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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C
Dmytro Smolyenko File photo of Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

Zelenskyy says Russia must take responsibility for nuclear plant 'terror'

Nuclear power plant operator Energoatom said the plant was struck near one of the power blocks where the nuclear reactor is located.

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR Zelenskyy has said Russia must take responsibility for an “act of terror”, after Kyiv and Moscow traded blame for strikes at Europe’s largest nuclear plant.

Russia earlier accused Kyiv’s forces of striking Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and charged that Zelenskyy’s government was committing acts of “nuclear terrorism.”

“Today, the occupiers have created another extremely risky situation for all of Europe: they struck the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant twice. Any bombing of this site is a shameless crime, an act of terror,” Zelenskyy said in his daily video address.

“Russia must take responsibility for the very fact of creating a threat to a nuclear plant. And this is not only another argument in favour of recognising Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

“This is also an argument in favour of applying tough sanctions against the entire Russian nuclear industry – from (Russia’s state-run nuclear company) Rosatom to all related companies and individuals.”

Russian troops have occupied the Zaporizhzhia plant since the early days of their invasion and Kyiv has accused them of storing heavy weapons there. Moscow, in turn, has accused Ukrainian forces of targeting the plant.

“Three strikes were recorded on the site of the plant, near one of the power blocks where the nuclear reactor is located,” Ukraine’s state-run nuclear power plant operator Energoatom said in a statement.

“There are risks of hydrogen leakage and radioactive spraying. The fire danger is high,” Energoatom said. It did not report any casualties.

It said staff of Russian nuclear operator Rosatom had left the plant in a hurry before the attacks, which damaged a power cable and forced one of the reactors to stop working.

“The possible consequences of hitting a working reactor are equivalent to using an atomic bomb,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said.

The defence ministry in Moscow denied the reports.

“Ukrainian armed units carried out three artillery strikes on the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and the city of Energodar,” it said.

This week the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that the situation at the nuclear power plant was “volatile”.

The global nuclear watchdog has been trying for weeks to send a team to inspect the plant. Ukraine has so far rejected the efforts, which it says would legitimise Russia’s occupation of the site in the eyes of the international community.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Moscow of using the plant as a “military base to fire at Ukrainians, knowing that they can’t and won’t shoot back because they might accidentally strike a nuclear… reactor or highly radioactive waste in storage”.

Zelenskyy’s office and local authorities also reported Russian bombardments overnight targeting the southern city of Mykolaiv with widely-banned cluster bombs and heavy artillery – wounding 20 people, including a 14-year-old boy.

Mykolaiv is on the main route to Odessa, Ukraine’s biggest port on the Black Sea, and is the closest city to the southern front.

Several missiles struck Zaporizhzhia city overnight and there was heavy bombardment of Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv, in the northeast.

Ukrainian forces are conducting a counter-offensive in the south, where they claim to have retaken more than 50 villages previously controlled by Moscow.

© AFP 2022

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