After Blasts, Watchdog Renews Nuclear Warning

International agency chief says attacks on Ukrainian plant 'must stop immediately'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 20, 2022 11:55 AM CST
After Blasts, Watchdog Renews Nuclear Warning
A man walks near a crater and his house that was damaged after Russian shelling in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, on Saturday.   (AP Photo/Andriy Andriyenko)

Powerful explosions shook Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region, the site of Europe's largest nuclear power plant, the global nuclear watchdog said Sunday, calling for "urgent measures to help prevent a nuclear accident" in the Russian-occupied facility. Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said two explosions—one Saturday evening and another Sunday morning—near the Zaporizhzhia plant abruptly ended a period of relative calm around the nuclear facility that has been the site of fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces since Russia invaded in February. Fears of a nuclear catastrophe have been at the forefront since Russian troops occupied the plant early in the war. Continued fighting has raised the specter of a disaster, the AP reports.

In renewed shelling close to and at the site, IAEA experts at the Zaporizhzhia plant reported hearing more than a dozen blasts within a short period Sunday morning and could see some explosions from their windows, the statement said. Several buildings, systems, and equipment at the power plant—none of them critical for the plant's nuclear safety—were damaged in the shelling, the IAEA said, citing the plant's management. Still, Grossi said reports of the shelling were "extremely disturbing." He added: "Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately" and appealed to both sides to urgently implement a nuclear safety and security zone around the facility. "As I have said many times before, you're playing with fire!" Grossi said.

Russia has been pounding Ukraine's power grid and other key infrastructure from the air, causing widespread blackouts for millions of Ukrainians in frigid weather. That has left Ukrainians without heat, power, or water as snow blankets the capital, Kyiv, and other cities. Ukraine’s state nuclear power operator said Russian forces were behind the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia plant. Energoatom said in a Telegram post Sunday that the targeted and damaged equipment in the facility is consistent with Kremlin's strategy "to damage or destroy as much of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as possible as" winter sets in. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, however, blamed Ukrainian forces, claiming they shelled the power plant twice Sunday. He said two shells hit near the power lines supplying the plant with electricity.

(More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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