Ukrainians put out fire at nuclear complex after Russian attack – officials

  • Intense fighting around a massive nuclear power plant
  • No sign of high radiation – US Energy Sec
  • US and UK hit oligarchs with new sanctions

LVIV, Ukraine, March 4 (Reuters) – A fire that broke out at a training building near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant during intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces has been extinguished, an official said. the Ukrainian state emergency service on Friday.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said there were no indications of high radiation levels at the Zaporizhzhia plant, which provides more than a fifth of Ukraine’s total electricity generation.

Earlier, a video feed from the factory verified by Reuters showed shelling and smoke rising near a five-story building within the factory compound.

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Footage shot at night showed a burning building and a volley of incoming shells, before a large glowing ball lit up the sky, exploding next to a parking lot and sending smoke billowing into the compound. It was not immediately clear who controlled the factory.

“Europeans, please wake up. Tell your politicians that Russian troops are firing on a nuclear power plant in Ukraine,” Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address.

Zelenskiy said Russian tanks fired on the nuclear power plants, although there is no evidence they were hit.

The mayor of the nearby town of Energodar, about 550 km (342 miles) southeast of Kyiv, said fierce fighting and “continuous enemy shelling” had claimed casualties in the area, without providing details. .

Thousands of people are believed to have been killed or injured and more than a million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin last Thursday launched the biggest attack on a European state since World War II.

Early reports of the power station incident sent Asian financial markets soaring, with stocks tumbling and oil prices rising further.

“Markets are worried about nuclear fallout. The risk is that there is a miscalculation or an overreaction and the war drags on,” said Vasu Menon, executive director of investment strategy at OCBC Bank. .

Russia has already captured the old Chernobyl power plant, about 100 km north of Kiev, which dumped radioactive waste over much of Europe when it melted down in 1986. The Zaporizhzhia power plant is a different and safer type, some analysts said.

US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson both spoke to Zelenskiy for an update on the situation at the plant.

“President Biden joined President Zelenskiy in urging Russia to cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders access to the site,” the White House said.

Johnson said Russian forces must immediately cease their attack and agreed with Zelenskiy that a ceasefire was crucial.

“The Prime Minister has said that President Putin’s reckless actions could now pose a direct threat to the security of all of Europe,” Downing Street said.

Energy Secretary Granholm said on Twitter that the Zaporizhzhia reactors were “protected by robust containment structures” and were “safely shut down”.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said he was “deeply concerned” by the situation at the plant and was in contact with the Ukrainian authorities.

FIGHT AGAINST RABIES, SANCTIONS ARE GOING UP

On Thursday, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators agreed on the need for humanitarian corridors to help civilians escape and to deliver medicine and food to areas where the fighting was heaviest.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said a temporary halt to fighting in some places was also possible.

The negotiators will meet again next week, the official Belarusian Belta news agency quoted Podolyak as saying.

Only one Ukrainian city, the southern port of Kherson, has fallen to Russian forces since the invasion began on February 24, but Russian forces continue to surround and attack other cities.

Mariupol, the main port on the Sea of ​​Azov, was surrounded and subjected to heavy shelling. Water and electricity have been cut and officials say they cannot evacuate the injured.

Video posted to Twitter from Mariupol and verified by Reuters showed parked vehicles burning as relentless gunfire echoed around surrounding buildings.

The northeastern city of Kharkiv has been under attack since the start of the invasion, but the defenders hold out in the heavily bombarded city.

Although no major assault was launched on Kiev, the capital was shelled and Russian forces unleashed devastating firepower to break resistance in the outlying town of Borodyanka.

In Washington, a US defense official said Russian troops were still 25 km (16 miles) from downtown Kiev. Earlier Thursday, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said a huge Russian convoy rumbling south towards Kiev was moving slowly, partly because of resistance but also because of logistical problems.

The United States and Britain announced sanctions on other Russian oligarchs on Thursday, following the EU measures, as they increased pressure on the Kremlin.

Other companies, including Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O), footwear giant Nike and Swedish furniture company IKEA have closed or scaled back operations in Russia, with trade restrictions and supply constraints adding to political pressure. Read more

The sanctions have “already had a profound impact,” Biden said.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” that is not designed to occupy territory but to overthrow the democratically elected government, destroy its neighbor’s military capabilities and capture what it considers dangerous nationalists. He denies having targeted civilians.

Russian human rights activist and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov has called on Western countries to kick Russia out of global police agency Interpol and impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

“Russia should be sent back to the Stone Age to ensure that the oil and gas industry and any other sensitive industry that is vital for the survival of the regime cannot function without Western technological support,” Kasparov said. .

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Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets, Aleksandar Vasovic in Ukraine, David Ljunggren in Ottawa and other Reuters bureaus; Written by Costas Pitas and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Stephen Coates and Simon Cameron-Moore

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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