Moscow and Kyiv exchange accusations after the bombing of a Ukrainian nuclear plant

LONDON, Aug 5 (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine accused each other on Friday of bombing the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest of its kind in Europe, and laying the groundwork for a potential disaster.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it was only by luck that a radiation accident was averted after what it described as an artillery shelling.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Moscow was responsible, accusing him of committing “an open and brazen crime, an act of terror.”

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In a late-night speech, he demanded sanctions on the entire Russian nuclear industry.

“It is a purely security issue. Those who create nuclear threats to other nations are certainly not capable of using nuclear technologies safely,” he said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the generating capacity of one unit had been reduced and the power supply to another had been cut off. In addition, the nearby city of Enerhodar had power and water supply problems, he said.

“Fortunately, the Ukrainian shells missed the oil and fuel facility and the nearby oxygen plant, thus preventing a larger fire and possible radiation accident,” a ministry statement said.

Enerhodar and the nearby nuclear plant were captured by the invading Russian troops in early March and are still close to the front line.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday accused Moscow of using the plant as a shield for its forces, and Ukraine accused Russia of shelling its positions from positions near the power plant.

“The possible consequences of hitting a working reactor are equivalent to using an atomic bomb,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.

Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom earlier said the plant was operational and no radioactive discharges had been detected. Two of the six reactors are still in operation.

The Russian-installed Enerhodar administration said on Friday that power lines at the plant had been cut by a Ukrainian artillery attack. The installation continues to be carried out by its Ukrainian technicians.

Reuters was unable to verify reports from the battlefield.

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said this week that contact with the plant was “fragile” and that communications did not work every day. He appealed to access to determine if it was a source of danger.

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Information from Reuters; written by Kevin Liffey and David Ljunggren; edited by Sandra Maler and Grant McCool

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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