Attack on Ukrainian nuclear power plant triggers global alert – Press Enterprise


Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Russian troops on Friday seized Europe’s largest nuclear power plant after a late-night attack that set it ablaze and briefly sparked global fears of a catastrophe in the most chilling turn of the Moscow invasion of Ukraine yet.

Firefighters put out the fire and no radiation was released, UN and Ukraine officials said, as Russian forces continued their week-long offensive on multiple fronts and the number of refugees fleeing the country topped 1.2 million.

Amid mounting global condemnation, the Kremlin cracked down on the flow of information at home, blocking Facebook, Twitter, the BBC and the US government-funded Voice of America. And President Vladimir Putin has signed a law making it a crime, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, to spread so-called fake news, including anything that goes against the government’s official line on war.

While the massive Russian tank column threatening Kyiv faltered outside the capital, Putin’s military has launched hundreds of rocket and artillery attacks on cities and other locations across the country, making significant ground gains in the south in an apparent attempt to cut off Ukraine’s access to the sea .

In the attack on the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar, the head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said a Russian “projectile” hit a training center, not one of the six reactors.

The attack sparked global alarm and fears of a disaster that could eclipse the world’s worst nuclear disaster in Ukraine’s Chernobyl in 1986. In an emotional late-night speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he feared an explosion that would spell “the end for everyone.” The end for Europe. The evacuation of Europe.”

But nuclear officials from Sweden to China said no radiation spikes had been reported, as had Grossi.

Authorities said Russian troops took control of the entire site, but plant personnel continued to operate it. Only one reactor is 60 percent operational, Grossi said after the attack.

Two people were injured in the fire, Grossi said. State-run Ukrainian nuclear power plant operator Enerhoatom said three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and two injured.

In the US, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the episode “underscores the ruthlessness with which the Russians carried out this unprovoked invasion.” Speaking at an emergency UN Security Council meeting, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya said the fire started as a result of Russian shelling of the facility and accused Moscow of “committing an act of nuclear terrorism”.

Without providing evidence, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed that a Ukrainian “sabotage group” set the fire in Zaporizhia.

The crisis unfolded after Grossi earlier in the week expressed concern that the fighting could cause unintended damage to Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors at four plants across the country.

Nuclear safety experts said a war being fought in the midst of nuclear reactors presented an unprecedented and highly dangerous situation.

“These facilities are now in a situation that few people ever seriously considered when they were originally built,” said Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington. “No nuclear power plant was designed to withstand a potential threat of full-scale military attack.”

dr Alex Rosen of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War said the incident was likely due to military units overestimating the accuracy of their weapons as the prevailing winds carried any fallout directly to Russia.

“Russia must have no interest in contaminating its own territory,” he said. He said the danger posed not only from the reactors, but also from the risk of enemy fire hitting storage facilities containing spent fuel rods.

After the attack, Zelenskyi again appealed to the West to enforce a no-fly zone over his country. But NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ruled that out, citing the risk of a much larger war in Europe. He said that to enforce a no-fly zone, NATO planes would have to shoot down Russian planes.

“We understand the desperation, but we also believe that if we did, we would end up with what could end in a full-blown war in Europe,” Stoltenberg said.

The plant fire was the second time since the invasion began that concerns about a possible nuclear accident have been raised, following a skirmish at the heavily contaminated site of the now-defunct Chernobyl plant.

Meanwhile, the Russian armed forces stepped up their offensive in the southern part of the country. Cutting off Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea and Sea of ​​Azov would deal a severe blow to its economy and could exacerbate an already dire humanitarian situation.

A round of talks between Russia and Ukraine on Thursday resulted in a tentative agreement on setting up safe corridors to evacuate citizens and deliver food and medicines. But the necessary details had yet to be worked out.

The UN human rights office said 331 civilians were killed in the invasion, but the true number is likely much higher.

In Romania, a newly arrived refugee, Anton Kostyuchyk, fought back tears as he recounted how he left everything in Kyiv and slept in churches with his wife and three children while fleeing.

“I am leaving my homeland, my country. I was born there and lived there,” he said. “And what’s next?”

Zelenskyy appeared on video in a message to anti-war protesters in several European cities, continuing to ask for help.

“If we fall, you will fall,” he said. “And if we win, and I’m sure we will win, it will be the victory of the entire democratic world. This will be the victory of our freedom. This will be the victory of light over darkness, freedom over slavery.”

Within Ukraine, shelling was heard more frequently in central Kyiv, albeit further away than in recent days, with a loud bang echoing across the rooftops every 10 minutes.

Advisor to the President of Ukraine Oleksiy Arestovich said fighting continued with airstrikes and artillery northwest of Kyiv and the northeastern cities of Kharkiv and Okhtyrka came under heavy shelling.

He said Ukrainian forces still held the northern city of Chernihiv and had thwarted Russian efforts to capture the key southern city of Mykolayiv. Ukrainian artillery also defended Odessa from repeated attempts by Russian ships to fire on the Black Sea port, Arestovich said. Odessa is Ukraine’s largest port city and hosts a large naval base.

The Ukrainian Navy sank its flagship at the shipyard where it was being repaired to prevent the frigate from being seized by the Russians, authorities said.

Another strategic port, Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov, was “partially besieged” and Ukrainian forces pushed back efforts to encircle the city, Arestovich said. The fighting has paralyzed the city’s power, heating and water systems, as well as most phone services, officials said.

“The humanitarian situation is tense,” he said.

In the midst of war there were occasional signs of hope.

When explosions were heard on the outskirts of Kyiv, Dmytro Shybalov and Anna Panasyk smiled and blushed at the registry office, where they got married on Friday. They fell in love with Donetsk in 2015 amid fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces that was a precursor to the nationwide war.

“It’s 2022 and the situation hasn’t changed,” Shybalov said. “It’s scary to imagine what will happen when our children are born.”


Karmanau reported from Lemberg, Ukraine. Chernov reported from Mariupol, Ukraine. Sergei Grits in Odessa, Ukraine; Jamey Keaten in Geneva; Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland; Frank Jordans in Berlin; Matt Sedensky in New York; Robert Burns in Washington; and other AP journalists from around the world contributed to this report.


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