Russia has warned of a nuclear disaster at Europe’s biggest nuclear plant and accused Ukraine of planning an “accident” when the UN secretary general visits the country today.
The Zaporizhzhia facility, in the southeast, was captured by Russia in the early days of the war and in recent weeks has repeatedly come under fire.
Both sides point the finger at each other for the shelling.
Russia’s defence ministry claimed Ukraine would stage a “minor accident” and “provocation” – and blame it on them – to coincide with Antonio Guterres’ visit.
The UN chief is due to meet Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy and Turkey’s President Erdogan in the western city of Lviv on Thursday.
Talks will focus on efforts to deescalate the war, speeding up grain exports and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear situation.
Mr Guterres has urged an end to fighting near the plant and Igor Kirillov, head of Russia’s chemical and biological defence forces, claimed back-up support systems had already been damaged by shelling.
He said any accident would mean radioactive material reaching Germany, Slovakia and Poland.
Russia’s defence ministry has also warned the plant could be shut down if shelling continues.
Ukraine says it’s being used as a base to attack from, and that Russia heavy artillery is positioned in and around the power station – something the Kremlin denies.
Kyiv also claims that Russia has hit the facility itself in order to blame Ukraine for any power cuts.
Fears over the nuclear situation come as daily deaths from the six-month-old war continue.
On Wednesday evening seven people were killed and 16 injured in shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-biggest city, according to emergency services.
Another person died and 18 more were wounded early on Thursday in another residential area of the city, said regional governor Oleh Synehubov.
Meanwhile, in other battlefield developments, Ukrainian forces said they had killed 29 “occupiers” and destroyed artillery, vehicles and a supply depot near Bilohirka, northeast of Kherson – in southern Ukraine.
Black Sea fleet commander ‘sacked’
The chief of Russia’s Black Sea fleet has also reportedly been replaced following a number of blasts in Crimea in the past week, blamed on saboteurs.
Russia’s RIA news agency reported sources as confirming that Igor Osipov had been kicked out and replaced by Viktor Sokolov. If confirmed, it would be one of the most prominent sackings of the war.
It follows the humiliating sinking by Ukraine of the Kremlin’s flagship cruiser, the Moskva, in April.
Thursday’s visit by the UN secretary-general and the Turkish president, his first since the war began in February, will hope to make some headway on ideas to wind down the war.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych has said fighting has reached “strategic deadlock”, with Russian making “minimal advances” and Ukraine winning back some ground.
The crucial topic of boosting grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports will also be high on the agenda when the three leaders meet.
Turkey and the UN helped get a deal done last month to free up the 22 million tons corn and other grain that had been stuck in limbo since the war started.
Developing countries have been hit especially hard by the ensuing supply shortages and high prices.
Ships are now leaving Ukrainian ports – with Turkey saying the 25th since the UN deal left Chornomorsk port on Thursday – but the food crisis continues.
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