The largest nuclear power facility of its sort in Europe, Zaporizhzhia, was shelled on Friday, according to accusations made by Russia and Ukraine against one another.
The Russian defence ministry claimed that the avoidance of a radioactive disaster during what it called an artillery barrage was mainly due to luck.
However, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the president of Ukraine, claimed that Moscow was to blame and charged it with committing ‘an open, flagrant crime, an act of terror.’
He demanded sanctions against the whole Russian nuclear industry in a late-night speech.
‘It is only a security concern. Those that pose nuclear dangers to other countries are undoubtedly incapable of responsibly utilising nuclear technologies,’ he added.
According to the Russian defence ministry, power supply to one unit was cut off and another’s generating capacity was curtailed. It also claimed that Enerhodar, a neighbouring city, experienced issues with its water and power systems.
According to a ministry statement, ‘the Ukrainian shells fortunately did not reach the oil and fuel complex and the oxygen plant close, preventing a greater fire and a potential radioactive mishap.’
Invading Russian forces took control of Enerhodar and the neighbouring nuclear power facility in early March, and both locations are still close to the frontlines.
Ukraine has claimed that Russia has been shelling its positions from areas close to the power plant, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday accused Moscow of using the plant as a shield for its forces.
The foreign ministry of Ukraine stated on Twitter that ‘the potential effects of attacking an operational reactor are similar to the use of an atomic bomb.’
Energoatom, the state-owned nuclear power corporation of Ukraine, had earlier declared the facility to be in operation and that no radioactive emissions had been found. Of the six reactors, two are still in use.
Enerhodar’s newly-installed Russian government said on Friday that a Ukrainian artillery strike had destroyed electrical lines at the plant. The plant is still run by its Ukrainian employees.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s Rafael Grossi stated last week that connectivity with the plant was ‘fragile’ and did not always work. He requested access so he could assess whether it posed a threat.