Then on Friday, explosions rocked the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power complex, the largest of its kind in Europe, reigniting fears of a potential disaster.
Moscow and Kiev have accused each other of bombing the plant, which was taken over by Russian forces in early March, along with the town of Enerhodar, where the complex is located.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed Moscow for the attack, calling the attacks a “brazen crime” and an “act of terror”.
“Today, the occupiers created another extremely dangerous situation for everyone in Europe,” he said in his late-night speech on Friday.
The Russian defense ministry denied the claim, saying the Ukrainians had carried out three artillery strikes on the plant and the surrounding area. The ministry added that the generating capacity of one unit at the power plant was reduced and the electricity supply to another was interrupted.
Ukraine’s state nuclear power operator, Energoatom, accused Russian forces of striking the Zaporizhzhia plant and using the complex as a staging ground to strike nearby targets, including many in the occupied town of Enerhodar and the nearby Ukrainian-held town , Nikopol.
When fierce fighting first broke out near the facility in the early days of the war, it sparked fears of a nuclear incident and drew condemnation from the international community.
Ukrainian and Russian staff have been working side by side ever since, and communication with the outside world has been cut off.
Energoatom said on Friday that Russian shelling had hit in and around the nuclear complex and damaged a water intake structure, cutting off power and water to much of Enerhodar.
“Three hits were recorded directly at the site of the station,” the Ukrainian agency said, claiming one was “near one of the power units where the nuclear reactor is located.”
CNN was unable to verify claims of damage to the plant, which covers a large area. Most of the recent Russian fire in the area has come from near the plant, and it is unclear whether parts of the nuclear facility were accidentally hit.
Energoatom said on Saturday that the plant was operational and Ukrainian staff at the station continued to work to ensure radiation safety.
Ukrainian prosecutors have opened an investigation into the incident.
Zaporizhzhia factory ‘out of control’
The exact danger posed by the explosions in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant remains unclear.
“Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated,” he said, calling on Russia and Ukraine to allow experts to visit the country. “What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely serious and dangerous.”
Other officials have been more cautious, pointing to the fact that the latest nuclear power facilities are designed to withstand terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
Some Western and Ukrainian officials believe that Russia is now using the giant nuclear facility as a fortress to protect its troops and stage attacks because they assume that Kiev will not retaliate and risk a crisis.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday accused Moscow of using the plant to protect its forces, and Ukraine has warned that shelling the complex could be catastrophic.
The United Kingdom has said that actions at the complex have damaged the safety of the plant’s operation.
Enerhodar’s Ukrainian chairman, Dmytro Orlov, said in late July that Russian forces had been observed using heavy weaponry near the plant because “they know very well that the Armed Forces of Ukraine will not respond to these attacks, as they can harm nuclear power. plants.”
CNN’s Joshua Berlinger, Lauren Kent, Yulia Kesaieva and Petro Zadorozhnny contributed to this report.
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