March 25, 2023

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — Russian rockets and artillery have hit an area across the Dnieper River from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Ukrainian officials said on Sunday, amid ongoing concerns that fighting nearby could damage the plant and cause radiation leaks.

Soon after the war began, Russian troops took control of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant and took control of the adjacent area along the left bank of the broad river. Ukraine controls the Right Bank, including the cities of Nikopol and Mahanec, each about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the factory.

Dnipropetrovsk Governor Valentin Reznichenko said heavy shooting during the night caused power outages in parts of Nikopol. The rocket attack damaged more than a dozen residences in Mahanec, which has a population of about 45,000 people, according to Yevhen Yevtushenko, the district’s administrative chief.

City Council member Anatoly Kurtev said the city of Zaporozhye, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) upstream from the plant, was also attacked overnight, injuring two people.

Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kirilenko said in eastern Ukraine, which Russia and separatist forces are trying to control, shelling hit the strategically important cities of Kramatorsk and Slovensk, but no Casualty reports.

Much of the Donetsk region is controlled by Russian and separatist forces. It is one of two Ukrainian regions that Russia recognizes as a sovereign state.

Authorities last week began distributing iodine tablets to residents living near the Zaporozhye factory to protect against radiation that could cause health problems.

Much of the attention has been on the cooling systems of the plant’s nuclear reactors. Those systems require electricity to operate, and the plant was temporarily taken offline Thursday due to what officials said was damage to a transmission line fire. A cooling system failure could lead to a nuclear meltdown.

Russian troops occupied the nuclear power complex early in the six-month war, but local Ukrainian workers have kept it running. The Ukrainian and Russian governments have repeatedly accused each other of shelling the complex and nearby areas, raising fears of a potential catastrophe.

Ukrainian nuclear power operator Energoatom said on Saturday that regular shelling had damaged the plant’s infrastructure. “There is a risk of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive material, and the fire hazard is high,” it said.

The U.N. Atomic Energy Agency is trying to reach a deal to send a team to inspect and help protect the plant. Officials said preparations for the visit were underway, but it was unclear when it would take place.


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