- Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of shelling in recent days
- Russia says it will do everything it can to allow the IAEA to visit the nuclear power plant
- IAEA has warned of factory disasters unless fighting stops
KYIV, Aug. 15 (Reuters) – Ukrainian and Russian-installed officials on Monday reported shelling near the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, with both sides blaming each other after the International Atomic Energy Agency warned of a disaster like don’t stop the fighting.
Russia and Ukraine have exchanged accusations of shelling near the factory in recent days over fears of a nuclear disaster at the complex, which dominates the southern shore of a huge reservoir on the Dnipro River.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has warned Russian soldiers who attack Europe’s largest nuclear power plant or use it as a base to fire that they will become a “special target”.
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The factory is located in the now Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar.
Yevhen Yevtushenko, head of the administration of the Nikopol district, which is across the river from Enerhodar, accused Russian troops of shelling the city.
Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed official in the city, said about 25 heavy artillery strikes from US-made M777 howitzers hit near the nuclear power plant and residential areas in the past two hours.
Russian news agency Interfax, citing the press service of the Russian-appointed government of Enerhodar, said Ukrainian troops opened fire with explosions near the power plant.
The IAEA, which is seeking access to the factory, has warned of a possible disaster. Core experts fear that fighting could damage the plant’s nuclear fuel pools or reactors.
“The Russians think they can force the world to meet their terms by shelling the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant,” Andriy Yermak, chief of Ukraine’s presidential staff, wrote on Twitter. “This will not happen. Instead, our military will punish them by hitting hard on pain points with precision.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the establishment of a demilitarized zone around Zaporizhzhya.
A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday it would do everything it could to allow IAEA specialists to visit the factory. read more
“In close cooperation with the agency and its leadership, we will do everything necessary to get the IAEA specialists to the station and give a truthful assessment of the destructive actions taken by the Ukrainian side,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
‘COMPLIED BUT UNDER CONTROL’
Ukraine, where parliament on Monday extended martial law for another three months, has said for weeks that it is planning a counter-offensive to retake Zaporizhzhya and neighboring Kherson province, most of the territory Russia had taken after the February 24 invasion. owned and still owns.
Ukrainian troops previously reported heavy Russian shelling and attempts to advance on several towns in the eastern region of Donetsk, which has become a major focus of the nearly six-month-old war, but said they had repulsed many of the attacks.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces also reported Russian shelling of more than a dozen towns on the Southern Front – most notably the Kherson region, which is mainly held by Russian forces but where Ukrainian forces are steadily retaking territory.
Natalia Humeniuk, spokesman for Ukraine’s southern military command, said on Monday the situation is complicated but under control. “The enemy does not dare to advance over land, but fires with artillery and rockets on the areas in the rear,” she told a news conference.
Asked about Ukraine’s shelling on Sunday on the Antonivskyi Bridge in the Kherson region, she said Ukrainian troops continue to fire on routes used by the Russians for resupply.
Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” to demilitarize its smaller neighbor and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and Western lenders accuse Moscow of waging an imperial war of conquest.
The conflict has pushed relations between Moscow and Washington to an all-time low, with Russia warning it could sever them.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Moscow is ready to offer modern weapons to its allies. He used a speech at a weapons show near Moscow to brag about Russia’s advanced weapons capabilities.
“(We) are ready to offer our allies state-of-the-art weapons from small arms to armored vehicles and artillery to combat 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 real combat operations.” read more
But Putin’s army has performed worse than expected in Ukraine. The war has beaten back from Ukraine’s two largest cities and is making slow progress, at great expense, in the east of the country, and so far has not proved a convincing showcase for Russia’s arms industry.
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Reporting by Natalia Zinets in Kiev, Yoruk Isik and Ece Toksabay in Istanbul, Andrea Shalal in Yuzhne, Maya Gebeily in Beirut and Jonathan Saul in London, and Reuters agencies; Writing by Lincoln Feast and Nick Macfie; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Alex Richardson
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