matters at high-level meetings in Moscow. He also said that the International Atomic Energy Agency considered the facility Ukrainian.
We want this war to stop. The war must stop immediately. Grossi said the IAEA’s position is that this facility is a Ukrainian facility, but I’m not going into comments about military developments.
“For us, it’s clear that because this is a Ukrainian facility, the ownership (sic) is in Energatom,” Grossi said, referring to the Ukrainian nuclear agency. We are an international agency and are guided by international law. As you all well know, annexations are not acceptable under international law.”
Grossi said it was beyond his team’s ability to investigate allegations of crimes against Ukrainian employees working at the plant. Grossi said the IAEA currently has two staff members at the plant working under “almost intolerable conditions,” but that they will be changed soon.
The Ukrainian army continues to advance its successful counter-offensive, regaining lands in the south and forcing the Russian forces to withdraw from the lands that the Kremlin is trying to consider as its own.
The Ukrainian army said that Russian units suffered heavy losses in Kherson, and on Wednesday they are trying to evacuate wounded soldiers to safety across the Dnipro River, while Kyiv is pressing further along its western bank. Ukraine also said it was pressing ahead with the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where the fight against Moscow-backed separatist republics has continued since 2014.
Russia has pledged to control all of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, but its goals in Zaporizhzhya and Kherson are less clear, causing confusion over the borders claimed by Russia. Putin said Wednesday The situation is expected to stabilize, despite the fact that the Russian military does not fully control those areas.
The war effort has been surprisingly criticized by pro-Russian media in recent days, with some claiming that the Kremlin does not have enough forces to fend off Ukrainian attacks.
“We are just waiting for our reserve forces to become fit to fight and join the battle,” said Yuri Podolyaka, a pro-Russian military blogger.
Podolyaka was probably referring to the 300,000 reservists who would be called up as part of the “partial mobilization.” Putin ordered it last month. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that more than 200,000 people have joined the country’s army since the announcement sparked protests It sent hundreds of thousands of people – mostly men of fighting age – to flee to neighboring countries.
The Ukrainian army claimed that Russia was recruiting new soldiers from penal colonies, including more than 650 prisoners from a maximum security prison in Stavropol Krai.
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