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

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

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

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

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

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

The Russian Defense Ministry said that the production capacity of one unit had been reduced and the power supply of another had been cut. In addition, the nearby town of Enerhodar had problems with electricity and water supply, he added.

“Fortunately, the Ukrainian shells did not hit the nearby oil and fuel facility and oxygen plant, thus preventing a larger fire and a possible radiological accident,” a ministry statement said.

Enerhodar and the nearby nuclear power plant were seized by 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 bombing its positions from positions near the plant.

“The possible consequences of an impact on a working reactor are equivalent to the use of an atomic bomb,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.

Ukraine’s national nuclear energy company, Energoatom, said earlier that the plant was operational and no radioactive discharge had been detected. Two of the six reactors are still operating.

Russia’s Enerhodar administration said on Friday that power lines at the plant were cut by a Ukrainian artillery strike. The facility continues to be managed 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 communications were not working every day. He requested access to determine if it was a source of danger.

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Reuters reporting; 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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