Russians, Ukrainians again trade blame for new shelling near nuclear power plant

  • For the past few days, Russia and Ukraine have been accusing each other of firing
  • Russia says it will make every effort to allow the IAEA to visit the nuclear plant
  • The IAEA has warned of disaster at the plant if the fighting does not stop

KYIV, Aug 15 (Reuters) – Ukrainian and Russian-based officials reported gunfire near the Zaporizhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine on Monday, with both sides accusing each other after the International Atomic Energy Agency warned of disaster if the fighting did not stop.

Russia and Ukraine have traded accusations of shelling near the plant in recent days over fears of a nuclear disaster at the complex, which dominates the southern bank of the vast reservoir on the Dnipro River.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that Russian soldiers who attack Europe’s largest nuclear power plant or use it as a base to fire from will become “special targets”.

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The plant is now located in the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodor.

Yevhen Yevtushenko, the head of the administration of Nikopol district, across the river from Enrhodar, accused Russian forces of shelling the town.

Vladimir Rogov, a Russia-based official in the city, said about 25 heavy artillery shells from US-made M777 howitzers had hit near the nuclear plant and residential areas in the past two hours.

Russia’s Interfax news agency cited the press service of Enrhodar’s Russian-appointed administration as saying that Ukrainian forces opened fire with explosions near the power plant.

The IAEA, which is seeking access to the plant, has warned of a potential disaster. Nuclear experts fear the fighting could damage the plant’s spent fuel pools or reactors.

“The Russians think they can force the world to comply with their terms by firing up the Zaporizhia NPP (nuclear power plant),” Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak wrote on Twitter. “That won’t happen. Instead, our forces will punish them by hitting them precisely at the pain points.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the establishment of a demilitarized zone around Zaporizhia.

A spokesman for Russia’s foreign ministry said Monday it would make every effort to allow IAEA experts to visit the plant. Read on

“In close cooperation with the agency and its leadership, we will do everything necessary for IAEA experts to be on station and conduct a factual assessment of the sabotage actions on the Ukrainian side,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

‘Complicated but under control’

Ukraine, where parliament on Monday extended martial law for another three months, has said for weeks it is planning a counteroffensive to seize Zaporizhia and neighboring Kherson province, the largest swath of territory seized by Russia since its February 24 invasion and still under control.

Ukrainian forces had earlier reported Russian shelling and attempted to advance on several towns in the eastern region of Donetsk, which has become the focus of the nearly six-month war, but said they had repulsed several attacks.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces also reported Russian shelling of more than a dozen towns in the south – notably the Kherson region, largely occupied by Russian forces but where Ukrainian forces are steadily retaking territory.

Natalia Humenyuk, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s southern military command, said on Monday that the situation was complicated but under control. “The enemy does not dare to advance by land, but fires at the rear areas with artillery and rockets,” she told a news briefing.

Asked about Ukraine’s shelling of the Antonievsky bridge in Kherson region on Sunday, she said Ukrainian forces continued to fire on routes used by the Russians for supplies.

Russia has called the invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” to destroy its tiny neighbor’s forces and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and Western supporters accused Moscow of launching an imperial-style war of conquest.

The conflict has brought Moscow-Washington relations to a low point, with Russia warning it could sever them.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Moscow is ready to provide modern weapons to its allies. He used a speech at an arms exhibition near Moscow to boast about Russia’s advanced weapons capabilities.

“(We are) ready to provide our allies with the most modern types of weapons, from small arms to armored vehicles and artillery to aviation and unmanned aerial vehicles,” Putin said at the opening ceremony of the “Army-2022” forum.

“Almost all of them have been used more than once in actual combat operations.” Read on

But Putin’s military has fared worse than expected in Ukraine. The war has so far not been a credible showcase for Russia’s arms industry, having retreated from Ukraine’s two largest cities and moved slowly, at great expense, to the east of the country.

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Reporting by Natalia Zinets in Kyiv, Yoruk Isik and Essie Toksbey in Istanbul, Andrea Shalal in Youzne, Maya Gebeli in Beirut and Jonathan Shaul in London and the Reuters Bureau; Writing by Lincoln Fest and Nick McPhee; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Alex Richardson

Our Standards: Principles of Thomson Reuters Trust.

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