The nuclear power plant in Ukraine goes offline during the fighting

The plant has repeatedly been completely disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid since last week.

Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine – Ukraine’s and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant was shut down again in the early hours of Saturday when sustained shelling destroyed a key power line and penetrated deep into the plant’s premises, local Russian-backed authorities said.

The claims came barely a day after a team of inspectors from the UN nuclear agency arrived at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which has recently been embroiled in fierce fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces, six months after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to enter the country had Ukraine.

The IAEA mission is designed to help secure the site while Moscow and Kyiv continue to swap blame for the shelling in and around the nuclear power plant.

RELATED: Fighting continues near Ukraine’s nuclear power plant as UN team reviews nuclear safety

“The Dneprovskaya power line was hit. The nuclear power plant has switched to self-consumption,” Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Kremlin-appointed regional administration, wrote on Telegram, adding that a shell hit an area between two reactors. His claims could not be immediately verified.

Late Friday night, Russian-backed authorities reported that the plant had been under fire for about two hours, blaming Ukrainian forces in the latest in a series of similar claims.

As of Saturday morning, neither the Ukrainian government nor the country’s nuclear energy operator Enerhoatom had commented on the allegations.

The plant has repeatedly been completely disconnected from Ukraine’s power grid since last week, with Enerhoatom blaming mortar fire and fires near the site.

Local Ukrainian authorities have accused Moscow of rocketing two towns overlooking the power plant across the Dnieper, an accusation they have also made repeatedly in recent weeks.

In Zorya, a small village about 12 miles from the Zaporozhye plant, residents on Friday could hear the sound of explosions in the area.

It wasn’t the shelling that scared them the most, but the risk of a radioactive leak at the facility.

“The power plant, yes, that’s the scariest thing,” said Natalia Stokoz, a mother of three. “Because the children and adults will be affected and it’s scary when the nuclear power plant is blown up.”

Oleksandr Pasko, a 31-year-old farmer, said, “There’s fear because we’re pretty close.” Pasko said Russian shelling has intensified in recent weeks.

In the first weeks of the war, the authorities gave people living near the plant iodine tablets and masks in case of radiation exposure.

They also recently distributed iodine tablets in the city of Zaporizhzhia, about 50 kilometers from the plant.

Local officials said Saturday Russian forces shelled residential areas in eastern and northeastern Ukraine and launched rocket attacks.

The governor of the eastern Donetsk region, the scene of some of the fiercest clashes in recent weeks, said two civilians were killed and three others wounded on Friday. Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a Telegram post that casualties included a person killed in the strategic town of Zaitseve, where fighting continued for most of Friday as Russian forces attempted to advance deeper into Ukrainian-held territory and themselves to approach the key city of Bakhmut.

In the northeastern Kharkiv region, home to Ukraine’s second-biggest city, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said six civilians were hospitalized overnight because of the Russian shelling. The nuclear power plant in Ukraine goes offline during the fighting

Laura Coffey

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