Fresh shelling around Europe’s largest nuclear station, which is under Russian control and has been frequently attacked over the past week, has prompted an exchange of accusations between Ukraine and Russia.
Since March, Russian forces have been occupying the Zaporizhzhia factory in southeast Ukraine, and Kiev has charged Moscow with stationing hundreds of soldiers there and storing weapons, according to AFP.
Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, accused Russia of using the facility to “intimidate people in an incredibly cynical way” and nuclear “blackmail” during a televised speech on Saturday.
Zelensky claimed that the enemy “arranges continual provocations with shelling of the nuclear power plant’s land and attempts to bring their additional forces in this direction to further blackmail our state and the entire free world.”
In order to stage bombs on the cities of Nikopol and Marganets, which are under the control of Ukraine, he said, Russian forces were “hiding” behind the facility.
The city of Energodar, where the plant is located, was advised by Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom to keep as far away from the streets as possible in order to escape continued Russian shelling.
In a message posted on Telegram on Saturday from a local leader in Energodar city, which is still loyal to Kiev, Energoatom wrote, “According to residents, there is new firing in the direction of the nuclear facility… the time between the commencement and arrival of the shelling is 3-5 seconds.”
However, pro-Moscow authorities in Zaporizhzhia’s seized regions attributed the bombardment to Ukrainian forces.
Vladimir Rogov, a representative of the Moscow-installed government, claimed that militants supporting (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky were once more attacking Energydar and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.
The missiles fell “in the areas located on the banks of the Dnipro river and in the plant”, he said, without reporting any casualties or damage.
The river divides the areas occupied by Russia and those under Ukraine’s control.