Ukraine’s nuclear operator said Russia bombed and damaged power lines connecting Europe’s largest nuclear power plant to the Ukrainian grid, leaving the plant dependent on diesel generators again.
The generators have enough fuel to maintain the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine for 15 days, Energoatom said in a message on its Telegram channel on Thursday.
“The countdown has begun,” Energoatom said, saying it had limited possibilities to “keep the ZNPP in safe mode,” raising fears of a possible nuclear catastrophe.
With its six reactors inoperative, the plant depends on outside electricity to cool its spent fuel.
Russia and Ukraine blamed each other for months amid the war for bombing in and around the plant, according to the UN nuclear watchdog, which could cause a radiological emergency.
The nuclear plant is in a part of the Zaporizhzhia region that has been occupied by Russian forces since the early days of the war, which began when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree transferring the factory to Russian ownership, Ukrainian workers continue to run it.
Energoatom has repeatedly called for the withdrawal of Russian forces from the plant and the creation of a demilitarized zone around it.
Russia bombed two power lines connecting the plant to the Ukrainian grid overnight, Energoatom said.
The operator said that the Russian side will try to repair the power lines in order to connect the plant to the Russian grid and thus supply electricity to occupied Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region also currently controlled by Russia.
Across the Dnipro River from the power plant, the town of Nikopol was also bombed, damaging residential buildings, a gas station and several private businesses, the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday.
Other Ukrainian cities were also affected, with Russia using drones, missiles and heavy artillery to kill six civilians and injure 16 others, according to the president’s office.
Energy and water infrastructure was hit in Kryvyi Rih, leaving several neighborhoods without electricity or water in Mr Zelensky’s hometown, which had a pre-war population of 635,000, local governor Oleksandr Vilkul said.
Further east, in the Donetsk region, fighting continued for the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka, where authorities said the population lived without electricity or heating and came under constant shelling.
Over the past day, six towns and villages in the region have been attacked by heavy artillery, while in the northeast, Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, was hit by three missiles, officials said.
Separately, seven ships carrying agricultural products left Ukrainian seaports bound for Asia and Europe, a day after Russia agreed to join a wartime deal allowing the shipment of grain and other Ukrainian products to world markets.
Announcing Russia was joining the pact, Putin said Moscow had received assurances that Ukraine would not use humanitarian corridors to attack Russian forces. He said Russia reserves the right to withdraw again if Kyiv breaks its word.
Russia had suspended its participation in the grain deal over the weekend, citing an alleged drone attack on its Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for an attack and Mr Zelensky said on Wednesday that Moscow’s return to the agreement showed that “Russian blackmail led nowhere”.
In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned British Ambassador Deborah Bronnert on Thursday, saying she had been called in connection with the alleged involvement of British instructors in the October 29 drone attack on military facilities. the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol in Crimea.
Ms Bronnert made no comment as she left the ministry after a meeting that lasted about 30 minutes.
Ships that sailed on Thursday included one carrying sunflower seeds bound for Oman and another carrying corn bound for China, according to the infrastructure ministry.
Since the agreement was concluded in August, 430 vessels have exported millions of tons of Ukrainian agricultural products to countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. The Infrastructure Ministry said export volumes in October “could have been 30-40% higher if Russia had not artificially blocked inspections in the Bosphorus.”