“Nuclear Terrorism” – Europe’s Largest Factory Bombed

Russia has accused the Ukrainian military of hitting Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, accusing Volodymyr Zelensky’s government of acts of “nuclear terrorism”.

Bombings hit a high-voltage power line at Ukraine’s main nuclear power plant captured by Russia, prompting plant operators to disconnect a reactor despite no radioactive leaks being detected.

Ukrainian nuclear energy company Energoatom blamed Russian bombing for damage to the Zaporizhzhia power station.

“Ukrainian armed units carried out three artillery strikes on the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and the city of Energodar,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“We urge international organizations to condemn the criminal actions of the Zelensky regime, which is committing acts of nuclear terrorism.”

Russian troops took control of the factory in March after President Vladimir Putin sent troops to the pro-Western country on February 24.

This week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the situation at the nuclear power plant was “volatile”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia must take responsibility for what he called an “act of terror”.

“Today the occupiers have created another extremely risky situation for all of Europe: they have struck the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant twice. Any bombardment of this site is a shameless crime, an act of terror”, a- he said in his daily video address.

“Russia must take responsibility for the very fact of creating a threat to a nuclear power plant.”

Earlier, the Russian-installed administration in the occupied Ukrainian town of Enerhodar said Ukrainian shells hit the factory lines in the southeast of the country.

The Interfax news agency quoted the city administration as saying that a fire had broken out at the factory premises and that the electricity necessary for the safe operation of the reactors had been cut off.

The factory was captured by Russian forces in early March at the start of the war.

Earlier this week, the United Nations nuclear watchdog requested access to the plant, which Washington says Russia is using as a shield on the battlefield.

A local resident looks at the rubble of a destroyed building in Toretsk

Energoatom said the plant – located about 200 km northwest of the Russian port of Mariupol – was still operating and no radioactive discharge had been detected.

It was not the first time that military action has caused concern in Zaporizhzhia, where the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency has occasionally reported losing connection with surveillance systems that keep a traces of nuclear material.

The administration said in a statement that a fire had broken out and the power necessary for the safe operation of the reactors had been cut off. The factory continues to be run by its Ukrainian technicians.

Further east, both sides claimed small advances as Russian artillery bombarded towns and villages over a wide area in a now familiar tactic.

Ground fighting appeared to be heaviest around Pisky in the Donetsk region, a fortified village held by Ukrainian troops and close to the city of Donetsk, which is in the hands of Russian-backed separatist forces.

The Russians are also targeting the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka as they attempt to take full control of the eastern region of Donbass, Ukraine’s industrial heartland.

In other developments, three grain ships left Ukrainian ports and the first incoming cargo ship since the Russian invasion was to be loaded in Ukraine, marking new milestones in the Kyiv government’s efforts to revive its economy after five months of war. .

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

“The international community cannot end the war in Ukraine by ignoring Russia,” said Fahrettin Altun, one of Erdogan’s top aides.

Turkey helped broker the deal which on Monday saw the first grain ship leave a Ukrainian port for foreign markets since the Russian invasion on February 24.

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Two grain ships departed from Chornomorsk and one from Odessa carrying a total of around 58,000 tons of corn, the Turkish Defense Ministry said.

The Turkish bulk carrier Osprey S, flying the flag of Liberia, was due to arrive in Chornomorsk on Friday to refuel with grain, the Odessa regional administration said.

The Navistar carrying a cargo of corn is seen today leaving the port of Odessa en route to Ireland

Russia and Ukraine normally produce around a third of the world’s wheat, and the United Nations had warned that halting grain shipments through the Russian-dominated Black Sea could lead to famine in other countries, particularly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Disputed reports of Pisky’s control

Since Russian troops crossed the border in February in what Putin called a “special military operation”, the conflict has turned into a war of attrition fought largely in the east and the southern Ukraine.

Moscow is trying to take control of the largely Russian-speaking Donbass, made up of the provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk, where pro-Moscow separatists seized territory after the Kremlin annexed Crimea from the south in 2014.

Russian news agency TASS quoted separatist forces as saying they and Russian troops had taken full control of Pisky.

Buildings damaged by the Russian attack in Mykolaivka

But Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said: “There is very little evidence of a movement here. They (the Russians) tried to advance but it didn’t succeed.”

Ukraine has turned the village into a stronghold, viewing it as a buffer against Russian-backed forces holding the city of Donetsk about 10 km to the southeast.

Tass also said fighting was taking place in the town of Bakhmut, north of Donetsk and Russia’s next main target.

“Russian forces can advance a few hundred meters a day. They try to encircle our forces,” Arestovych said.

Mr Arestovych also said Ukrainian forces had retaken two villages near Izyum in the Kharkiv region, which borders Russia, and were advancing towards a third.

“That means Ukraine is on the offensive. It may not be a very big offensive. But it’s still an offensive,” he said.

Reuters could not verify the claims of either party regarding the evolution of the battlefield.

In the strategically important south, where Ukraine has planned a counter-offensive to reclaim swaths of occupied land, Russia has bolstered its forces, Kyiv says.

Russian troops could try to regain Kyiv’s momentum by launching an offensive in the south after weeks of Ukraine’s use of Western-supplied long-range weapons to hit Russian supply lines and ammunition dumps.

The war has displaced millions of people, killed thousands of civilians and left cities, towns and villages in ruins. Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian forces of targeting civilians and war crimes, charges Russia denies.

A couple say goodbye before leaving a westbound train in Pokrovsk, Ukraine

Mr Putin says he wants to ensure Russian security and protect Russian speakers in Ukraine.

Kyiv accuses Moscow of waging an imperial-style war to retake a pro-Western neighbor that threw off Russian rule when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991.

Western countries and their allies have imposed financial restrictions on Russia since February.

Moscow retaliated with obstacles to Western companies and their allies leaving Russia and, in some cases, seized their assets.

In the latest move in the sanctions war, Russia on Friday banned investors from so-called hostile countries from selling shares in key energy projects and banks until the end of the year.

Mary I. Bruner