Ukraine condemns ‘nuclear terrorism’ after Russian missile hits near power plant

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Ukraine Condemns ‘Nuclear Terrorism’ After Russian Missile Hits Near Power Plant Ukraine Condemns ‘Nuclear Terrorism’ After Russian Missile Hits Near Power Plant
South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant
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By Karl Ritter and Jon Gambrell, Associated Press

A Russian missile has blasted a crater close to a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, damaging nearby industrial equipment but not hitting its three reactors.

Ukrainian authorities denounced the move as an act of “nuclear terrorism”.

The missile struck about 330 yards of the reactors at the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Yuzhnoukrainsk in Mykolaiv province, leaving a hole 6ft deep and 13ft wide, according to Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom.

A crater left by a Russian rocket near the nuclear power plant (South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant Press Office/AP)

The reactors were operating normally and no employees were injured, it said, but the proximity of the strike renewed fears that Russia’s nearly seven-month war in Ukraine might produce a radiation disaster.

The nuclear power station is Ukraine’s second-largest after the Zaporizhzhia plant, which has repeatedly come under fire.

After recent battlefield setbacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened last week to step up attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure.

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Throughout the war, Moscow has targeted Ukraine’s electricity generation and transmission equipment, causing blackouts and endangering the safety systems of the country’s nuclear power plants.

The industrial complex that includes the South Ukraine plant sits along the Southern Bug River about 190 miles south of the capital Kyiv.

The attack also caused the temporary shutdown of a nearby hydroelectric power plant, shattered more than 100 windows at the complex and severed three power lines, Ukrainian authorities said.

Ukraine’s Defence Ministry released a black-and-white video showing two large fireballs erupting in the dark, followed by incandescent showers of sparks, at 12.19am. The ministry and Energoatom called the strike “nuclear terrorism”.

Broken windows in an industrial building of the nuclear power plant (South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant Press Office/AP)

Russian forces have occupied the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, since early after the invasion. Shelling has cut off the plant’s transmission lines, forcing operators to shut down its six reactors to avoid a radiation disaster. Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for the strikes.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has monitors at the Zaporizhzhia plant, said a main transmission line was reconnected on Friday, providing the electricity it needs to cool its reactors.

But the mayor of Enerhodar, where the Zaporizhzhia plant is located, reported more Russian shelling on Monday in the city’s industrial zone.

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While warning of a possible ramp-up of strikes, Mr Putin claimed on Friday that his forces had so far acted with restraint but warned “if the situation develops this way, our response will be more serious”.

“Just recently, the Russian armed forces have delivered a couple of impactful strikes,” he said. ”Let’s consider those as warning strikes.”

The latest Russian shelling killed at least eight civilians and wounded 22 others, Ukraine’s presidential office said on Monday.

The governor of the north-eastern Kharkiv region, which is largely back in Ukrainian hands, said Russian shelling killed four medical workers trying to evacuate patients from a psychiatric hospital and wounded two patients.

A burning vehicle in a street in Donetsk (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)

The mayor of the Russian-occupied eastern city of Donetsk said shelling by Ukrainian forces had killed 13 civilians and wounded eight there.

Patricia Lewis, the international security research director at the Chatham House think-tank in London, said attacks at the Zaporizhzhia plant and Monday’s strike on the South Ukraine plant indicated that the Russian military was attempting to knock Ukrainian nuclear plants offline before winter.

“It’s a very, very dangerous and illegal act to be targeting a nuclear station,” she told the Associated Press. “Only the generals will know the intent, but there’s clearly a pattern.

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“What they seem to be doing each time is to try to cut off the power to the reactor. It’s a very clumsy way to do it, because how accurate are these missiles?”

Other recent Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure have targeted power plants in the north and a dam in the south. They came in response to a sweeping Ukrainian counter-attack in the country’s east that reclaimed Russian-occupied territory in the Kharkiv region.

Analysts have noted that beyond recapturing territory, challenges remain in holding it. In a video address on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky said: “I cannot reveal all the details, but thanks to the Security Service of Ukraine, we are now confident that the occupiers will not have any foothold on Ukrainian soil.”

The Ukrainian successes in Kharkiv — Russia’s biggest defeat since its forces were repelled from around Kyiv in the invasion’s opening stage — have fuelled rare public criticism in Russia and added to the military and diplomatic pressure on Mr Putin.

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