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Moscow and Kiev exchange accusations after shelling of Ukrainian nuclear power plant

Written by Javed Iqbal

LONDON, Aug 5 (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine accused each other on Friday of shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest of its kind in Europe, setting the stage for a potential disaster.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it was only by luck that a radiation accident had been avoided after what it described as an artillery barrage.

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Moscow was responsible, accusing it of committing “an open, brazen crime, an act of terrorism”.

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In a speech in the evening, he demanded sanctions against the entire Russian nuclear industry.

“It is a purely security issue. Those who create nuclear threats against other nations are certainly not capable of using nuclear technologies safely,” he said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the production capacity of one unit had been reduced and the power supply to another had been interrupted. In addition, the nearby town of Enerhodar had power and water supply problems, it said.

“Fortunately, the Ukrainian shells did not hit the oil and fuel facility and the oxygen facility nearby, thus avoiding a major fire and a possible radiation accident,” the ministry said in a statement.

Enerhodar and the nearby nuclear power plant were seized by invading Russian troops in early March, and are still close to the front line.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday accused Moscow of using the facility as a shield for its forces, and Ukraine has accused Russia of shelling its positions from positions near the power plant.

“The possible consequences of hitting an operating reactor are equivalent to the use of a nuclear bomb,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.

Ukraine’s state nuclear power company, Energoatom, previously said the plant was operating and that no radioactive emissions had been detected. Two of the six reactors are still in operation.

The Russian-installed administration of Enerhodar said on Friday that power lines at the plant had been cut by a Ukrainian artillery strike. The facility continues to be operated by its Ukrainian technicians.

Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield reports.

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said this week that contact with the plant was “fragile” and communication was not working every day. He requested access to documents to determine if it was a source of danger.

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Report from Reuters; written by Kevin Liffey and David Ljunggren; editing by Sandra Maler and Grant McCool

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Javed Iqbal

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