Kyiv and Moscow on Friday accused each other of striking Europe’s largest nuclear site, causing a reactor stoppage.
Russian troops have occupied the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in southern Ukraine since the early days of Moscow’s invasion, and Kyiv has accused them of storing heavy weapons there.
Moscow, in turn, has accused Ukrainian forces of targeting the plant.
“Three strikes were recorded on the site of the plant, near one of the power blocks where the nuclear reactor is located,” Ukrainian state power plant operator Energoatom said in a statement. “There are risks of hydrogen leakage and radioactive spraying. The fire danger is high.”
Energoatom did not report any casualties.
It said staff of Russian nuclear operator Rosatom had hastily left the plant before the attacks, which damaged a power cable and forced one of the reactors to stop working.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in his daily video address said Russia should “take responsibility for the very fact of creating a threat to a nuclear plant.”
“Today, the occupiers have created another extremely risky situation for all of Europe. They struck the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant twice. Any bombing of this site is a shameless crime, an act of terror,” he said.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier this week said that the “possible consequences of hitting a working reactor are equivalent to using an atomic bomb.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense denied the reports.
“Ukrainian armed units carried out three artillery strikes on the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and the city of Energodar,” it said.
The new spike in tensions came as Russian President Vladimir Putin was meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Putin thanked Erdogan for helping orchestrate the resumption of Ukrainian grain shipments, the first of which is due to arrive in Lebanon today, according to the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut.
Meanwhile, Moscow on Friday announced that it was imposing entry bans on 62 Canadian citizens including government officials.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the list included figures known for “their malicious activity in the fight against the Russian world and our traditional values.”
The listing came as Zelenskiy’s office and local authorities reported overnight Russian bombardments targeting the southern city of Mykolaiv with widely-banned cluster bombs and heavy artillery — injuring 20 people, including a 14-year-old boy.
Mykolaiv is on the main route to Odesa, Ukraine’s biggest port on the Black Sea, and is the closest city to the southern front.
Several missiles struck the city of Zaporizhzhia overnight and there was heavy bombardment of Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv, in the northeast, authorities said.
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