MOSCOW/KYIV: Moscow and Kyiv on Sunday blamed each other for a new strike on the Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant, where recent fighting sparked a UN warning of a potential nuclear disaster.

Zaporizhzhia — Europe’s largest atomic power complex that was occupied by Russia early in its offensive — has in recent days been the scene of military strikes that have damaged several structures, forcing the shutdown of a reactor.

With Russia and Ukraine blaming each other for the attacks, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, the Inter­national Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned on Saturday of “the very real risk of a nuclear disaster”.

On Sunday, Russian occupation authorities in Energodar city where the plant is located said that overnight “the Ukrainian army carried out an attack with a cluster bomb fired from an Uragan rocket launcher.” The projectiles fell “within 400 metres of a working reactor,” Russia’s TASS state news agency quoted them as saying.

The strike damaged some administrative buildings and fell in a “zone storing used nuclear fuel”.

However Ukraine’s state nuclear energy company Energoatom that operates the plant said the “Russian military keeps committing acts of nuclear terrorism” at the site.

“Yesterday ... the Russian occupiers once again fired rockets at the site of the Zapori­zhzhya nuclear power plant and the town of Ener­hodar,” a company statement said.

“One... employee was hospitalised with shrapnel wounds caused by the explosion,” it added. The company accused the Russians of aiming at spent fuel casks, which are stored in the open near the site of shelling.

“Three radiation monitoring detectors around the ... site were damaged,” the statement said adding that as a result radiation detection was impossible.Energ­o­atom had on Saturday said strikes on Friday had “caused a serious risk for the safe operation of the plant”, damaging a power cable andforcing the shutdown of one of the reactors.

The operator on Sunday called for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the site and for it to be declared a demilitarised zone.

More grain sets sail

Four more ships loaded with grain set off from Ukrainian ports on Sunday as Moscow and Kyiv blamed each other for a new strike at a Russian-occupied nuclear plant. Kyiv’s infrastructure ministry wrote on Telegram that a second convoy of Ukra­inian supplies had just left, three from Chornomorsk and one from Odessa.

It said the Mustafa Necati, the Star Helena, the Glory and the Riva Wind were carrying “around 170,000 tonnes of agriculture-related merchandise”.

Amnesty regrets report

Amnesty International apologised on Sunday for “distress and anger” caused by a report accusing Ukr­aine of endangering civilians which infuriated Presi­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy and triggered the resignation of its Kviy office head.

The rights group published the report on Thurs­day saying the presence of Ukrainian troops in residential areas heightened risks to civilians during Russia’s invasion.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2022

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