The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog has condemned what he described as an attack on Russia’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, calling for “an end to this madness”.
A powerful explosion from the projectile rocked the Zaporizhia region of Ukraine, home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, over the weekend.
A large number of attacks by Russian troops – about 400 on Sunday alone – also affected the eastern regions of Ukraine, and fierce fighting was in the eastern region of Donetsk, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday.
“The news from our team yesterday and this morning is very disturbing,” Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on Sunday.
“The explosion happened at the site of this large nuclear plant, which is illegal.
“Whoever is behind this, must stop immediately,” he said.
Like I said before, you are playing with fire!
In further shelling near the site, IAEA experts in Zaporizhzhia said they heard more than a dozen explosions within a short period of time on Sunday morning and could see the explosions from their windows, the agency said.
Later, the IAEA said the shells had stopped and its experts would assess the situation on Monday.
“There has been damage to some parts of the site, but no radiation or loss of power,” it said.
Speaking to a French journalist, Grossi said it was clear that the attack on the factory was not an accident.
“People who are doing this know where they are hitting. It is deliberate, direct. “
The attack on Zaporizhzhia and its surroundings has led to a nuclear disaster at the site, which Russia seized shortly after annexing Ukraine on 24 February.
Russia has been striking Ukraine’s electricity and other vital civilian infrastructure from the air, causing blackouts and leaving millions of Ukrainians without heat, power or water as temperatures drop and snow begins to fall in the capital, Kyiv, and other cities.
Ukraine’s nuclear energy operator, Energoatom, blamed the Russian military for the latest missile attack in Zaporizhzhia and said the missile attack was part of the Kremlin’s aim to “destroy or destroy as much of Ukraine’s energy as possible” this winter.
Meanwhile, Moscow has blamed the Ukrainian military for the damage.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov accused the Ukrainians of shelling a power plant twice on Sunday and said two of the bullets hit near power lines that supply electricity.
Ukraine said work was continuing to repair damage to the country’s electrical infrastructure but “power blackouts” were expected in 15 regions, including the capital, on Sunday night. The country’s electricity authority said there will be blackouts in every district on Monday.
“The restoration of the network and the ability to provide it, the decommissioning of the transmission lines, the renovation – everything goes on during the day,” Zelenskyy said in his night address.
Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces are making small gains in eastern Luhansk and are still fighting in the south.
Russia withdrew its troops from the southern city of Kherson this month and moved some of them to strengthen positions in the east.
“The most dangerous battles, as before, are in the Donetsk region. Although there have been fewer today due to the worsening of the weather, Russian ammunition is unfortunately still very high,” said Zelenskyy.
In his speech, the president also mentioned Kyiv’s peace policies, including the security of food and energy, the release of all prisoners and deportees, and the withdrawal of Russian troops from all parts of Ukraine.