- Russian ambassador warns of nuclear disaster
- Zelensky calls on Russia to return the factory to Ukraine
- Satellite images show damage to a Russian air base in Crimea
Kyiv/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine accused each other of bombing Europe’s largest nuclear power plant as the United Nations chief proposed a demilitarized zone at the site amid fears of disaster.
Ukraine’s Energoatom agency said the Zaporizhzhia complex was bombed five times on Thursday, including near where the radioactive material was stored. Russia-appointed officials said Ukraine bombed the plant twice, disrupting the shift change, Russia’s TASS news agency said.
The UN Security Council met on Thursday to discuss the situation. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on both sides to stop all fighting near the factory.
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“The facility should not be used as part of any military operation,” Guterres said in a statement. “Instead, an urgent technical-level agreement on a safe disarmament perimeter is needed to ensure the safety of the area.”
Russia occupied Zaporizhia in March after invading Ukraine on February 24. The factory, near the front line of the fighting, is controlled by Russian forces, and operated by Ukrainian workers.
At the Security Council meeting, the United States supported the call for a demilitarized zone and urged the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit the site. Read more
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzia, said the world was pushing “to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe, comparable in scope to Chernobyl.” He said IAEA officials could visit the site as soon as this month.
Reuters was not able to independently verify reports from either side about conditions at the plant.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded that Russia return the plant to Ukraine’s control.
“Only the complete withdrawal of the Russians and the restoration of full Ukrainian control over the situation around the plant can ensure the resumption of nuclear security for the whole of Europe,” he said in a video address.
France echoed Zelensky’s demand and said Russia’s occupation of the site endangered the world.
“The presence and movements of the Russian armed forces near the plant significantly increase the risk of an accident with serious consequences,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.
Kyiv and Moscow have previously blamed each other for the attacks on the site. Ukraine also accused Russia of firing missiles at Ukrainian towns from the vicinity of the captured nuclear power plant, knowing that it would be dangerous for Ukraine to return fire.
On Friday, the Ukrainian General Staff reported widespread bombing and air attacks by Russian forces on dozens of towns and military bases, mainly in the east.
“The enemy is trying to compensate for the losses in personnel and equipment,” the General Staff said in a statement.
Russian base in crime
Separately, satellite images released on Thursday showed the devastation at an air base in Russia-annexed Crimea. Western military experts said this indicates that Ukraine may have a new, long-range offensive capability with the potential to change the course of the war.
Images from independent satellite company Planet Labs showed three near-identical craters where buildings at Russia’s Saki Air Base were bombed with apparent precision. The base, located on the southwestern coast of Crimea, suffered extensive fire damage with at least eight destroyed warplanes clearly visible.
Russia denied hitting planes and said the blasts at the base on Tuesday were accidental. Ukraine has not publicly claimed responsibility for the attack.
Referring to the damage, Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters in a letter: “Officially, we do not confirm or deny anything … bearing in mind that there are several blast spots at exactly the same time.”
Zelensky told officials to stop talking to reporters about Kyiv’s military tactics against Russia, saying such statements were “frankly irresponsible.” The New York Times and The Washington Post quoted unidentified officials as saying that Ukrainian forces were responsible for the Crimean attack. Read more
Russia, which seized and annexed Crimea in 2014, is using the peninsula as a base for its Black Sea Fleet and as a major supply route for invasion forces occupying southern Ukraine, where Kyiv plans to launch a counterattack in the coming weeks.
The Institute for the Study of War said Ukrainian officials were framing the Crimean offensive as the beginning of Ukraine’s counterattack in the south, indicating heavy fighting in August and September that might decide the outcome of the war’s next phase.
How the attack was carried out remains a mystery, but similar craters and simultaneous explosions seem to indicate that the attack was hit by a barrage of weapons capable of evading Russian defenses.
The base is well beyond the range of the advanced missiles that Western countries have admitted to sending to Ukraine so far, although it is among a group of more powerful versions that Kyiv has sought. Ukraine also has anti-ship missiles that could theoretically be used to strike targets on land.
Meanwhile, the US State Department said that Russian officials had trained in Iran in recent weeks as part of an agreement on the transfer of drones between the two countries. Read more
US officials said last month that Iran was preparing to supply Russia with up to several hundred drones, including some with weapons capability, raising concerns that Tehran is now supporting Russia in its war in Ukraine. Read more
Russia says its “special military operation” will plan to protect Russian speakers and separatists in the south and east. Ukraine and its Western allies say Moscow aims to tighten its grip on as much territory as possible.
Since the outbreak of the war, tens of thousands have been killed, millions have fled, and cities have been destroyed.
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Reporting by Reuters offices. Writing by Cynthia Osterman and Michael Perry; Editing by Stephen Coates
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