A Russian missile detonated Monday in a crater near a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, damaging not only three of its reactors, but also other industrial equipment, in what Ukrainian officials refer to as “nuclear terrorism”. condemned.
According to Ukraine’s nuclear operator Energoatom, the missile struck within 325 yards of the reactors at the Pivdnoukrinsk nuclear power plant near the city of Yuzhnoukrinsk in Mykolaiv province, leaving a hole 6 1/2 feet deep and 13 feet wide.
It said the reactors were operating normally and no workers were injured. But the closeness of the strike again raised fears that Russia’s nearly 7-month-long war in Ukraine could lead to a radiation disaster.
It is Ukraine’s second largest nuclear power station after the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which has come under repeated fires.
Following recent setbacks on the battlefield, Russian President Vladimir Putin last week threatened to intensify Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure. Throughout the war, Russia targeted Ukraine’s power generation and transmission equipment, causing blackouts and endangering the security systems of the country’s nuclear power plants.
The industrial complex that includes the Pivdneukrensk plant is located along the southern Bug River approximately 190 miles south of the capital Kyiv. Ukrainian officials said the attack caused a temporary shutdown of a nearby hydroelectric power plant and shattered more than 100 windows on the compound. The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency said three power lines were taken offline but later reconnected.
Black and white CCTV video released by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry shows two large fireballs bursting one after another in the dark, followed by incandescent showers of sparks. A time stamp on the video is read 19 minutes after midnight.
Both the ministry and Energoatom called the strike “nuclear terrorism”. The Russian Defense Ministry had no immediate comment.
Since the invasion, Russian forces have captured Europe’s largest Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant. The shelling has cut the plant’s transmission lines, forcing operators to shut down six of its reactors to avoid a radiation disaster. Russia and Ukraine have blamed the attacks.
The IAEA, which has deployed monitors at the Zaporizhzhya plant, said on Friday it had reconnected a main transmission line that requires electricity to cool its reactors.
But the mayor of Enerhodar, where the Zaporizhzhia plant is located, reported on Monday more Russian shelling in the city’s industrial zone.
Warning of possible attacks on Friday, Putin claimed his forces had acted with restraint so far, but warned that “if the situation develops like this, our response will be more dire.”
“More recently, the Russian armed forces have carried out some impressive attacks,” he said. “Let’s consider them as a warning attack.”
As well as infrastructure, the Russian military continues to pound other sites as well. Ukraine’s presidential office said on Monday that at least eight civilians were killed and 22 others were injured in recent shelling.
The presidential office said overnight, Russian forces attacked Nikopol and Marhanets across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhya plant, damaging dozens of buildings and cutting off power supplies to parts of the cities.
Russian attacks also affected Kramatorsk and Toretsk in the eastern Donetsk region.
Meanwhile, the mayor of the Russian-held eastern city of Donetsk said 13 civilians were killed and eight wounded in Ukrainian shelling.
Patricia Lewis, director of international security research at the Chatham House think tank in London, said the attack on the Zaporizhzhya plant and Monday’s attack on the Pivdnoukrensk plant indicated that the Russian military was attempting to take Ukrainian nuclear plants offline before winter.
“Targeting a nuclear station is a very dangerous and illegal act,” Lewis said in an interview. “Only generals would know the intention, but there is clearly a pattern.”
“It looks like they’re trying to cut off the reactor power every now and then,” she said. “That’s a pretty wasteful way to do it, because how accurate are these missiles?”
Electricity is needed to run the pumps that circulate cooling water to reactors, preventing overheating and â in the worst case â a radiation-spewing nuclear fuel meltdown.
Recent Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure targeted power plants in the north and a dam in the south. They came in the wake of a broad Ukrainian counteroffensive in the east of the country, which reclaimed Russian-occupied territory in the Kharkiv region.
Analysts have noted that beyond recapturing the area, challenges remain in holding it. In a video address on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said cryptically of that effort, “I cannot reveal all the details, but thanks to the Security Service of Ukraine, we are now confident that the capture of the There will be no feet on Ukrainian soil.”
Ukraine’s success in Kharkiv – Russia’s biggest defeat since driving its forces from around Kyiv in the initial phase of the invasion – has sparked rare public criticism in Russia and added to military and diplomatic pressure on Putin. Nationalist critics of the Kremlin have questioned why Moscow has failed to plunge Ukraine into darkness by killing all of its major nuclear power plants.