Strikes at nuclear power plant prompt UN chief to call for demilitarized zone


By Reuters IST (Released)

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The UN Security Council met on Thursday to discuss the situation. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on both sides to end all fighting near the plant.

Russia and Ukraine on Thursday accused each other of bombing Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant as the UN chief proposed a demilitarized zone at the site amid fears of disaster.

Ukraine’s Energoatom agency said the Zaporizhzhia complex was hit five times on Thursday, including near where radioactive materials are stored. Russian-appointed officials said Ukraine had bombed the plant twice, disrupting a shift change, Russian news agency TASS said.

The UN Security Council met on Thursday to discuss the situation. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on both sides to end all fighting near the plant.

“The facility should not be used as part of a military operation. Instead, an urgent agreement is needed at the technical level on a safe perimeter for demilitarization to ensure the security of the area,” said António Guterres in a press release.

Russia seized Zaporizhzhia in March after invading Ukraine on February 24. The factory, located near the frontline of the fighting, is owned by Russian troops and operated by Ukrainian workers.

At the Security Council meeting, the United States supported the call for a demilitarized zone and urged the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit the site.

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the world was being pushed “to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe, comparable in scale to Chernobyl”. He said IAEA officials could visit the site as early as this month.

Reuters could not independently verify either side’s reports of the circumstances at the plant.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked Russia to return the nuclear power plant to Ukrainian control.

“Only a complete Russian withdrawal and the restoration of full Ukrainian control of the situation around the plant can guarantee a resumption of nuclear security for all of Europe,” he said in a video address.

Kyiv and Moscow have already blamed each other for the attacks on the site. Ukraine also accused Russia of firing rockets at Ukrainian towns around the captured nuclear plant, knowing it would be risky for Ukraine to retaliate.

Russian base in Crimea

Separately, satellite images released on Thursday showed devastation at an air base in Crimea annexed by Russia. He suggested Ukraine may have obtained a new long-range strike capability with the potential to change the tide of the war, Western military experts said.

Images from independent satellite company Planet Labs showed three nearly identical craters where buildings at Russia’s Saki air base had been hit with apparent precision. The base, on the southwest coast of Crimea, suffered extensive fire damage, with the scorched hulls of at least eight destroyed fighter jets clearly visible.

Russia denied that any planes were damaged and said the explosions at the base on Tuesday were accidental. Ukraine has not publicly claimed responsibility for the attack.

Referring to the damage, Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters in a message: “Officially we do not confirm or deny anything bearing in mind that there were multiple epicenters of explosions exactly the same time.”

Russia, which seized and annexed Crimea in 2014, uses the peninsula as a base for its Black Sea Fleet and a main supply route for its invading forces occupying southern Ukraine, where Kyiv plans a counter-offensive in the coming weeks.

Counteroffensive

The Institute for the Study of War said Ukrainian officials saw the strike in Crimea as the start of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the south, suggesting intense fighting in August and September that could decide the outcome. outcome of the next phase of the war.

Exactly how the attack was carried out remains a mystery, but the nearly identical impact craters and simultaneous explosions seem to indicate that it was hit by a volley of weapons capable of evading Russian defences.

The base is far beyond the range of advanced rockets that Western countries admit they have sent to Ukraine so far, although within range of the more powerful versions that Kyiv has been researching. Ukraine also has anti-ship missiles that could theoretically be used to hit land targets.

Meanwhile, the US State Department said Russian officials have been training in Iran in recent weeks as part of a drone transfer agreement between the two countries.

US officials said last month that Iran was preparing to supply Russia with up to several hundred drones, some of them capable of weapons, raising fears that Tehran was now backing Russia in its war in Ukraine.

Russia says its “special military operation” will be planned to protect Russian speakers and separatists in the south and east. Ukraine and its Western allies say Moscow aims to tighten its grip on as much territory as possible.

Since the start of the war, tens of thousands of people have died, millions have fled and cities have been destroyed.

Ukraine reported Russian shelling along the entire front line, from the area around Kharkiv in the northeast, in eastern Donetsk province and on the banks of the wide Dnipro river to Zaporizhzhia, Kherson and the provinces adjacent.


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