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Strike near another Ukraine's nuclear plant escalates fears of disaster

Unlike the Zaporizhzhia plant, which sits in an active battlefield, the South Ukraine site is far from the front-line fighting
Last Updated : 20 September 2022, 01:32 IST
Last Updated : 20 September 2022, 01:32 IST

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A powerful Russian missile exploded less than 900 feet from the reactors of a Ukrainian nuclear power plant early Monday, according to Ukrainian officials, a reminder that, despite battlefield setbacks, Russia can still threaten disaster at any of Ukraine’s four active nuclear plants.

The strike Monday landed near the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, some 160 miles west of another nuclear complex that has been a focus of global concern, the Zaporizhzhia plant, where the United Nations sent a team of experts to stabilize the situation this month.

Unlike the Zaporizhzhia plant, which sits on an active battlefield, the South Ukraine site is far from the front-line fighting.

Security camera footage showed a huge fireball lighting up the night sky over the site, and the shock wave blew out more than 100 windows at the South Ukraine plant. Energoatom, Ukraine’s national nuclear energy company, said the blast did extensive damage to a hydroelectric power station near the complex, forced the shutdown of one of the plant’s hydraulic units and caused partial power outages in the area.

The source of the explosion could not be independently confirmed, but the strike fit a long-established pattern of Russia attacking critical Ukrainian infrastructure, even when it poses a serious threat to civilians. Russia has battered the energy systems that Ukrainian civilians rely on with artillery, briefly set up a base in the Chornobyl exclusion zone, and has occupied the Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power station, for months.

The three reactors at the South Ukraine plant were operating normally, officials said, and the extent of the damage and the type of missile were still being investigated. Ukraine’s southern military command said in a statement that preliminary information pointed to an Iskander cruise missile, with a range of hundreds of miles — one of the weapons in Russia’s arsenal that can reach any corner of Ukraine.

In the explosion Monday, less than 70 miles north of the city of Mykolaiv, there was no damage to essential safety equipment, and the plant remained fully operational, Energoatom said.

The Russian government has denied deliberately targeting civilian centers, despite the devastation of Mariupol, in Ukraine’s south, and extensive damage to other cities and towns, and its history of attacking civilians in Syria and Chechnya. The Kremlin made no statement Monday about the attack on the South Ukraine plant.

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Published 20 September 2022, 01:32 IST

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