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Ukraine denounces new Zaporizhia strikes, risk of radiation


kyiv (awp/afp) – The operator of Ukrainian nuclear power plants Energoatom warned on Saturday that the Zaporizhzhia power plant was now operating with the risk of radioactive leaks and fire, following bombardments for which Ukrainians and Russians have accused each other since Several weeks.

Russian troops shelled the site “several times over the past day”, the Ukrainian national company said on Telegram on Saturday.

“As a result of periodic bombardments, the plant’s infrastructure has been damaged and there are risks of hydrogen leakage and spraying of radioactive substances,” she said, citing “a risk of fire raised”.

According to the operator, since noon on Saturday (0900 GMT), the plant “has been operating with the risk of violating radiation and fire safety standards”.

The town hall of Zaporizhia has indicated that since August 23 it has been distributing iodine tablets to residents within a radius of 50 km around the plant, in accordance with the instructions of the Ministry of Health, while stressing that no anomaly had been detected. for now and that iodine should only be taken in the event of a radiation alert.

Russia for its part accused Ukraine of having fired 17 shells on the enclosure of the power plant, the largest in Europe, in the past 24 hours. “Four fell on the roof of the building (…) where 168 US nuclear fuel assemblies from the WestingHouse firm are located,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement, adding that shells had also crashed. 30 meters from fuel depots.

According to the Russian army, the Ukrainian army is firing from around the town of Marhanet, which faces the plant, on the opposite bank of the Dnieper river still controlled by kyiv.

AFP could not verify these statements from an independent source.

The Zaporizhia plant, where six of Ukraine’s 15 reactors are located, was taken by Russian troops in early March, shortly after the invasion began on February 24, and is near the frontline in the south.

kyiv and Moscow accuse each other of carrying out bombings near the complex, near the town of Energodar, on the Dnieper River, and thus putting the plant in danger.

Blocking at the UN

In recent weeks, Zaporijjia crystallizes the concerns of Westerners. The UN has called for an end to all military activity in the area, while faced with a “very real risk of nuclear disaster”, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is demanding access to it.

Stressing that the situation was “dangerous”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the IAEA on Friday to send a mission on the spot as soon as possible, deploring that the Russian troops “are constantly pushing towards the worst-case scenario”.

Between Thursday and Friday, the plant and its six reactors of 1,000 megawatts each were “totally disconnected” from the national grid due to damage to the power lines, according to kyiv, before being reconnected and restarted.

IAEA experts are expected there “next week”, according to the adviser to the Ukrainian Minister of Energy Lana Zerkal, who criticized the Russians for “artificially creating obstacles” to this mission. Moscow denies this, shifting responsibility for the situation to kyiv.

However, Russia on Friday blocked the adoption of a joint declaration at the end of the UN review conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), opposing paragraphs which underlined a “great concern” about the military activities around the Ukrainian power plants and the “loss of control” by kyiv of these sites.

As a result of this war fought by Russia against Ukraine, which entered its seventh month on Wednesday, of the sanctions imposed in particular on Russian oil but also of the partial closure at this stage by Moscow of the gas tap, the prices of energy have exploded in Europe and the continent is bracing for a harsh winter.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Chmygal warned in a message on Telegram on Saturday that “this heating season will certainly be the most difficult in the history of independent Ukraine”. “The main risk is terrorist acts by Russia against critical infrastructure,” he said.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, whose country holds the presidency of the European Union, announced on Friday that he would convene “an emergency meeting of energy ministers”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin granted him by decree an unlimited work and residence permit for Ukrainian citizens in Russian territory, as well as aid for vulnerable people.

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