Nuclear agency warns of new bombings at Ukrainian factory

KYIV, Ukraine – Powerful explosions rocked Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, the site of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, the world’s nuclear watchdog said on Sunday, calling for “urgent action to help prevent an accident.” nuclear” at the Russian-occupied facility.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said two explosions – one on Saturday evening and another on Sunday morning – near the Zaporizhzhia plant abruptly ended a period of relative calm around of the nuclear facility which has been the scene of fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces since the invasion of Russia on February 24.

Fears of a nuclear disaster have been at the fore since Russian troops occupied the plant at the start of the war. Continued fighting in the region has raised the specter of disaster.

In what appears to be renewed shelling near and at the site, IAEA experts at the Zaporizhzhia facility reported hearing more than a dozen explosions in a short period Sunday morning, the statement said, adding that the IAEA team could see explosions from their windows.

Several buildings, systems and equipment at the plant – none of them critical to the nuclear safety and security of the plant – were damaged in the bombardment, the IAEA said, citing information from the management of the power plant. No casualties were reported.

Still, Grossi said reports of shelling were “extremely worrying”. He added: “Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately.

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“As I’ve said many times before, you’re playing with fire!” Grossi, and called on both parties to the conflict to urgently agree and implement a nuclear safety and security zone around the nuclear facility.

Russia pounded Ukraine’s power grid and other key infrastructure from the air, causing widespread power outages for millions of Ukrainians in freezing weather, with snow blanketing the capital, Kyiv, and other cities.

Elsewhere in the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian forces shelled civilian infrastructure in a dozen communities, destroying 30 homes, the Ukrainian presidency announced on Sunday.

In the central Dnipropetrovsk region, one person was injured and 20 buildings were damaged in the shelling of Nikopol, a town across the river from the Zaporizhzhia plant, according to the report. Three districts in the northern Kharkiv region – Kupyansk, Chugiv and Izyum – have also come under Russian artillery fire in the past 24 hours.

In the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, Russian shelling killed one person in Donetsk and damaged power lines, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office.

The situation in the southern Kherson region “remains difficult”, the report said, citing the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Russian forces fired tank shells, rockets and other artillery at the city of Kherson, recently liberated from Ukrainian forces, and at the settlements of Chervyn Mayak, Kachkarivka, Tokarivka, Chornobayivka and Antonivka.

Shelling on Saturday night hit an oil depot in Kherson, sparking a huge fire that sent black smoke into the air.

Russian troops also shelled people queuing for bread in the town of Bilozerka, injuring five, the report said.

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