IAEA warns that whoever was behind ‘powerful explosions’ at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is ‘playing with fire’ | CNN



Powerful explosions rocked Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant this weekend, renewing concerns that fighting so close to the plant could trigger a nuclear accident.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, said whoever was responsible for the attacks was “playing with fire”, reiterating a warning he issued in September.

IAEA experts at the plant said more than a dozen explosions had been heard in a short space of time Sunday morning local time, the nuclear watchdog said in a statement. Shelling was observed both near and at the site of the facility. IAEA officials could even see some explosions from their windows, the nuclear watchdog said.

“Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately,” Grossi added.

Based on information from the plant’s management, the IAEA team said there was damage to some buildings, systems and equipment at the plant’s site, “but none were critical to nuclear safety and security so far,” it said. the agency. There were no reports of casualties.

Kiev and Moscow blamed each other for the attacks.

Ukraine’s national nuclear power company, Energoatom, said it appeared Russian troops were trying to impede the country’s ability to provide electricity to its citizens. The Kremlin has launched a campaign of bombing and airstrikes against Ukrainian infrastructure in recent weeks, designed to cripple Kiev’s ability to provide heat to its residents as winter approaches.

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the explosions near Zaporizhzhia were the result of artillery fired by the Ukrainian army.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russian forces of storing heavy weapons in the complex and using it as a cover to launch attacks, knowing that Ukraine cannot return fire without risking hitting one of the plant’s reactors.

CNN cannot verify the claims made by Energoatom or the Russian government.

Grossi and the IAEA have repeatedly called on both sides to establish a nuclear safety and security zone around Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. Grossi has participated in “intense talks with Ukraine and Russia about establishing such a zone, but so far without an agreement,” the IAEA said.

Skirmishes near Zaporizhia have been intermittent since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February and seized the factory days later. Intense shelling near the complex this summer raised concerns about a nuclear accident, prompting the IAEA to send a team there.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree in October federalizing the factory, which is about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the city and located in Russian-occupied territory along the Dnipro River. The move raised concerns about the fate of the Ukrainian technicians who have operated the plant since its occupation by Russian forces.

The blasts on Saturday and Sunday ended what the IAEA said was “a relative period of calm”.

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