Moscow and Kyiv exchange accusations after the fire at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant

LONDON, August 5 (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine on Friday accused each other of shelling the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, the largest of its kind in Europe, and preparing the ground for a potential disaster.

The Russian defense ministry said it was only by chance that a radiation accident had been avoided after what it described as artillery fire.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said Moscow was responsible and accused it of committing “an open, brazen crime, an act of terror.”

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In an overnight speech, he demanded sanctions against the entire Russian nuclear industry.

“It’s purely a question of safety. Those who pose nuclear threats to other nations are certainly not able to safely use nuclear technology, ”he said.

The Russian defense ministry said that the production capacity of one unit was reduced and the power of another unit was cut off. In addition, the nearby town of Enerhodar had problems with its electricity and water supplies.

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

Enerhodar and the nearby nuclear power plant were occupied by Russian troops in early March and are still close to the front lines.

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

“The possible consequences of hitting a functioning reactor are tantamount to the use of an atomic bomb,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry said on Twitter.

The Ukrainian state-owned nuclear power plant Energoatom previously announced that the power plant is operational and no radioactive discharges have been detected. Two of the six reactors are still operational.

The Enerhodar administration installed in Russia announced on Friday that the power lines at the factory had been interrupted by a strike by Ukrainian artillery. The facility is still run by 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 is “fragile” and communication is not working on a daily basis. He called for access to determine if it was a threat.

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Reporting by Reuters; writing by Kevin Liffey and David Ljunggren; editing by Sandra Maler and Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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