Ukraine war: UN urges restraint after Zaporizhia nuclear plant attack

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Russia has occupied the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant since early 2022

A new drone attack on Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia power plant has raised the risk of a “major nuclear accident,” the UN's nuclear watchdog has warned.

Russia blamed Ukraine for the attack, which it said injured three people. Ukraine has denied involvement.

At the forefront of the Russia-Ukraine conflict is a giant Russian nuclear power plant with six reactors.

The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly warned against such attacks.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said Sunday's drone strike was “irresponsible” and “a major escalation of the nuclear safety and security risks the plant faces”.

The Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine is the largest in Europe. Russian forces captured it shortly after launching a full-scale invasion in February 2022 and have occupied it ever since.

The facility shuts down power generation in 2022, but requires constant power to cool one of its reactors, which is in “hot safety” mode, meaning it's not completely offline.

The IAEA, which has a team of experts in Zaporizhia, confirmed the “physical impact of drone strikes” on the plant, including nuclear reactors.

The plant's Russian-founded management said radiation levels were normal and there was no serious damage.

The IAEA said the damage did not compromise nuclear safety, but warned that it was “a serious incident that could undermine it”. [the] Integrity of Reactor Control System”.

Mr Grossi noted that there were “at least three direct hits” against the plant's “key reactor control structures”.

“It's not going to happen,” he said. “No one can imagine or gain any military or political advantage from attacks against nuclear facilities. This is invalid.”

Both Russia and Ukraine have been accusing each other of shelling the plant and risking a serious nuclear accident.

Russian management of the plant said Ukraine's armed forces were behind the attack, but Ukraine has denied the allegations.

“Ukraine has not engaged in any armed provocations at the site,” Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate, told the Ukrainska Pravda news website. The plant is “illegally occupied by Russia,” he said.

Mr Yusov accused Russia of endangering the plant, civilians and the environment by striking it.

Last month the IAEA's team of experts at the plant heard explosions every day for a week.

At the time, Mr Krosi said: “For more than two years, nuclear safety and security in Ukraine continues to be at risk. We are determined to do everything we can to reduce the risk of a nuclear accident that harms people. The environment, not just in Ukraine.”

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