Fighting Intensifies Around Ukraine Nuclear Plant
By VOA News August 13, 2022
Tensions remain high around Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, where Ukrainian officials accuse Russian forces of repeatedly firing rockets at the facility, threatening a nuclear accident.
Ukrainian forces will target Russians troops who shoot at the plant or from it, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his Saturday night video address.
"Every Russian soldier who either shoots at the plant, or shoots using the plant as cover, must understand that he becomes a special target for our intelligence agents, for our special services, for our army," Zelenskyy said.
The two sides continue to accuse each other of firing weapons near the plant, which Russia captured in March, shortly after it invaded Ukraine.
The plant's operator reported the facility was at risk of violating radiation and fire standards after a surge in rocket fire in and around Europe's largest nuclear power plant over the last week.
Ukrainian nuclear power operator Energoatom said the nitrogen-oxygen station, the domestic sewage pumping station, and the combined auxiliary building were seriously damaged during the shelling, as well as "three radiation monitoring sensors" around the dry storage of a spent nuclear fuel site."
The operator said the fire department located outside the power plant was fired upon. Officials also said a shell hit a power transformer, threatening the country's power grid.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said there's "a real risk of nuclear disaster" unless the fighting stops, and inspectors are allowed inside the facility.
The United Nations is calling for immediate access to the nuclear power plant, as Ukrainian officials said Russian forces fired more than 40 rockets at the city of Marhanets, which is across the Dnieper River from the power plant.
Russian forces that occupy the plant have been accused of using it as a shield to fire at Ukrainian army positions. Heavy shelling in areas near the plant has been reported over the past two weeks. Russian soldiers control the facility, but Ukrainian staff are continuing to operate the plant.
"We know that the Russians have been there for some time. We also know that the Russians have fired artillery, I think specifically rockets, from around the power plant," a senior U.S. military official told reporters Friday, refuting Russian allegations the plant has been targeted by Ukrainian forces.
Pisky, Kramatorsk fighting
In other fighting across the country, Russia announced its soldiers had taken full control Saturday of Pisky, a village on the outskirts in Ukraine's Donetsk region, according to Interfax citing the Russian defense ministry.
Russian and pro-Russian forces had reported they had taken full control of Pisky more than a week ago. The ministry also said that Russian forces had destroyed a U.S.-supplied HIMARS rocket system near the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk and a depot with ammunition for the system, Interfax reported.
Russian shelling reportedly killed two civilians in Kramatorsk, the last major city under Ukrainian control in the Donetsk region.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the United States and other countries to label Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, saying in his video address Friday, "After everything that the occupiers have done in Ukraine, there can be only one approach to Russia â€” as a terrorist state."
A senior Russian official said that ties between Moscow and Washington would be badly damaged if the U.S. Senate were to pass a law labeling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism.
The action would be "the most serious collateral damage for bilateral diplomatic relations, to the point of downgrading and even breaking them off," Russia's Tass news agency quoted Alexander Darchiyev, head of the North American department at the Russian Foreign Ministry, as saying.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Saturday the war could only end with the return of the Crimea Peninsula, and the punishment of the Russian leaders who ordered the military invasion.
VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.
Some information for this report came from Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.
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