Amid global alarm, Ukraine and Russia trade blame for attacks on nuclear plants

  • Kyiv warns of Chernobyl-style disaster unless area is secured
  • Both parties are in favor of the visit of nuclear inspectors
  • UN Guterres says any attack on a nuclear plant is ‘suicidal’
  • Two Ukrainian grain ships leave ports, 12 since last week

Kyiv, Aug 8 (Reuters) – International alarm over the weekend bombing of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex grew on Monday, as Kyiv and Moscow traded blame for the attacks as they sought to address fears that their battle for the control of the plant could trigger a catastrophe.

The head of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, called any attack on a nuclear plant a “suicide thing”, demanded that UN nuclear inspectors have access. The largest complex of its kind in Europe, Zaporizhzhia, is situated in a southern region seized by Russian invaders in March and is now targeted by Ukraine for a counteroffensive.

Kyiv called for the area to be demilitarized and for the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, to be allowed in. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was also in favor of a visit by the IAEA, which it accused Ukraine of blocking as it tried to “take Europe hostage”. ” shelling the plant. Read more

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Ukraine blamed Russia for the weekend attacks in the area of ​​the complex, which is still manned by Ukrainian technicians. He said three radiation sensors were damaged, with two workers hospitalized with shrapnel injuries.

Reuters was unable to verify either side’s version of what happened.

Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom, has called for peacekeepers to be deployed to the Zaporizhzhia site and run it, with operational control returned to Ukraine.

He noted the danger of projectiles hitting containers of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel as especially serious. If two or more containers broke, “it is impossible to assess the scale” of the resulting disaster.

“Such insane actions could make the situation spin out of control and be Fukushima or Chernobyl,” Kotin said.


Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, Ukraine’s ambassador to the IAEA, said Zaporizhzhia personnel were “working under the barrels of Russian weapons.” He called for a UN-led international mission to the plant by the end of August and accused Russia of trying to cause power grid blackouts in southern Ukraine by attacking the plant. read more

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said Ukrainian strikes damaged high-voltage power lines serving the Soviet-era plant and forced it to cut output at two of its six reactors to “avoid outages.” read more

An official installed by Russia in the Zaporizhzhia region said earlier that the facility was operating normally.

The UN’s Guterres said IAEA personnel needed access to Zaporizhzhia to “create conditions for stabilization.”

“Any attack (on) a nuclear plant is suicidal,” he told a news conference in Japan, where he was attending the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on Saturday to mark the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing.

The world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster occurred in 1986 when a reactor at the Chernobyl complex in northwestern Ukraine exploded. Shortly after the invasion on February 24 this year, Russian troops occupied the site and withdrew from the area at the end of March.

Ukraine has said it plans to carry out a major counteroffensive in the Russian-occupied south, apparently centered on the city of Kherson, west of Zaporizhzhia, and has already retaken dozens of villages.


Nearby, a deal to unblock Ukraine’s food exports and ease global shortages accelerated as two grain ships set sail from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Monday, bringing the total to 12 since the first ship departed a week ago. week. read more

The last two ships to set sail were carrying almost 59,000 tons of corn and soybeans and were headed for Italy and southeastern Turkey. The four who left on Sunday brought nearly 170,000 tons of corn and other food.

The July 22 grain export pact brokered by Turkey and the United Nations represents a rare diplomatic triumph as the fighting in Ukraine continues. The deal is intended to help alleviate rising global food prices stemming from the war.

Before the invasion, Russia and Ukraine together accounted for nearly a third of world wheat exports. The disruption since then has raised the specter of famine in some parts of the world.

Ukraine has said it hopes to export 20 million tons of grain in silos and 40 million of its new crop to help rebuild its shattered economy.

Russia says it is carrying out a “special military operation” in Ukraine to get rid of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and the West describe Russia’s actions as an unprovoked imperial-style war to reassert control over a pro-Western neighbor lost when the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991.

The conflict has displaced millions, killed thousands of civilians and left cities, towns and villages in ruins.

Russian forces are trying to gain full control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, where pro-Moscow separatists seized territory after the Kremlin annexed Crimea from the south in 2014.

“Ukrainian soldiers firmly hold the defense, inflicting losses on the enemy and are ready for any changes in the operational situation,” Ukraine’s general staff said in an operational update on Monday.

Russian forces intensified attacks north and northwest of the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk in Donbas on Sunday, Ukraine’s military said.

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Reuters bureau reports; Written by Stephen Coates, Mark Heinrich, John Stonestreet; Edited by Simon Cameron-Moore, Nick Macfie, Peter Graff

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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