Zaporizhia nuclear disaster ‘miraculously avoided’ in ‘suicidal’ Russian attack

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has issued a dire warning as fierce fighting raged around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant over the weekend, stoking fears that Russia’s invasion could plunge the world into nuclear catastrophe.

The Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in the Ukrainian city of Enerhodar on the Dnipro River, now occupied by Russia, stands dangerously close to the front line of fighting between the two warring countries. Russians shelled the power plant twice on Friday, damaging critical infrastructure and radiation sensors.

The attacks continued throughout the weekend. Nuclear power plant company Energoatom said in a Telegram post on Friday the attacks occurred within hours, with the second attack involving rocket-propelled grenades that hit Zaporizhzhia “near one of the power plants where the nuclear reactor is located,” it said company said.

“There is a risk of hydrogen escaping and radioactive substances being atomized. The risk of fire is high.” As more explosions were heard on Sunday, the company warned again: “This time, a nuclear disaster was miraculously averted, but miracles can’t last forever.”

The facility is controlled by the Russians, although managed by Ukrainians, with both sides blaming each other for the attacks. After talks with European Council President Charles Michel, President Zelenskyy warned overnight: “God forbid something irreparable happens – and nobody will stop the wind that will spread the radioactive contamination. Russian nuclear terror requires a stronger response from the international community – sanctions on Russia’s nuclear industry and nuclear fuel.”

Zelenskyj’s conviction was confirmed by international observers. “Any attack on a nuclear power plant is a suicidal thing,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday. At a news conference in Japan two days after attending a commemoration ceremony in Hiroshima to mark the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing, Guterres also called for the International Atomic Energy Agency to be allowed access to the vulnerable facility. “We fully support the IAEA in all its efforts to create the conditions for the stabilization of the power plant,” he said.

Russian authorities confirmed the damage at the facility but said it was caused by an artillery attack launched by “Ukrainian nationalists”. “Two high-voltage power lines and a water line were damaged by the shelling,” the Russian embassy in Washington, DC said in a statement. “It was only thanks to the effective and timely actions of the Russian military in covering the nuclear power plant that its critical infrastructure was not compromised.”

Russia-appointed chief of the occupation administration of the Zaporizhia region, Evgeniy Balitskyi, doubled down on denying the Kremlin’s guilt, thundering on Telegram: “The Nazi leadership of Kyiv has completely lost touch with reality, on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe.”

News of the dangerous strikes comes after Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken last week accused Russia of using the facility as a “nuclear shield” by turning it into a military base. By stationing its troops there, the Kremlin is acting on the “level of irresponsibility,” Blinken said, as exchanges of fire could lead to disaster. Zaporizhia nuclear disaster ‘miraculously avoided’ in ‘suicidal’ Russian attack


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