Ukraine had a close brush with nuclear disaster after more than a dozen powerful explosions rocked the vicinity of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant.
Ukrainian soldiers fire an artillery at Russian positions near Bakhmut, Donetsk region (AP photo)
By India Today Web Desk: Ukraine had a close brush with nuclear disaster after more than a dozen powerful explosions rocked the vicinity of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant.
The assault came as battles raged further east following Russian troop movements into the industrial Donbas region from around Ukraine’s recently recaptured Kherson in the south.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities urged residents of Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, which Russian forces have been shelling for months, to move to safer areas in the central and western parts of the country as a long and freezing winter sets in.
Here are the top developments in the Russia-Ukraine war:
After a brief period of calm, powerful explosions from shelling shook Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, the site of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant on Sunday. Some shells fell near reactors and damaging a radioactive waste storage building, raising the specter of a nuclear catastrophe.
Ukraine and Russia traded blame following the strikes. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday once again called on Nato nations and other allies to recognise Russia as a terrorist state, saying its shelling of energy facilities was tantamount “to the use of a weapon of mass destruction.”
On the other hand, Russia repeated accusations, denied by Kyiv, that Ukrainian forces were to blame for the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The Kremlin called on “all countries of the world” to pressure Kyiv into ceasing the attacks which it claimed risked unleashing a grave nuclear accident.
The head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, made an urgent appeal for a stop to the fighting at the Zaporizhzhia plant. “Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately,” he said. “You’re playing with fire!”
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts toured the site on Monday, and the agency said they found widespread damage but nothing that compromised the plant’s essential systems. “They were able to confirm that – despite the severity of the shelling – key equipment remained intact and there were no immediate nuclear safety or security concerns,” it said in a statement.
Ukrainian authorities have begun evacuating civilians from recently liberated sections of the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, fearing that a lack of heat, power and water due to Russian shelling will make living conditions too difficult this winter. The WHO has warned that, “This winter will be life-threatening for millions of people in Ukraine.”
Russia has been pounding Ukraine’s power grid and other infrastructure from the air for weeks, causing widespread blackouts and leaving millions of Ukrainians without electricity, heat and water. Zelenskyy says Russian missile strikes have damaged more than 50% of the country’s energy facilities.
To cope, four-hour or longer power outages were scheduled Monday in 15 of Ukraine’s 27 regions, according to Volodymyr Kudrytsky, head of Ukraine’s state grid operator Ukrenergo. The chief of YASNO, a major energy provider, said Ukrainians are most likely to live with blackouts at least until the end of March.
At least four civilians were killed and eight more wounded in Ukraine in the past 24 hours, the government said on Monday. A Russian missile strike in the northeast Kharkiv region on Sunday night killed one person and wounded two as it hit a residential building, while person was wounded when Russian forces shelled the city of Nikopol and surrounding areas.
Ukraine’s military said late on Monday Russian forces had tried to make advances around Bakhmut and Avdiivka in Donetsk, and bombarded nearby towns. Presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said Russia was bombarding Kherson from across the Dnipro river, now that its troops had fled.