Russia accused of shelling at second Ukraine nuclear plant

Ukrainian operator says artillery fire caused 'powerful explosion' at site of southern plant

Ukraine’s nuclear energy authority said there was a ‘powerful explosion’ 300 metres from the Pivdennoukrainsk reactors. Reuters
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Ukraine on Monday accused Russia of shelling a second nuclear power plant and causing an explosion close to its reactors, adding to fears of a radioactive disaster caused by the war.

The site of the Pivdennoukrainsk plant in southern Ukraine was hit by Russian missiles shortly after midnight, causing shock waves that damaged buildings and more than 100 windows, state operator Energoatom said.

There was a "powerful explosion" 300 metres from the Pivdennoukrainsk reactors, it said.

It comes after weeks of escalating concern about damage to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant further east, where Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of artillery fire within perilous range of the site.

Fighting around the site of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, where radioactive fallout still lingers more than 30 years later, also unnerved officials and regulators.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the latest incident had caused short-term power cuts, while operators said three power lines and a hydropower unit were out of order.

Nobody was reported hurt, but Russia's alleged artillery fire "endangers the whole world," said Mr Zelenskyy, who published what purported to be footage of the missile strike.

"The invaders wanted to shoot again, but they forgot what a nuclear power plant is," he said.

Russia has repeatedly denied the accusation that it is shelling Ukrainian nuclear plants, amid concern from world leaders such as Antonio Guterres, Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden about developments at Zaporizhzhia.

Ukraine published footage purporting to show the moment of the Russian military strike. Reuters

The International Atomic Energy Agency said in its most recent update that Zaporizhzhia had been reconnected to the electricity grid after power lines were damaged during the fighting.

Although the situation at Zaporizhzhia is less precarious than it was a week ago, shelling continues in the area and the plant is still in the middle of a war zone, the IAEA said.

Moscow on Monday also rejected the suggestion that its forces were responsible for atrocities in eastern Ukraine, after the recapture of Izyum and other towns led to more claims of Russian massacres.

"These are lies," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said Russia "will stand up for the truth in this story".

Ukraine said mass graves and torture chambers had been found after the liberation of parts of the Kharkiv region, in a counter-offensive that has increased pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal used a visit to London for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II to lobby for more weapons deliveries, in a meeting with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau, to aid the counter-offensive.

"Ukraine insists on the establishment of a tribunal to hold the political leadership of the Russian Federation accountable for all crimes and atrocities committed on our land," Mr Shmyhal said.

Updated: September 19, 2022, 3:13 PM
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