The world’s top nuclear authorities were concerned – but not panicked – about the damage to the power plant, but the assault prompted a phone call between US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the US Department of Health. Energy has activated its nuclear incident response team. as a precaution.
The attack on the eastern city of Enerhodar and its Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant came as the invasion entered its second week and another round of talks between the two sides resulted in an agreement in principle to implement establishes safe corridors to evacuate citizens and deliver humanitarian aid.
The nuclear power plant’s spokesman, Andriy Tuz, told Ukrainian television that shells fell directly on the facility and set one of its six reactors on fire. This reactor is being renovated and not working, but there is nuclear fuel inside, he said.
Firefighters can’t get near the flames because they’re getting shot at, he said, and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted a plea for the Russians to stop the assault and allow fire crews to enter.
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“We demand that they stop the heavy weapons fire,” Tuz said in a video statement. “There is a real threat of nuclear danger at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.”
The assault reignited fears that the invasion could damage one of Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors and trigger another emergency like the Chernobyl accident in 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster, which occurred around 110 kilometers (65 miles) north of the capital.
US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm tweeted that the reactors at the Zaporizhzhia power plant were protected by sturdy containment structures and were shut down safely.
In an emotional speech in the middle of the night, Zelenskyy said he feared an explosion that would be “the end for everyone. The end for Europe. The evacuation of Europe.”
“Only urgent action from Europe can stop Russian troops,” he said. “Don’t let Europe die from a nuclear power plant disaster.”
But most experts saw nothing that indicated impending doom.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said the fire did not affect critical equipment and Ukraine’s nuclear regulator reported no change in radiation levels. The American Nuclear Society agreed, saying the latest radiation levels remained within natural background levels.
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“The real threat to the lives of Ukrainians continues to be the violent invasion and bombardment of their country,” the group said in a statement.
Jon Wolfsthal, who served during the Obama administration as senior director of arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council, said the plant’s reactors had thick concrete containment domes that should protect them from tank and artillery fire.
But he, too, was worried about a possible loss of power at the plant, which could jeopardize its ability to keep nuclear fuel cool.
The mayor of Enerhodar said earlier that Ukrainian forces were fighting Russian troops on the outskirts of the city. Video showed flames and black smoke rising above the city of more than 50,000 people, with people walking past wrecked cars, just a day after the United Nations atomic watchdog expressed serious concern that the fighting could cause accidental damage to Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors.
Prior to the bombing, the Ukrainian Atomic Energy Company reported that a Russian military column was heading towards the nuclear power plant. Heavy gunfire and rocket fire were heard Thursday night.
“Many young men in sportswear and armed with Kalashnikovs have entered the city. They are breaking down doors and trying to enter apartments of local residents,” the Energoatom statement said.
Later, a security camera streamed live from the Zaporizhzhia factory homepage showed what appeared to be armored vehicles entering the facility’s parking lot and shining spotlights on the building where the camera was. climb.
Then there was what appeared to be muzzle flashes from vehicles, followed by near simultaneous explosions in surrounding buildings. The smoke was rising in the frame and moving away.
Vladimir Putin’s forces have harnessed their superior firepower over the past few days, launching hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks on cities and other sites across the country and making significant gains in South.
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Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has called on the West to close the skies on the country’s nuclear power plants. “It’s a question of the safety of the whole world!” he said in a statement.
US and NATO allies have ruled out creating a no-fly zone because the move would pit Russian and Western military forces against each other.
Elsewhere, the Russians announced the capture of the southern city of Kherson, a vital Black Sea port of 280,000 people, and local Ukrainian officials confirmed the takeover of the seat of government there, making it the first major city to fall since the invasion began a week ago. .
Heavy fighting continued on the outskirts of another strategic port, Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov. The fighting destroyed the city’s electricity, heating and water systems, as well as most telephone services, officials said. Food deliveries to the city have also been cut.
Associated Press video from the port city shows the onslaught lighting up the darkening sky over largely deserted streets and medical teams treating civilians, including one inside a clinic that seemed like a child. The doctors could not save the person.
Cutting Ukraine’s access to the Black and Azov seas would deal a crippling blow to its economy and allow Russia to build a land corridor to Crimea, seized by Moscow in 2014.
Overall, the outnumbered and outgunned Ukrainians put up fierce resistance, preventing the quick victory that Russia seemed to expect. But a senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia’s capture of Crimea gave it a logistical advantage in that part of the country, with shorter supply lines who facilitated the offensive there.
Ukrainian leaders called on the people to defend their homeland by cutting down trees, erecting barricades in cities and attacking enemy columns from the rear. In recent days, authorities have distributed weapons to civilians and taught them how to make Molotov cocktails.
“Total resistance. … This is our Ukrainian asset, and this is the best we can do in the world,” Oleksiy Arestovich, an aide to Zelenskyy, said in a video message, recalling guerrilla actions in occupied Ukraine. by the Nazis during World War II.
The second round of talks between the Ukrainian and Russian delegations was held in neighboring Belarus. But the two sides seemed very distant at the start of the meeting, and Putin warned Ukraine that it must quickly accept the Kremlin’s request for its “demilitarization” and declare itself neutral, giving up its candidacy for NATO.
Putin told French President Emmanuel Macron he was determined to continue his attack “all the way”, according to Macron’s office.
Both sides said they had tentatively agreed to allow ceasefires in areas designated as safe corridors and would seek to work out the necessary details quickly. An adviser to Zelenskyy also said a third round of talks will take place early next week.
Despite a wealth of evidence of civilian casualties and destruction of property by the Russian military, Putin denounced what he called an “anti-Russian disinformation campaign” and insisted that Moscow uses “only precision weapons to exclusively destroy military infrastructure”.
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Putin claimed that the Russian military had already offered safe corridors for civilians to flee, but he claimed without evidence that Ukrainian “neo-Nazis” were preventing people from leaving and using them as human shields.
He also hailed Russian soldiers as heroes during a video call with members of the Russian Security Council and ordered additional payments to the families of men killed or injured.
The Pentagon set up a direct communication link with the Russian Defense Ministry earlier this week to avoid the possibility that a miscalculation could trigger a conflict between Moscow and Washington, according to a US defense official who s is expressed on condition of anonymity because the link had not been announced.
Karmanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine; Mariupol Chernov, Ukraine. Sergei Grits in Odessa, Ukraine; Francesca Ebel, Josef Federman and Andrew Drake in Kyiv; Jamey Keaten in Geneva; Lynn Berry, Robert Burns and Eric Tucker in Washington; Edith M. Lederer and Jennifer Peltz at the United Nations; and other AP reporters around the world contributed to this report.
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