Ukraine Y Russia exchanged new accusations of carrying out attacks around the nuclear plant in Zaporizhiathe largest in Europe and which has been bombed repeatedly in the last week.
The plant in southwestern Ukraine has been occupied by Russian forces since March, and kyiv accuses Moscow of stationing hundreds of soldiers and storing weapons there.
Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky accused Russia of nuclear “blackmail” on Saturday, saying Moscow uses the nuclear plant to “intimidate people in a very cynical way,” in his daily televised address.
“They organize constant provocations with the bombing of the territory of the nuclear plant and try to bring additional forces in that direction to blackmail our state and the entire free world,” he added.
He assured that the Russian forces are “hiding” in the plant to bomb the towns of Nikopol and Marganets, which are under Ukrainian control.
The Ukrainian nuclear agency Energoatom warned the residents of the city of Energodar, where the plant is located, not to go outside as much as possible due to the Russian bombardment.
“According to residents, there are new bombardments in the direction of the nuclear plant (…) The time between the shot and the arrival of the bomb is 3-5 seconds,” the nuclear operator said on Telegram on Saturday, sharing a message from a local chief in Energodar, under kyiv control.
But pro-Russian authorities in occupied areas of Zaporizhia blamed Ukrainian forces for the attacks.
“Energodar and the Zaporizhia nuclear plant are again under attack by Zelensky militants,” said Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Moscow-installed administration.
The missiles fell “in areas located on the banks of the Dnipro River and in the plant,” he said, without reporting casualties or damage.
That river divides the areas controlled by Russia and Ukraine.
Accusations from kyiv and Moscow of bombing the nuclear plant this month raised fears of a nuclear catastrophe.
The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Thursday and warned of a “serious” crisis underway in Zaporizhia.
Ukraine said the first strikes, on August 5, hit a high-voltage cable and shut down one of the reactors.
Other attacks carried out on Thursday damaged a pumping station and radiation sensors.
Ukraine, with Western support, called for a demilitarized zone around the plant and demanded the withdrawal of Russian forces.
In the city of Marganets, 13 km from the Ukrainian-controlled nuclear facility, residents see the plant with a dim sense of reality.
“You know that if we die, it will happen in a second, we will not suffer,” Anastasia, 30, told AFP. “It reassures me that my child and my family will not feel pain.”
The Ukrainian military called not to visit the banks of the Dnipro for fear that Russian soldiers fire from the other side.
“There is constant fear, and the news says that the situation in the plant is very tense, so every second that passes is more terrible,” warns Ksenia, 18, while serving customers in a cafe on the main shopping street of the city.
“You’re afraid to go to sleep because terrible things happen here at night,” he says.
Ukraine, meanwhile, said on Sunday that Russian troops who crossed the Dnipro River in the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson risk being stranded there after bridges there were damaged.
“The only means of crossing the river for the occupier are the lateral bridges of the Antonivski bridge, but they will not be able to fully meet their needs,” a regional deputy, Sergi Khlan, told Ukrainian television.
According to him, “Russia is moving its command centers from the right bank to the left, knowing that in the event of an escalation, they will not be able to be evacuated in time.”
He estimated at 20,000 the number of Russian soldiers present on the right bank of the river and specified that they can still “cross the damaged bridges on foot.”
Russian troops had seized Kherson, on the Dnipro River, at the beginning of the Ukraine invasion, the only regional capital they have conquered so far.