Fears for nuclear safety as Moscow claims Kyiv shelled power plant

·2-min read
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant - Alexander Ermochenko
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant - Alexander Ermochenko

Moscow on Friday accused Kyiv of shelling a nuclear power station under its control, renewing safety fears over Europe's largest plant.

Russian forces captured the Zaporizhzhia power station and surrounding areas in southeastern Ukraine in March.

Western officials have sounded the alarm over Moscow's use of the plant as a launch pad to fire at targets in nearby Ukrainian-held territories, with little chance of return fire.

The UN’s nuclear watchdog has warned that the situation at the occupied power plant is “completely out of control”.

On Friday, Russia and Ukraine accused each other of hitting at least one of the plant's power lines.

The plant is still run by its Ukrainian technicians but under Moscow-installed management.

Russian state media claimed Ukrainian shells struck a high-voltage power line at the plant and said a fire had broken out on the premises.

The bulk carrier Rojen leaves the sea port in Chornomorsk - Reuters
The bulk carrier Rojen leaves the sea port in Chornomorsk - Reuters

Power necessary for the safe functioning of its reactors had been subsequently cut off, the Interfax News Agency said.

In turn, Ukraine's state nuclear power company Energoatom said Russian shelling had caused the damage.

"Three strikes were recorded on the site of the plant, near one of the power blocks where the nuclear reactor is located," Energoatom said.

"There are risks of hydrogen leakage and radioactive spraying. The fire danger is high," it said, adding that initially there were no casualties.

However, Ukrainian authorities said the plant still worked and no radioactive leak had been detected.

With Russian kit, including highly combustible ammunition, stored in Zaporizhzhia’s engine rooms, analysts believe Moscow is using the threat of a nuclear meltdown at the site to deter future donations of heavy weaponry by Ukraine’s Western allies.

But a Western official has suggested Ukraine could feasibly strike Russian targets around the nuclear plant because it is built to withstand terror attacks, including by aircraft.

Three grain ships left Ukrainian ports

In July Kyiv used US-supplied kamikaze drones to strike Russian weapons and troops sheltering between the plant’s cooling towers, some 150 yards from a reactor.

Separately, three grain ships left Ukrainian ports on Friday and the first inbound cargo vessel since the Russian invasion was due in Ukraine to load.

Russian President Vladmir Putin meanwhile was meeting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who is cultivating a role as a mediator in the war, in the Russian city of Sochi.

"The international community cannot end the war in Ukraine by ignoring Russia," said Fahrettin Altun, a top aide to Erdogan.

Turkey helped negotiate the agreement that on Monday saw the first grain ship leave a Ukrainian port for foreign markets since the Russian invasion on Feb 24.

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