Russia accused of ‘nuclear terrorism’ after missile strike hits facility near power plant in southern Ukraine

Kremlin troops hit an industrial complex near a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine with a “powerful explosion” taking place just 300 yards away from the reactors

A Russian missile strike has hit a facility close to a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine in an act of “nuclear terrorism”, Kyiv’s energy operator said.

Russia hit an industrial complex near the Pivdennoukrainsk plant in Mykolaiv region early on Monday (19 September), with a “powerful explosion” taking place just 300 yards away from the reactors. It broke more than 100 windows in the complex and damaged power plant buildings, a nearby hydroelectric power plant and transmission lines.

The Pivdennoukrainsk plant, also known as the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, sits along the Southern Bug River and is about 190 miles south of the capital, Kyiv. It is Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear power plant with three reactors.

Footage shows the site erupting into a huge fireball after the strike, illuminating the night’s sky in a blast of white light.

What happened?

Three reactors at the Pivdennoukrainsk plant were not damaged and are working normally, Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom said.

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Energoatom said: “Currently, all three power units of the PNPP (Pivdennoukrainsk Nuclear Power Plant) are operating normally. Fortunately, there were no casualties among the station staff.”

It published two photographs showing a crater it said was caused by the blast.

Commenting on the strike on the Telegram messaging app, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “The invaders wanted to shoot again, but they forgot what a nuclear power plant is. Russia endangers the whole world. We have to stop it before it’s too late.”

There was no immediate Russian reaction to Ukraine’s accusations.

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Europe’s largest nucelar plant shut down

The Ukrainian nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia, which is Europe’s largest and lies about 155 miles east of the Mykolaiv site, was shut down earlier this month due to Russian shelling, prompting concerns about a possible nuclear disaster.

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for shelling at the Zaporizhzhia plant, which is held by Russian forces but operated by Ukrainian staff. The shelling has damaged buildings and disrupted power lines.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog said this weekend that one of the four main power lines at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility had been repaired and was once again supplying the plant with electricity from the Ukrainian grid. Some military analysts have said Russia might stage a nuclear incident at Zaporizhzhia. It is currently held by Russia but run by Ukrainian staff, in response to Ukraine’s sudden counter-surge which has repelled Putin’s men.

What is the current situation of the war in Ukraine?

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Zelensky has vowed to keep up the pressure on Moscow after Ukraine’s rapid gains in Kharkiv this month.

He said: “Perhaps it seems to some of you that after a series of victories we now have a lull of sorts. But there will be no lull. There is preparation for the next series ... For Ukraine must be free. All of it.”

On Sunday (18 September) Russian artillery pounded towns and villages across the frontlines in the east and south. Ukraine’s southern command on Monday said strikes were launched on a radar station near Kherson and on a pontoon crossing near Nova Kakhovka east of Kherson. This is where a Ukrainian counter-offensive has been focused.

Ukraine general defence staff said its forces have repelled Russian attacks in the areas of Mykolaivka Druga, Vesela Dolyna and Bakhmut settlements in the Donetsk region.

On Saturday (17 September), Zelensky said authorities had found a mass grave containing the bodies of 17 soldiers in Izium.

Ukrainian officials said last week they had found 440 bodies in woods near Izium. They said most of the dead were civilians and the causes of death had not been established.