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

  • IAEA chief: ‘You are playing with fire!’ After the explosion
  • Russia and Ukraine responsible for the trade shell
  • According to President Zelensky, the eastern region was hit with heavy weapons
  • Zelensky says ‘heaviest fighting’ in the Donetsk region

LONDON/LIVIVI, Ukraine, Nov 21 (Reuters) – The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog warned that anyone who fires at Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant is “playing with fire.” Weekend strikes.

The attack on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine comes as fighting rages in the east, with Russian troops striking Ukrainian positions on the front line, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

The strike at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant followed a setback to Russian forces in the Kherson region in the south and Russia’s response, including several missile strikes across the country, against energy facilities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said more than a dozen explosions rocked the nuclear plant on Saturday and Sunday. IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said the attacks were “extremely serious and totally unacceptable”.

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

Russia and Ukraine blamed each other for the attack on the facility, as they have repeatedly done in recent months.

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Citing information provided by plant management, the IAEA team on the ground said there was damage to some buildings, systems and equipment, but none critical to nuclear safety and security.

The team plans to conduct an assessment on Monday, Grossi said, but Russian nuclear power operator Rosnergoatom said there would be restrictions on what the team could examine.

“If you want to inspect a facility that has nothing to do with nuclear safety, access is denied,” Rosenergoatom’s chief executive adviser Renat Karchaya told Tass news agency.

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

The Zaporizhia plant supplied one-fifth of Ukraine’s electricity before the Russian invasion and was forced to operate most of the time on standby generators. It has six Soviet-designed VVER-1000 V-320 water-cooled and liquid-phase reactors containing uranium 235.

The power plants have been shut down, but there are fears that the nuclear fuel could overheat if the power to the cooling systems is cut. Schelling repeatedly cut power lines.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukraine had fired shells at power lines supplying the plant, but the Ukrainian nuclear energy company Energoatom said the Russian military had attacked the site, saying the Russians had targeted infrastructure necessary to restart parts of the plant to further cut off Ukraine’s power supply.

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A view shows the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant from the city of Nikopol, Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine in 2010. November 7, 2022 Mirror image. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File photo

‘The most intense battles’

In eastern Ukraine, the Russian army bombarded Ukrainian frontline positions with artillery fire, launched heavy attacks in the Donetsk region, Zelensky said in a video address.

Russia this month withdrew troops from the southern city of Kherson and moved to consolidate parts of the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, an industrial area known as the Donbass.

“The most intense battles, as before, are in the Donetsk region. Although today there are few attacks due to bad weather, the volume of Russian ammunition is very high,” said Zelensky.

“We are fighting in the Luhansk region and we are slowly advancing. So far, there have been about 400 artillery strikes in the east since the day started,” he said.

Ukraine’s military said heavy fighting took place early Monday morning, repelling Russian attacks in the Donetsk region, while Russian forces are pounding Luhansk region in the east and Kharkiv in the northeast.

In the south, Zelensky said, the troops were “consistently and very calculatedly destroying the capabilities of the invaders,” but did not give details.

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Kerson City remains without electricity, running water or heating.

Ukraine said on Saturday that about 60 Russian soldiers were killed in a long-range attack in the south, the second time in four days that Ukraine has suffered serious casualties.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that 50 Ukrainian soldiers were killed on the southern Dneetsk front in the previous day.

Reuters could not immediately confirm any battlefield reports.

Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special operation” to demilitarize and “demobilize” its neighbor, although Kyiv and its allies say the invasion is an unwanted war of aggression.

Oleh Zhdanov, a military analyst based in Kiev, said Russian attacks were taking place between the Bakmut and Avidivka fronts in the Donetsk region, among others.

“The enemy is trying to break through our defenses, it’s no use,” Zhadanov said in a video on social media. We will fight – they will suffer huge losses.

by Guy Falconbridge in London, Pavel Polityuk in Kiev, Caleb Davies in Gdansk and David Lunggren in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Vienna and Lydia Kelly in Melbourne; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge, David Lunggren and Sri Navaratnam; Editing by Robert Birsle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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