The Ukrainian power plant of Zaporizhzhya has just been attacked, and Ukraine and Russia each blame the other.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported “powerful explosions” in the area of the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhya power plant on Sunday, November 20th. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi called the strikes “totally unacceptable” because of their “deliberate and targeted” nature. In all, a dozen strikes were recorded, carried out with large-calibre shells between November 19th and 20th. A nuclear fuel storage building was targeted. The IAEA was careful not to name a culprit: “Whoever it is, stop this madness!” exclaimed Rafael Grossi, adding: “The people who are doing this know where they are hitting,” without giving any further details on who is responsible.
Russia has accused Ukrainian forces of being behind the strikes. The ministry of defence said the radiation level remained “within the norm” and that there was no immediate danger at the site from the new bombings. The Zaporizhzhya plant has been occupied by Russian forces for many weeks, which is why Russia accuses the Ukrainian regime of playing provocative games by attacking this symbolic and highly strategic site since it is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. “The Kyiv regime does not stop provocations in order to create the threat of a catastrophe at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant,” the Russian defence minister said. For its part, Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom accused the Russians of “once again organising nuclear blackmail and putting the whole world at risk.”
The IAEA has two observers on the ground and began carrying out an assessment on Monday, November 21st, made difficult by the ongoing military operations in the area. “The plant is on the front line, there are military activities that are very difficult to identify, there are Russian and Ukrainian troops in operation,” said Rafael Grossi. French President Emmanuel Macron had a phone call with the IAEA director on Sunday.
The new strikes on the site of Zaporizhzhya are part of Russia’s recent, intensified bombing campaign on Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said nearly 400 Russian attacks took place in the east of the country on Sunday alone. In the south of the country, in Kherson, which Ukrainian troops recently recaptured, residents were also subjected to intense Russian shelling.
After the case of the missile that fell on Polish soil, which Zelensky was convinced came from a Russian shot, the Ukrainian regime had to back down under international pressure. Since then, it has had to defend itself on the basis of videos that, according to Moscow, show Ukrainian soldiers executing Russian prisoners, thereby committing a war crime. The exact nature of the videos has so far not been independently authenticated, and a UN investigation is underway.