The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has condemned the shelling of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine and warned of a “very real risk of nuclear disaster”.
Most important points:
- All sides in the Ukraine conflict were urged to exercise “extreme restraint” around the factory
- Shells hit a power line at the facility on Friday
- The next US arms package for Ukraine is expected to be worth $1 billion
Both sides accused each other of “nuclear terrorism” on Saturday.
Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear power company Energoatom said parts of the facility had been “seriously damaged” by Russian military attacks, while the Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukrainian troops of shelling the plant.
“This is a serious and irresponsible violation of nuclear safety rules and another example of Russia’s disregard for international standards,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.
Grossi, who heads the United Nations nuclear watchdog, urged all parties to the Ukraine conflict to exercise “utter restraint” around the plant.
Shells hit a power line at the facility on Friday, prompting operators to unplug a reactor, despite no radioactive leak being detected.
The factory was captured by Russian troops in the opening stages of the war in early March, but is still run by Ukrainian technicians.
Energoatom said Russia wanted to disconnect the station from the Ukrainian electricity system and cause power outages in the south of the country.
Moscow troops had placed weapons and explosives in two of the electricity generating units and mined the shoreline outside the factory.
“It is very likely that all of this will cause a nuclear and radiation disaster,” it said in a statement on Saturday.
The Russian Defense Ministry said damage to the plant was avoided only thanks to the “skillful, competent and effective actions” of its units.
Mykolaiv residents prepare for three-day curfew
Ukrainians lined up for water in the southern frontline city of Mykolaiv on Friday before an unusually long curfew was set to begin, video posted on social media showed.
The region’s governor said on Telegram that the long curfew, late Friday to Monday morning, was meant to catch people collaborating with Russia.
Mykolaiv, which was shelled during the Russian invasion, is close to Russian-occupied parts of the strategically important Kherson region, where Ukraine plans to launch a counter-offensive.
Eyewitness video showed a crowd gathering to collect water carried by a group of volunteers from Odessa.
Vitaliy Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv region, told residents that the curfew that ran from 11 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday did not mean the city was threatened or faced with an imminent attack.
US prepares largest arms package for Ukraine
The Biden government’s next security assistance package for Ukraine is expected to reach $1 billion (US$1.44 billion), one of the largest to date, and will include ammunition for long-range weapons and armored medical transport vehicles, three sources involved in the fight said. were informed. Friday.
The package is expected to be announced as early as Monday and would contribute to about $8.8 billion in aid the United States has given to Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24.
The officials said, on condition of anonymity, that President Joe Biden had not yet signed the next weapons package.
They warned that weapon packs can change in value and content before being signed.
However, if signed in its current form, it would be valued at $1 billion dollars and contain ammunition for HIMARS, ammunition for the NASAMS surface-to-air missile system and as many as 50 armored medical transports M113.
The new package follows a recent Pentagon decision to allow Ukrainians to receive medical treatment at a US military hospital in Germany near Ramstein Air Force Base.
Last Monday, the Pentagon announced a separate security assistance package for Ukraine worth up to $550 million, including additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).
The White House declined to comment on the package.
The new package would be funded under the Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA), in which the president can authorize the transfer of items and services from US stocks without congressional approval in response to an emergency.
HIMARS is playing a key role in the artillery duel between Ukraine and Russia, which has been described as “grinding” with very little movement from the front line in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.