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Fears Of Nuclear Incident Grow As Shells Strike Plant That Dwarfs Chernobyl | HuffPost Latest News

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia and Ukraine traded accusations Monday that each side is shelling Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. Russia claimed that Ukrainian shelling caused a power surge and fire and forced staff to lower output from two reactors, while Ukraine has blamed Russian troops for storing weapons there.

“Shelling of the territory of the nuclear plant by the Ukrainian armed forces is highly dangerous,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “It’s fraught with catastrophic consequences for vast territories, for the entire Europe.”

But Ukraine’s military intelligence spokesman, Andriy Yusov, countered that Russian forces have planted explosives at the plant to head off an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive in the region. Previously, Ukrainian officials have said Russia is launching attacks from the plant and using Ukrainian workers there as human shields.

The IAEA is the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog. Its director-general, Rafael Grossi, told The Associated Press last week that the situation surrounding the Zaporizhzhia plant “is completely out of control,” and issued an urgent plea to Russia and Ukraine to allow experts to visit the complex to stabilize the situation and avoid a nuclear accident.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the attack Sunday caused a power surge and smoke, triggering an emergency shutdown. Fire teams extinguished flames, and the plant’s personnel lowered the output of reactors No. 5 and No. 6 to 500 megawatts, he said.

On the front lines of the war, the fighting continued as the United States pledged another $1 billion in new military aid for Ukraine. Monday’s pledge promises the biggest yet delivery of rockets, ammunition and other arms straight from U.S. Department of Defense stocks for Ukrainian forces.

Ukraine’s presidential office said the Russians had shelled seven Ukrainian regions over the previous 24 hours, killing five people. Russia said Monday it will keep up its military operation in Ukraine until it achieves its goals.

Among the targets, the presidential office said, was Nikopol, a city just across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. Gas pipelines, plumbing and power lines were no longer functioning there, leaving thousands of people without electricity.

Elsewhere, Ukrainian forces struck Russian-controlled areas in the south, local officials said, including the strategic Antonivskiy bridge in the southern city of Kherson. An artery for Russian military supplies, the bridge has been closed in recent weeks because of earlier shelling. Plans to reopen it on Wednesday were now shelved, said Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Moscow-appointed administration of the Kherson region.

Meanwhile, one of the ships that left Ukraine under a deal to unblock grain supplies and stave off a global food crisis arrived in Turkey, the first loaded vessel to reach its destination. The Turkey-flagged Polarnet, laden with 12,000 tons of corn, docked at the port of Derince after setting off from the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk on Friday.

“This sends a message of hope to every family in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia: Ukraine won’t abandon you,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted. “If Russia sticks to its obligations, the ‘grain corridor’ will keep maintaining global food security.”

A total of 12 ships have now been authorized to sail under the grain deal between Ukraine and Russia, which was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations — 10 outbound and two inbound. Some 322,000 metric tons of agricultural products have left Ukrainian ports, the bulk of it corn but also sunflower oil and soya.

The first cargo ship to leave Ukraine, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, which left Odessa on Aug. 1, hit a snag with its cargo, however. It was heading for Lebanon with 26,000 metric tons of corn for chicken feed but ran into a business dispute and will no longer dock there, the Tripoli port chief said. Ukraine’s embassy in Beirut tweeted Monday that the corn’s buyer in Lebanon refused to accept the cargo, since it was delivered so much later than its contract. A new buyer is being sought.

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