Fears for nuclear plant over fresh Russian shelling

Ukraine’s defence intelligence agency yesterday warned of fresh Russian “provocations” at an occupied nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, while the exiled mayor of the town where the plant is located said it had come under fresh shelling.

nerhodar mayor Dmytro Orlov, who evacuated to Kyiv-controlled territory in April, said local residents had informed him of fresh Russian shelling in the direction of the town’s industrial zone and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant yesterday. It was not clear if any shells hit the grounds of the plant.

Local Russian-installed official Vladimir Rogov said Ukrainian forces were shelling the plant. “According to witnesses, explosions can be heard again in the town,” Rogov said, adding that shells had landed in the vicinity of the power station, without specifying if it had hit the plant’s territory.

Ukraine and Russia have traded accusations over multiple recent incidents of shelling at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, while the G7 group of wealthy nations have called on Moscow to withdraw its forces from the power station.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak accused Russia of “hitting the part of the nuclear power plant where the energy that powers the south of Ukraine is generated.”

“The goal is to disconnect us from the [plant] and blame the Ukrainian army for this,” Podolyak said.

Earlier yesterday, Ukraine’s defence intelligence agency said Russia was preparing new “provocations” at the plant, saying Russian troops had parking a Pion self-propelled howitzer outside the nearby town and put a Ukrainian flag on it. The agency shared a photo appearing to show the cannon in question.

The agency also said Thursday’s strikes on the territory of the Zaporizhzhia plant, which Ukraine says damaged water-pumping infrastructure and a fire station, had been conducted from the Russian-controlled village of Vodiane, about 7km east of the plant.

Meanwhile about 27pc of Ukraine’s territory will need to be cleared of mines and explosives, according to the latest estimates by the ecology ministry nearly six months since Russia began its invasion and bombardment of its neighbour.

So far Ukrainian authorities have cleared more than 620 sq kms of land that were littered with thousands of explosive devices, including 2,000 bombs dropped from the air.

Nearly 300,000 sq kms are still seen as “contaminated”, according to Ukraine’s Emergency Services. Making that area safe could take a decade.

The US State Department approved $89m (€87m) of assistance to help Ukraine equip and train 100 teams to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance for a year.

The latest demining efforts were focused on the northeastern region of Sumy, where Ukrainian authorities conducted controlled explosions on Thursday to clear landmines.

Russian forces crossed into the Sumy region shortly after the invasion began on February 24. The Russians retreated after failing to win the capital, Kyiv, and Ukrainian forces retook control of the region on April 8.

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