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A huge crater caused by Russian shelling is pictured in Kushuhum urban-type settlement in the Zaporizhzhia region. Dmytro Smolyenko/PA
War in Ukraine

Russian strikes near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant kill 14 as G7 urges Moscow to leave facility

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow to address the crisis at the nuclear complex.

LAST UPDATE | 10 Aug 2022

UKRAINE HAS ACCUSED Russia of carrying out rocket strikes that killed 14 civilians in areas near a nuclear power plant, as the G7 warned that Russian control of the facility “endangers the region”.

Overnight strikes in the Dnipropetrovsk region in central Ukraine killed 13 people and injured 11, with five reported to be in a serious condition, regional governor Valentin Reznichenko wrote on Telegram.

“It was a terrible night,” he said, urging residents to shelter when they hear air raid sirens.

“I am asking and begging you… Don’t let the Russians kill you,” he wrote.

A woman died after Russian missiles slammed into a village in the Zaporizhzhia region this morning, local governor Oleksandr Starukh wrote on Telegram.

Most of the casualties were in the town of Marganets, just across the Dnipro River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s biggest.

Regional council head Mykola Lukashuk said the strikes had hit a local power line, leaving thousands of people without electricity.

G7 call over nuclear plant

Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of recent shelling around the plant, which has six reactors.

Ukraine says Russia has stationed hundreds of troops and stored ammunition at the facility since taking it over on 4 March, shortly after starting its invasion.

russia-must-exit-ukraine-nuclear-plant-says-g7 Foreign ministers from the G7 group of nations say Russia must immediately hand back control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to Ukraine. Dmytro Smolyenko Dmytro Smolyenko

The tensions have revived memories of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Soviet Ukraine, which killed hundreds of people and spread radioactive contamination over much of Europe.

The Group of Seven industrialised nations condemned Russia’s occupation and called on Moscow to immediately hand back full control of the plant.

Ukrainian staff operating the plant must be able to work “without threats or pressure” and Russia’s control of the plant “endangers the region”, the G7 foreign ministers said in a statement.

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow to address the crisis at the nuclear complex.

A source in the Security Council presidency, currently held by China, told AFP on Wednesday that the meeting would occur on 11 August at 3pm (8pm Irish time).

A second diplomatic source at United Nations headquarters in New York said the council’s 15 member nations would gather at the request of Russia, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council – along with Britain, China, France and the United States – which hold veto power over UN resolutions.

Crimea blasts

The strikes on Zaporizhzhia came a day after major blasts at the Saki airfield, a key military base on the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula.

Moscow insisted that the explosions were caused by detonating ammunition rather than Ukrainian fire. 

Ukraine’s air force said nine Russian jets were destroyed in the explosions, but Russia denied any aircraft were damaged in the blasts — or that any attack took place.

Ukrainian officials have stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility for the explosions, while poking fun at Russia’s explanation that munitions at the Saki air base caught fire and blew up and underscoring the importance of the peninsula that Moscow annexed eight years ago.

russia-ukraine AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

In his nightly video address several hours after the blasts, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to retake the peninsula, saying “this Russian war against Ukraine and against all of free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea — its liberation”.

On Wednesday, Russian authorities sought to downplay the explosions, saying all hotels and beaches were unaffected on the peninsula, which is a popular tourist destination for many Russians.

The fireballs, which killed one person and wounded 13, sent tourists fleeing in panic as plumes of smoke towered over the nearby coastline.

They smashed windows and caused other damage in some apartment buildings.

Russian jets have used Saki to strike areas in Ukraine’s south on short notice, and Ukrainian social networks were abuzz with speculation that Ukrainian-fired long-range missiles hit the base.

Officials in Moscow have long warned Ukraine that any attack on Crimea would trigger massive retaliation, including strikes on “decision-making centres” in Kyiv.

A Ukrainian presidential adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, who is more outspoken than other officials, cryptically said yesterday that the blasts were caused either by a Ukrainian-made long-range weapon or were the work of guerrillas operating in Crimea.

The base on the Black Sea peninsula that dangles off southern Ukraine is at least 125 miles away from the closest Ukrainian position — out of the range of the missiles supplied by the US for use in the Himars systems.

The Ukrainian military has successfully used those missiles, with a range of 50 miles, to target ammunition and fuel depots, strategic bridges and other key targets in Russia-occupied territories.

Himars could also fire longer-range rockets, with a range of up to about 185 miles, that Ukraine has asked for.

But US authorities have refrained from providing them thus far, fearing it could provoke Russia and widen the conflict.

The explosions in Saki raised speculation on social media that Ukraine might have finally got the weapons.

‘There is a lot of shooting’

Fighting also ground on in eastern Ukraine, where Russian troops are gradually advancing.

Strikes on the city of Bakhmut killed at least six people and injured three others, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram, adding that 12 residential buildings were damaged.

The city of Soledar was under constant shelling, AFP reporters saw, as Russian troops attempted to drive out Ukrainian forces and seize a foothold towards Bakhmut.

The echoes of cluster bombs and artillery bounced off apartment buildings with their windows shattered, while roads were cratered and shops boarded up or destroyed.

The city was shrouded with black and white smoke arising from artillery and air strikes.

Some of those who remain now live underground in cellars ill-suited as bomb shelters.

“Most have left. It’s very scary. There is a lot of shooting,” said 62-year-old Svitlana Klymenko.

“I just want to leave to grow old in a normal way, die a normal death, not be killed by a missile.”

EU ban on Russian coal

The war has severely hampered grain supply from Ukraine, leading to an international food crisis as it is one of the world’s biggest producers.

Some ships have been able to leave Ukrainian ports in recent days after a deal with Russia brokered by the United Nations and Turkey.

The first exports of wheat should start next week under the agreement, top UN official Frederick Kenney said on Wednesday.

The first grain shipment to leave on the Sierra Leone-flagged vessel Razoni departed the Ukrainian port of Odessa on 1 August and had been expected to dock in the Lebanese port of Tripoli at the weekend.

But the Ukrainian embassy said a new buyer for the shipment was being sought after the original Lebanese buyer cancelled the order.

Marine traffic sites showed the Razoni docked in Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Mersin, following reports a new buyer had been found for its cargo.

Spain today launched a pilot project to import Ukrainian grain by train to avoid blocked maritime routes, with a freight train leaving Madrid for the Polish town of Chelm late on Tuesday.

Western countries have meanwhile imposed increasingly stringent sanctions on Moscow, raising fears that Russia may cut off gas supplies.

EU countries have started putting into place different measures to save energy, with air conditioning curbs coming into force in Spain today and Vienna dimming street lighting.

A total EU ban on imports of Russian coal was due to come into force overnight.

Additional reporting from © AFP 2022

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