Officials in Kyiv said Russian forces launched a missile attack that missed a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, with an international watchdog warning that shelling at another nuclear power site threatened a serious incident.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday that the strike nearly affected the Pivdenukrensk nuclear power plant in the Mykolaiv region, about 200 km north of the southern border of fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops.
“At night, a missile fell 300 meters from the Pivdnoukrensk nuclear power plant,” Zelensky said in a Telegram channel. Post Including video footage showing the strike and the explosion that followed. “Russia puts the whole world at risk. We have to stop it before it’s too late.”
Ukraine’s state-run nuclear power company Energoatom said three reactors at the plant were operating and no one was injured. It said that around 100 windows at the site were broken and there was a power outage for some time.
Ukraine’s energy minister, German Galushchenko, on Monday accused Moscow of adopting a strategy of “nuclear terror” after Russian troops invaded in February. “Russia, in desperation, is putting the world on the brink of nuclear catastrophe,” he said.
A senior US official said on Monday: “We assess that the strike occurred at a power station near the power plant, but did not strike the power plant directly.” Moscow did not immediately confirm or deny the strike.
Ukraine and Russia have repeatedly accused each other of carrying out artillery attacks on another nuclear power site – the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Station, which is located in the southern city of Energodar.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, last week urged the Kremlin to surrender control of the Zaporizhzhya plant, warning that “persistent violent actions” at the site increased the risk of “a nuclear accident or incident”. . The IAEA’s board adopted a resolution calling on Russia to “stop” all operations in and against the plant and against any other nuclear plants in Ukraine to “ensure their safe and secure operation”.
The Russian military has intensified missile strikes on critical infrastructure including power generators and a reservoir dam in the central city of Krivy Rih, Zelensky’s hometown.
It follows a lightning counter-attack in the north-eastern Kharkiv region that forced Moscow’s forces to surrender over 3,000 km of territory. It was the biggest military success by the Ukrainian military as they thwarted Russia’s attempt at the start of the war to capture the capital Kyiv.
Ukraine last week claimed to have uncovered a mass grave of more than 440 people in the north-eastern city of Izium that was recaptured as part of the operation. It said the discovery was further evidence of war crimes committed by the Russian military. On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the claims were untrue. “It’s a lie,” he said.
Kharkiv region governor Oleg Sinegubov said on Monday that “most of the 146 bodies recovered so far were civilians, including two children.”
“Some of the dead have signs of violent death, bodies with hands tied and marks of torture. The dead were also found with explosive injuries, shrapnel and stab wounds in the mine,” he added in a Telegram channel post.
Modern-day Ukrainian forces armed with Western weapons claimed this weekend that they had taken the eastern bank of the Oskil River and parts of its reservoir and added to reclaimed territory in the Kharkiv region. This would bring its troops closer to the border of the Russian-controlled Far Eastern Luhansk region. This would also place them within striking range of the artillery of the streets supplying Russia’s largest Eastern Army in the northern parts of the Donetsk region.
The two regions make up the Donbass, the “liberation” of which was claimed by the President of Russia as justification for an invasion launched by his troops seven months earlier.
In an interview airing this weekend on CBS 60 minutes At the program, US President Joe Biden said Ukraine is “beating Russia”, adding that victory meant “totally pull Russia out of Ukraine”.
Addressing fears that Putin might resort to the use of strategic nuclear or chemical weapons, Biden said: “No. Don’t. Don’t.”
“It will change the face of war unlike anything since World War II,” he said.
Additional reporting by Felicia Schwartz