UN chief International Atomic Energy Agency condemns shelling of Ukraine plant in Zaporizhzhya

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has condemned the shelling of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine and warned of a “very real risk of nuclear disaster”.

Both sides accused each other of “nuclear terrorism” on Saturday.

Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear power company Energoatom said parts of the facility had been “seriously damaged” by Russian military attacks, while the Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukrainian troops of shelling the plant.

“This is a serious and irresponsible violation of nuclear safety rules and another example of Russia’s disregard for international standards,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.

Grossi, who heads the United Nations nuclear watchdog, urged all parties to the Ukraine conflict to exercise “utter restraint” around the plant.

Shells hit a power line at the facility on Friday, prompting operators to unplug a reactor, despite no radioactive leak being detected.

The factory was captured by Russian troops in the opening stages of the war in early March, but is still run by Ukrainian technicians.

A satellite image of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant
Two of the six reactors are currently operating at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.(AP: Planet Labs PBC/Satellite)

Energoatom said Russia wanted to disconnect the station from the Ukrainian electricity system and cause power outages in the south of the country.

Moscow troops had placed weapons and explosives in two of the electricity generating units and mined the shoreline outside the factory.

“It is very likely that all of this will cause a nuclear and radiation disaster,” it said in a statement on Saturday.

The Russian Defense Ministry said damage to the plant was avoided only thanks to the “skillful, competent and effective actions” of its units.

Mykolaiv residents prepare for three-day curfew

A resident fills water bottles with brown water in a park near her apartment.
Some Ukrainian cities have no running water as artillery and missile strikes have knocked down power lines and punctured water pipes.(AP: David Goldman)

Ukrainians lined up for water in the southern frontline city of Mykolaiv on Friday before an unusually long curfew was set to begin, video posted on social media showed.

The region’s governor said on Telegram that the long curfew, late Friday to Monday morning, was meant to catch people collaborating with Russia.

Mykolaiv, which was shelled during the Russian invasion, is close to Russian-occupied parts of the strategically important Kherson region, where Ukraine plans to launch a counter-offensive.

A bottom view of the Mykolaiv Regional Military Administration building shows damage to each floor.
Mykolaiv was shelled during the Russian invasion.(AP: Evgeniy Maloletka)

Eyewitness video showed a crowd gathering to collect water carried by a group of volunteers from Odessa.

Vitaliy Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv region, told residents that the curfew that ran from 11 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday did not mean the city was threatened or faced with an imminent attack.

US prepares largest arms package for Ukraine

The Biden government’s next security assistance package for Ukraine is expected to reach $1 billion (US$1.44 billion), one of the largest to date, and will include ammunition for long-range weapons and armored medical transport vehicles, three sources involved in the fight said. were informed. Friday.

The package is expected to be announced as early as Monday and would contribute to about $8.8 billion in aid the United States has given to Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24.

The officials said, on condition of anonymity, that President Joe Biden had not yet signed the next weapons package.

They warned that weapon packs can change in value and content before being signed.

However, if signed in its current form, it would be valued at $1 billion dollars and contain ammunition for HIMARS, ammunition for the NASAMS surface-to-air missile system and as many as 50 armored medical transports M113.

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