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Renewed shelling of one of world’s largest nuclear plants in Ukraine

The Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant, the biggest in Europe and among the world's largest, was attacked with heavy artillery and rocket launchers, a Russian occupation official in Ukraine said on Thursday amid fears of a catastrophic disaster at the site.

Kiev, 11 August 2022 (dpa/MIA) – The Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant, the biggest in Europe and among the world’s largest, was attacked with heavy artillery and rocket launchers, a Russian occupation official in Ukraine said on Thursday amid fears of a catastrophic disaster at the site.

Official Vladimir Rogov said firing had come from Ukrainian areas, in a statement on Telegram as fighting rages between the two sides for control of the area.

There were 10 hits in the area, Ukraine’s Enerhoatom said, noting that the situation remained under control and that radioactivity is not higher than usual.

The information could not be independently verified. Ukraine had accused Russia of targeting the nuclear plant.

As concerns grow about the implications of the attacks on the site, UN Secretary General António Guterres warned of potential disaster.

“I am gravely concerned about the unfolding situation in and around the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine,” he said in a statement.

“I have appealed to all concerned to exercise common sense and reason and not to undertake any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear plant – the largest of its kind in Europe.”

“Regrettably, instead of de-escalation, over the past several days there have been reports of further deeply worrying incidents that could, if they continue, lead to disaster.”

The Zaporizhzhya power plant, located in the Ukrainian city of Enerhodar, was shelled several times and partially damaged last weekend, although its critical infrastructure was said to be intact.

On Russia’s initiative, the UN Security Council is to discuss the situation at the plant later Thursday in New York. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, is to brief members.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned the international community of a new nuclear disaster similar to that of Chernobyl in 1986.

Russia is a terrorist state that is holding the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant hostage and using it for blackmail, he said on Thursday via video link at the start of a Ukraine donor conference in Copenhagen.

Russia today is even more cynical and dangerous than the Soviet Union, which once tried to hide the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, he said.

“We must protect Europe from this threat,” Zelensky said.

Zaporizhzhya is not only the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, but also the third largest on Earth, he said. The response to Russian action must be comprehensive, he said.

Donors committed more than €1.5 billion ($1.54 billion) in support for Ukraine at the conference that focused on long-term support for weapons, training soldiers and helping Ukraine clear mines.

That sum may well rise, according to Danish Defence Minister Morten Bødskov who provided the figure after the meeting ended.

The money is earmarked for use this year and next, he said. Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic also agreed to expand production of artillery systems, ammunition and other equipment, he said of the conference that focused on weapons, training and mine-clearing support.

Co-host Britain has also promised to send more multiple rocket launchers to Ukraine. A “substantial number” of M31A1 precision missiles would also be sent, said British Defence Minister Ben Wallace.

Denmark announced at the start of the conference that it would support Ukraine with a further €110 million for weapons, equipment and training.

After almost six months of war, destruction and suffering, the Ukrainians continued to fight heroically, said Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

But the country cannot fight this unequal war alone, she added. “We must all continue and strengthen our support to Ukraine, with weapons, training, demining, funding,” she said. Addressing Zelensky and the Ukrainian people, she stressed: “We will not abandon you.”

Fighting also continued in other parts of Ukraine, while researchers sought to clarify what happened in a recent attack on Crimea.

A company released satellite images of a damaged military base in Crimea, following a series of heavy explosions on the Russian-occupied Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula.

The images appear to show the destruction of several Russian fighter jets at the base in Crimea which was annexed by Russia in 2014, according to US reports. Kiev had previously spoken of 10 aircraft.

Both The New York Times newspaper and the US Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported at least eight burnt aircraft on Thursday. Russia reported there had been a fire at the base and exploded munitions due to negligence.

Satellite photos provided by the US company Planet Labs showed devastation after the explosions at the Saki military base on Tuesday. The official Russian version of events is that a violation of fire safety regulations was responsible for the incident. There was also talk in Moscow of one dead and 14 injured.

The authorities in Kiev have not officially claimed responsibility for the blasts but some observers suggest Russia is reluctant to admit to a Ukrainian attack as that would indicate its air defences had failed.

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