Ukraine claims Russia is preparing to stage ‘provocation’ at Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant | World News

Ukraine has said Russia is preparing to stage a “provocation” at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant on Friday.

The country’s intelligence agency made the claim just hours after Moscow accused Ukraine of trying to stage an “accident” there, possibly involving a radiation leak, during the visit of the UN secretary-general , Antonio Guterres, to the war-torn nation.

Located in southeastern Ukraine, the Zaporizhzhia plant was captured by Russia in the first days of the war and in the last weeks it has been repeatedly criticized.

Both sides have pointed the finger at each other for the bombing.

Ukraine News Live: Russia calls nuclear power plant demilitarization proposal ‘unacceptable’

Russian news agencies have reported shelling of Enerhodar overnight, near the power plant, which is attributed to Ukraine.

There had been suggestions that Russia might try to carry out a false flag operation in the area: Russia’s defense ministry previously claimed that Ukraine would stage a “minor accident” and a “provocation” – and blame them – to coincide with Guterres’ trip.

And Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency said it had information that personnel from the Russian nuclear company Rosatom had left the site and that the facility would remain closed to all but operational staff.

NBC News, citing Ukrainian intelligence, reports that workers at the plant have been told not to report to the facility on Friday.

The UN chief is expected to visit the Black Sea port of Odesa on Friday, where grain exports have resumed under a UN-brokered deal.

He met those from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the western city of Lviv during his visit on Thursday.

What was discussed at the meeting?

The trio discussed efforts to de-escalate the war, speed up grain exports and Zaporizhzhia’s nuclear situation.

After the meeting, Guterres called for the demilitarization of the plant and said he was very concerned about the situation around it.

“The facility should not be used as part of any military operation. Instead, an urgent agreement is needed to restore the purely civilian infrastructure of Zaporizhzhia and to ensure the security of the area,” he said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

The Ukrainian president added that he had agreed on the parameters for a possible International Atomic Energy Agency mission to the plant.

Guterres has called for an end to the fighting near the power plant, and the head of Russia’s chemical and biological defense forces, Igor Kirillov, said security support systems had already been damaged by the bombing.

He said any accident would mean radioactive material would reach Germany, Slovakia and Poland.

Russia’s defense ministry has also warned that the plant could be shut down if the bombing continues.

Russia’s warning is ominous, but the risk of a nuclear explosion is highly unlikely

Russia’s warning of a Ukrainian attack on the Zaporizhzhia power plant on Friday is ominous.

Russia has a history of “foreseeing incidents” as a cover for its own actions.

Analysts say the risk of a nuclear explosion at the plant, similar to what happened in the Ukrainian city of Chernobyl in 1986, is highly unlikely due to its modern construction and ability to withstand large impacts.

What is more likely, if the fighting around the plant continues, is a radiation leak comparable to the more recent Fukushima disaster in Japan.

As a result, there is a growing sense of urgency among world leaders, and it has become a focus of this war in recent days.

Ukraine wants the site to become a demilitarized zone; the UN Secretary General supported this move today, when he spoke after meeting President Zelenskyy in Lviv.

Russia opposes it: its forces currently occupy the site and therefore control too much power in southern Ukraine.

Capturing and effectively controlling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant is a major coup for Moscow, so it is unlikely to relinquish that control easily.

Ukraine says it is being used as a base to attack and that Russian heavy artillery is positioned in and around the power plant, which the Kremlin denies.

Kyiv also claims that Russia has hit the same facility to blame Ukraine for the power outages.

Erdogan said he discussed possible ways to end the war during the trilateral meeting.

He added the three leaders discussed using the positive atmosphere created for grain export agreement in July to establish lasting peace.

After the meeting, Guterres said 21 ships had left Ukrainian ports under the deal in less than a month, and 15 ships had left Istanbul to load grain and other supplies from country food

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attend a press conference in Lviv, Ukraine, on August 18, 2022. Turkish Presidential Press Office/ Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.  NOT FOR SALE  DO NOT FILE.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Mr. Zelenskyy and Mr. Guterres

Seven people dead and 16 injured

Fears over the nuclear situation come as more deaths are reported in the six-month war.

On Wednesday evening, seven people were killed and 16 injured in a bombing in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, according to emergency services.

Another person was killed and 18 others were injured early Thursday in a separate residential area of ​​the city, regional governor Oleh Synehubov said.

Meanwhile, in other battlefield developments, Ukrainian forces said they had killed 29 “occupiers” and destroyed artillery, vehicles and a supply depot near Bilohirka, northeast of Kherson in southern Ukraine.

There are also reports of shelling in Russian-occupied Crimea, targeting an airport on the peninsula, but Russian officials say no damage has been done.

A view shows the remains of a residential block of a tram depot hit by a Russian missile attack, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, August 18, 2022. REUTERS/Vitalii Hnidy
Bombing has continued to hit Kharkiv

Black Sea Fleet Commander ‘Fired’

The head of Russia’s Black Sea fleet has also been replaced after a series of explosions in Crimea last week blamed on saboteurs.

Russian news agency RIA reported that sources confirmed that Igor Osipov had been expelled and replaced by Viktor Sokolov. If confirmed, it would be one of the most high-profile lootings of the war.

Humiliation follows sinking by Ukraine of the Kremlin’s flagship cruiser, the Moskva

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