Russian-occupied nuclear power plant takes over Ukraine’s electricity supply
Russia’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant resumed power supply to Ukraine on Friday after one of its six reactors was reconnected to the Ukrainian grid, state nuclear company Energoatom said.
Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, located in southern Ukraine, was disconnected from the Ukrainian grid for the first time in its history on Thursday after a fire caused by shelling damaged a power line, Kyiv said earlier.
“The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is connected to the grid and produces electricity for Ukraine’s needs,” Energoatom said in a statement on Friday.
Authorities on Friday began providing iodine tablets to residents who live around the nuclear power plant in the event of a radiation leak, amid growing fears that fighting around the plant could trigger a disaster.
Iodine tablets help block the absorption of radioactive iodine by the thyroid gland, and they were distributed to residents of the town of Zaporizhzhia, located about 45 kilometers from the plant.
The move came a day after the plant was temporarily taken offline due to what officials said was fire damage to a transmission line. The incident heightened fears of a nuclear disaster in a country still haunted by the Chernobyl explosion in 1986.
Continuous shelling was reported in the area overnight and satellite images from Planet Labs showed fires burning around the complex for the past few days.
Russia invaded Ukraine in February and took control of the nuclear plant in March, although it is still operated by Ukrainian technicians working for Energoatom.
The nuclear plant remains close to the front line and has been the target of repeated fire in recent weeks. Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of bombing the facility.
On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a nuclear disaster had been narrowly averted after Russian shelling in the region caused a power cut for hours.
“Russia has put Ukraine and all Europeans on the verge of a radioactive disaster,” he said.
Russian shelling sparked fires in the ash pits of a nearby coal-fired power plant that disconnected the Russian plant from the power grid, Zelenskyy said, but emergency diesel generators provided vital power for the systems. plant cooling and safety.
An engineer working under Russian occupation since March 4 at the nuclear plant told VOA that Russian forces had placed artillery and missile installations inside and around the plant’s property.
The engineer, whose identity is withheld for fear of reprisals by the occupation authorities, supports the Ukrainian government’s claims that Russia itself is responsible for the explosions.
Western leaders demanded that Russia return the plant to Ukraine, while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for its “demilitarization”.
On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron warned against using civilian nuclear facilities as an instrument of war.
“The war must in no way undermine the nuclear safety of the country, the region and all of us. Civilian nuclear energy must be fully protected,” Macron said during a visit to Algeria.
A team from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to send a mission soon to inspect the plant.
In Washington, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Thursday that “Russia should accept the demilitarized zone around the plant and agree to allow a visit from the International Defense Agency. atomic energy as soon as possible to verify the safety and security of the system”. .”
Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday its forces had destroyed a US-made M777 howitzer, which Ukraine allegedly used to bomb the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Reuters reported.
Reuters could not immediately verify the report.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the howitzer was destroyed west of the town of Marganets in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region.
On the battlefield, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said its troops repelled Russian assaults on the towns of Bakhmut and Soledar in the eastern region of Donetsk, and also struck depots of ammunition and enemy personnel in the southern region of Kherson.
On Thursday in Geneva, Michelle Bachelet, the outgoing United Nations human rights chief, called Russia’s continued attacks on Ukraine “unimaginably horrific”. She called on Russian President Vladimir Putin “to put an end to armed attacks against Ukraine”.
Separately, Ukraine summoned the Pope’s ambassador on Thursday to complain about Pope Francis’ latest comments on the war.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters in Kyiv that “the Ukrainian heart is torn by the Pope’s words.”
Kuleba was responding to the pope’s comments about last weekend’s car bombing in Moscow by Darya Dugina, a nationalist Russian TV commentator and daughter of a right-wing political theorist who ardently supports the war.
Francis called her a “poor girl” among the “innocents” who fell victim to the “madness of war”.
Some information for this story comes from The Associated Press and Reuters.