Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia power plant was rocked by powerful explosions as the global nuclear watchdog warned Sunday that those responsible for the renewed shelling were “playing with fire.”
The startling development came after relative and recent calm in the area — which was disrupted when more than a dozen blasts hit close to and at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant Saturday evening and Sunday morning, said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
IAEA head Rafael Grossi called the bombings “extremely disturbing.”
“Explosions occurred at the site of this major nuclear power plant, which is completely unacceptable,” Grossi said. “Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately. As I have said many times before, you’re playing with fire!”
Multiple buildings, systems and equipment at the plant were damaged, but none that would affect the plant’s safety, according to IAEA.
Both Kyiv and Moscow have traded blame over the shelling near the site.
Russian troops overtook the power plant early in President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the neighboring country.
Ukraine’s state nuclear power operator, Energoatom, blamed Russian forces for the dangerous blasts, saying the shelling was consistent with the Kremlin’s strategy “to damage or destroy as much of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as possible as” winter gets underway.
Russian Defense Ministry Igor Konashenkov, however, insisted Ukraine forces bombed the plant twice Sunday, hitting near the power lines that feed electricity to the plant.
The plant supplied about a fifth of electricity in the country before Russia’s invasion, but has needed to operate on back-up generators numerous times.
Reactors that contain Uranium 235 are powered down, but it is feared nuclear fuel could overheat if the power that drives the cooling systems is cut off.
In other parts of the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian troops destroyed 30 homes across a dozen communities, according to Ukrainian officials.
One person was injured and 20 buildings were battered in blasts across the city of Nikopol in the central Dnipropetrovsk region, which is across from the power plant.
The Kupyansk, Chuguiv and Izyum districts in the Kharkiv region also came under heavy Russian fire in the past 24 hours.
Russian blasts killed one person and damaged power lines in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said.
Russian forces fired tank shells, rockets and other artillery toward the city of Kherson and other settlements as Zelensky’s office acknowledged the situation “remains difficult” in the southern Kherson region.
The city of Kherson was recently liberated by Ukrainian forces.
With Post wires