Russia-Ukraine war news live: Fire at Ukraine’s main nuclear power plant amid Russian attacks

Kyiv, Ukraine — Ukrainian firefighters on Friday put out a blaze at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant that was ignited by a Russian attack, and no radiation was released, officials from the United Nations and Ukraine said, as Russian forces responded to their calls despite worldwide condemnation campaign to cripple the country.

The head of the United Nations nuclear agency said a Russian “projectile” hit a training center at the Zaporizhia plant. Ukrainian officials said Russian troops have taken control of the entire site, but the plant’s employees continue to ensure operations. The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, regretted that Russian forces were in the facility but Ukrainians were in control.

The state operator of Ukraine’s Enerhoatom nuclear power plant said three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and two wounded in the attack. Grossi said two people were injured in the fire that broke out.

Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Agency previously said no changes in radiation levels had been detected after the attack on the plant. Grossi later said no radioactive material was released.

The attack sparked global concern – and brought back memories of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in Ukraine’s Chernobyl.

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The shelling of the facility came as the Russian military was advancing on a strategic town on the Dnieper River near the site of the facility and was gaining ground in its attempt to cut off the land from the sea. This move would deal a serious blow to Ukraine’s economy and could exacerbate an already dire humanitarian situation.

With the invasion in its second week, another round of talks between Russia and Ukraine resulted in an interim agreement on establishing safe corridors to evacuate citizens and provide humanitarian aid to the country, which is being ravaged by a war that has left more than 1 million people in who drove to flee, brought to naught border and countless others who seek refuge underground night after night. A handful of cities are without heating and at least one is struggling to get food and water.

Initial reports have been conflicting as to whether a fire or two have broken out at the plant in the town of Enerhodar. Nuclear power plant spokesman Andriy Tuz told Ukrainian TV overnight shells fell directly on the plant, setting fire to reactor No. 1, which is being renovated and not operational, and an administrative training building.

On Friday morning, officials only referred to a fire in the training building when they said all fires at the plant had been extinguished – which Grossi also confirmed. The regional military administration reported unspecified damage to the No. 1 reactor chamber but said the safety of the engine would not be compromised.

The nuclear regulator said staff are surveying the site to look for other damage.

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Grossi confirmed on Friday that the building hit was a training center and “not part of the reactor.” He said he didn’t know what hit the facility, but called it a “projectile” from Russian forces.

He said only one reactor at the plant was operating at about 60% capacity.

The confusion itself underlined the dangers of active fighting near a nuclear power plant. It was the second time since the invasion began just over a week ago that concerns about a nuclear accident or a radiation release have surfaced following a battle at Chernobyl.

The regulator noted the importance of cooling nuclear fuel in a statement on Facebook, saying losing that ability could result in an accident even worse than the 1986 Chernobyl disaster or the 2011 Fukushima meltdown in Japan. It also noted that there is a spent nuclear fuel storage facility at the site, although there was no evidence the facility had been hit by shells.

Leading nuclear authorities were worried but not panicking. The attack led to phone conversations between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and US President Joe Biden and other world leaders. The US Department of Energy activated its nuclear incident response team as a precaution.

The Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration said measurements taken at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) on Friday showed that radiation levels in the region “remain unchanged and do not pose a threat to the life and health of the population”. Nuclear officials from Sweden to China also said no radiation spikes were reported.

“The fire at the (nuclear power plant) was actually extinguished,” Enerhodar Mayor Dmytro Orlov announced on his Telegram channel on Friday morning. His office told The Associated Press that the information came from firefighters who were allowed onto the site overnight.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting in the “coming hours” to address the issue of the Russian attack on the plant, according to a statement from his office.

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.”

But most experts saw nothing to indicate an impending catastrophe.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said the fire did not affect essential equipment and Ukraine’s nuclear regulatory agency reported no change in radiation levels.

“The real threat to the lives of Ukrainians continues to be the violent invasion and bombing of their country,” the American Nuclear Society said in a statement.

Orlov, the mayor of Enerhodar, said the Russian shelling stopped a few hours before dawn and residents of the town of more than 50,000 who stayed in temporary shelters overnight could return home. However, the city woke up without heat because the shelling damaged the city’s heat supply, he said.

Loud gunshots and rocket fire could be heard around the facility late Thursday. Later, a live-stream security camera linked from the facility’s homepage showed what appeared to be armored vehicles rolling into the facility’s parking lot and shining searchlights on the building where the camera was mounted.

Then there were what appeared to be muzzle flashes from vehicles, followed by near-simultaneous explosions in nearby buildings. Smoke rose into the frame and drifted away.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces have used their superior firepower in recent days, firing hundreds of rocket and artillery strikes at cities and other locations across the country and making significant advances in the south.

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 government headquarters there, making it the first major city to fall since the invasion began a week ago.

Meanwhile, troops were advancing on Zaporizhia, a strategic city near the plant of the same name. A Russian airstrike on Thursday destroyed the power plant in Okhtyrka, leaving the northeastern city without heat or electricity, the region’s head said on Telegram.

“We are trying to figure out how to get people out of the city urgently, because one day the apartment buildings will turn into a trap of cold stone without water, light or electricity,” said Dmytro Zhyvytskyy.

Heavy fighting continued on the outskirts of another strategic port, Mariupol, on the Sea of ​​Azov. The fighting has paralyzed the city’s power, heating and water systems, as well as most phone services, officials said. Grocery deliveries to the city have also been cut.

An Associated Press video from the port city showed the attack lighting up the darkening sky over deserted streets and medical teams treating civilians, including a 16-year-old boy at a clinic who could not be saved. The child was playing soccer when he was injured in the shelling, according to his father, who laid the boy’s head on the stretcher and cried.

Ukraine’s defense minister said on Friday that his navy’s flagship was scuttled at the shipyard where it was being repaired to avoid being seized by Russian forces. Oleksii Reznikov said on Facebook that the commander of the frigate Hetman Sahaidachny decided to flood the ship.

“It’s hard to imagine a tougher decision for a brave soldier and a brave crew,” Reznikov said.

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Overall, the outnumbered, outgunned Ukrainians put up a fierce resistance, repelling the quick victory that Russia seemed to have expected. But Russia’s 2014 conquest of the Crimean peninsula now gives it a logistical advantage in the south of the country, with shorter supply lines smoothing out the offensive there, a senior US defense official said on condition of anonymity.

Ukrainian leaders urged people to defend their homeland by cutting down trees, erecting barricades in the cities and attacking enemy columns from behind. In recent days, authorities have been arming civilians and teaching them how to make Molotov cocktails.

“Total resistance… This is our Ukrainian trump card and that’s what we do best in the world,” Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to Zelenskyy, said in a video message, recalling guerrilla actions in Nazi-held Ukraine during World War II.

At the second round of talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations on Thursday, Putin warned Ukraine that it must quickly accept the Kremlin’s call for its “demilitarization” and declare itself neutral by dropping its bid to join NATO.

The two sides said they had tentatively agreed to allow ceasefires in areas designated as safe corridors and would try to work out the necessary details quickly. A Zelenskyi adviser also said that a third round of talks will be held early next week.

The Pentagon established a direct communications link with Russia’s defense ministry earlier this week to avoid the possibility of a miscalculation sparking a conflict between Moscow and Washington, according to a US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the link was unannounced had been.


Karmanau reported from Lemberg, Ukraine. Chernov reported from Mariupol, Ukraine. Sergei Grits in Odessa, Ukraine; Francesca Ebel, Josef Federman and Andrew Drake in Kyiv; and other AP journalists from around the world contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Russia-Ukraine war news live: Fire at Ukraine’s main nuclear power plant amid Russian attacks

Laura Coffey

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