A call has been made to demilitarise the area around a Ukrainian nuclear plant to avoid “irreparable consequences”.
The western city of Nikopol has undergone daily bombardment for most of the past week, with people killed and buildings destroyed.
The area lies across the Dnieper River from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, and both Russia and Ukrainian officials have for days accused each other of shelling it in contravention of nuclear safety rules.
Russian troops have occupied the Zaporizhzhia plant since the early days of Moscow’s invasion, although the facility’s pre-war Ukrainian nuclear workers continue to run it.
Ukrainian military intelligence alleged on Saturday, shelling by Russian troops had damaged a pumping station and a fire station at the compound.
And Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to the Internal Affairs ministry of Ukraine, tweeted that people were fleeing the area and showed video of what appeared to be an explosion.
Sky News could not geolocate the video.
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The governor of Zaporizhzhia has now called for the demilitarisation of the plant – and for international bodies to enforce this.
“The best option should be demilitarisation,” said Oleksandr Starukh.
“There should be a reaction on the part of international structures. They should defend this position so that there are no weapons in or near the nuclear plant.”
Image: A man stands inside a crater left by a missile strike in the in Zaporizhzhia region
In his video address, Mr Starukh added: “Sooner or later, the fact that troops and ammunition are stationed there can lead to irreparable consequences.”
He called for an enforcement of the rules of bodies like the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).
“All those rules of warfare and all those rules developed by the IAEA, which controls all matters of nuclear safety, unfortunately, they do not work, and some of them are not effective and must be corrected.
“Thank God they did not shell objects which pose a nuclear threat, and the radiation background is within the normal range.
“But at the same time, sooner or later, the fact that troops and ammunition are stationed there can lead to irreparable consequences.”
Explainer: What are the risks of nuclear accident in Ukraine?
He said there should be “no weapons in or near the nuclear plant…So that it does not happen that peaceful cities such as Marhanets and Nikopol were shelled under cover of a nuclear plant.”
His comments were echoed by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his nightly address to the nation.
Image: Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressing the Ukrainian nation
“The occupiers are trying to intimidate people in an extremely cynical way, using the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” he said.
“They actually hide behind the plant to fire at Nikopol and (nearby) Marhanets.
“Absolutely all officials of the terrorist state, as well as those who help them in this blackmail operation with the nuclear power plant, must be tried by an international court.”
Meanwhile, across the country Russia’s military pounded other residential areas, as Ukrainian forces pressed a counteroffensive to try to take back an occupied southern region, striking the last working bridge over a river in the Russian-occupied Kherson region.
A Russian rocket attack on the city of Kramatorsk killed three people and wounded 13 others on Friday, according to the mayor.
Kramatorsk is the headquarters for Ukrainian forces in the country’s war-torn east.
The attack came less than a day after 11 other rockets were fired at the city, one of the two main Ukrainian-held in Donetsk province, the focus of an ongoing Russian offensive to capture eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
The Russian defence ministry claimed on Saturday its forces had taken control of Pisky, a village on the outskirts of the city of Donetsk, the provincial capital pro-Moscow separatists have claimed since 2014.
Russian troops and the Kremlin-backed rebels are seeking to seize Ukrainian-held areas north and west of the city of Donetsk to expand the separatists’ self-proclaimed republic.
But the Ukrainian military said on Saturday its forces had prevented an overnight advance toward the smaller cities of Avdiivka and Bakhmut.
Source : Sky News