Russia has said a Ukrainian missile attack punched a hole in the roof of a fuel depot at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant as a UN watchdog team prepares to visit the site this week.
New satellite images show recent damage to the roof of a building next to several nuclear reactors, though both sides have claimed the other side is firing weapons. Zaporizhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, is occupied by Russian forces but run by Ukrainian workers.
People have been killed in nearby fighting and bombing, while the plant itself was briefly shut down last week, fueling fears of a nuclear catastrophe.
The detailed images shared by Maxar Technologies also show a group of armored personnel carriers positioned along a road near the reactors, as well as some bushfires outside the power plant’s main facilities.
Ukraine has claimed that Russia is essentially holding the plant hostage, storing weapons there and launching attacks from the surrounding area.
The White House yesterday said Russia should agree to a demilitarized zone around the power plant. John Kirby, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, said a controlled shutdown of the plant was the safest option.
Meanwhile, Russian officials in Zaporizhia accused Ukraine of “continuously” firing at the facility and said they were using US-made M777 howitzers, the TASS news agency reported.
Reports of the strike came as the UN said it was sending a mission to the plant.
The Ukrainian atomic energy agency Energoatom warned of Russian attempts to cover up the military use of the plant
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team was due to arrive in Kyiv last night.
“The mission is expected to start work at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in the coming days,” Oleg Nikolenko, spokesman for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, wrote on Facebook.
Fears have grown that the fighting could cause a radiation leak. The dangers are so high that officials have started dosing local residents with iodine for radioactive radiation, but so far it has been reported that radiation levels at the facility, which has six reactors, are normal.
The Ukrainian atomic energy agency Energoatom warned of Russian attempts to cover up the military use of the plant.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, said in Stockholm that he expected the IAEA mission to “clearly establish the facts about the violation of all nuclear safety protocols”.
He added: “We know that Russia is exposing not only Ukraine, but the whole world to a nuclear accident.”
Ukraine reported shelling in Nikopol, the town across the Dnipro River from the power plant, and said one person was killed and five others wounded. In Enerhodar, a few kilometers from the plant, the city’s Ukrainian mayor, Dmytro Orlov, blamed the Russian shelling for the injuries of at least 10 people.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia will ensure the security of the IAEA mission and called on other countries to put pressure on Ukraine to stop shelling the power plant.
Elsewhere on the battlefield, the Ukrainian military claimed it had breached Russia’s first line of defense near Kherson, north of the Crimean peninsula, a push that would represent a strategic breakthrough if confirmed.
Kherson is the largest Ukrainian city held by the Russians, and for weeks there have been reports of Ukrainian forces preparing for a counteroffensive there and elsewhere in the region.
For its part, the Russian Defense Ministry said its forces inflicted heavy casualties on personnel and military equipment on Ukrainian troops attempting to attack in three directions in the southern regions of Kherson and Mykoaiv, state news agency Tass reported.
Local residents reported explosions at a bridge in the Kherson area across the Dnieper, which is a key Russian supply line, and Russian reports spoke of air defense systems being repeatedly activated in the city, with nighttime explosions in the sky. Russian-installed officials yesterday announced the evacuation of residents in the nearby town of Nova Kakhovka, a town frequently attacked by Kiev’s forces, from their jobs in bomb shelters, citing Ukrainian missile attacks. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)
Telegraph Media Group Limited 
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/russia-claims-ukrainian-missile-strike-punched-a-hole-in-the-roof-of-nuclear-power-plant-fuel-depot-41945991.html Russia claims Ukraine’s missile attack punched a hole in the roof of the nuclear power plant’s fuel depot