Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday accused Russia of using the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station “for terror” after the operator of the facility reported major damage at the site.
Energoatom, operator of the power plant in the south of the country, said that parts of the facility had been “seriously damaged” by military strikes and one of its reactors was forced to shut down.
Friday’s strikes damaged a station containing nitrogen and oxygen, as well as an auxiliary building, Energoatom said on the Telegram messaging service.
Kyiv and Moscow have blamed each other for the attacks on the Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe’s largest atomic power complex.
Zelenskiy in his nightly address once again accused Moscow of terrorism, saying: “Russian terrorists became the first in the world to use the power plant ... for terror.”
International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi expressed alarm over the shelling at the plant.
The strikes underline “the very real risk of a nuclear disaster,” Grossi said.
“Any military firepower directed at or from the facility would amount to playing with fire, with potentially catastrophic consequences,” he added.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell condemned the attack “as a serious and irresponsible breach of nuclear safety rules and another example of Russia’s disregard for international norms.”
As hostilities raged on in the east and south of Ukraine, pro-Moscow authorities in the Russian-occupied Kherson region reported the assassination of a senior official.
Vitalii Hura, “the deputy head of the Novaya Kakhovka administration in charge of the housing and utility sector, died from his wounds,” Yekaterina Gubareva, the deputy head of Russia’s civil-military administration in Kherson, wrote on Telegram.
Hura had been attacked in his home and shot several times, Russian state news agency TASS quoted her as saying.
Another Moscow-appointed official was killed in the same region in June, reportedly by a bomb planted in his vehicle.
There has been a spate of reported assassination attempts and attacks against pro-Kremlin officials in Ukrainian regions controlled by Russia.
Although Russia has seized a large swath of the Kherson region and part of nearby Zaporizhzhia over the past few months, Ukrainian forces have reclaimed some territory.
In his address, Zelenskiy lashed out at Amnesty International, comparing the rights group’s accusations that Ukrainian forces had endangered civilians with its silence on Russia’s actions.
Referring to the strikes on the Zaporizhzhia plant, he said that although they represented “one of the most dangerous crimes against Ukrainians and all Europeans ... for some reason, there’s still no report or even just a simple message from Amnesty International about it.
“It’s a very eloquent silence, which points out, once more, a manipulative selectivity of this organization,” he added.
Amnesty sparked outrage in Ukraine with a report published on Thursday that accused the military of endangering civilians by establishing bases in schools and hospitals, and launching counterattacks from heavily populated areas.
Late on Friday, Amnesty International Ukraine section head Oksana Pokalchuk announced that she had resigned from the organization over the report.
“If you don’t live in a country invaded by occupiers who are tearing it to pieces, you probably don’t understand what it’s like to condemn an army of defenders,” Pokalchuk said on social media. “And there are no words in any language that can convey this to someone who has not experienced this pain.”
Pokalchuk said she had tried to warn Amnesty’s senior leadership that the report was one-sided and failed to properly take into account the Ukrainian position, but had been ignored.
Amnesty International secretary-general Agnes Callamard expressed regret at Pokalchuk’s departure and paid tribute to her work, but said that the organization stands by its report.
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