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Russian troops close in on Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant as authorities warn of potential for disaster


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Russian forces were closing in on one of the largest nuclear power plants in Europe Thursday, according to Ukraine’s deputy interior minister, who is warning that violence there could result in a massive radioactive disaster.

“Because of [Vladimir] Putin’s madness, Europe is again on the brink of a nuclear disaster,” Anton Herashchenko wrote in a translated Facebook post. 

He shared images showing makeshift defenses in Enerhodar, the city where the Zaporizhzhya power plant is located. The Ukrainian government began warning Wednesday that Russian activity in the area could result in a new “nuclear catastrophe.”

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“Russians are trying to enter Enerhodar,” Ukrainian Member of Parliament Andrii Osadchuk confirmed to WHD News Digital. 

Rafael Grossi, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, issued a statement Thursday calling on both sides to avoid violence near Zaporizhzhya after reports that Russian infantry had taken the surrounding area.

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Separately, the IAEA said Ukraine had reported “psychological pressure and moral exhaustion” among workers at the Chernobyl site, which Russian forces seized early in the invasion last week. 

Herashchenko warned that the volatile situation could lead to another crisis like in Chernobyl in 1986, or at Japan’s Fukushima power plant after a tsunami in 2011.

Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Interior Anton Herashchenko shared this image of a makeshift blockade across the road leading to the nuclear plant.

Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Interior Anton Herashchenko shared this image of a makeshift blockade across the road leading to the nuclear plant.
(Anton Herashchenko)

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“Radiation knows no nationalities,” he said. “It kills indiscriminately.”

Hundreds of members of Ukraine’s Parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada, who have remained in Kyiv met Thursday. They discussed and voted on a number of issues, including asking the United Nations and European Parliament to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine – in part to protect the country’s nuclear plants and other combustible infrastructure.

Ukraine has 15 operational nuclear reactors at four separate sites, according to the IAEA. Six of the reactors are in Zaporizhzhya.

Osadchuk said lawmakers also agreed to strict new national security measures and a law to nationalize Russian property.

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In a statement, the Rada said it adopted 14 new laws and a resolution.

Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of increasingly targeting civilians and infrastructure, which the Kremlin denies.

Videos show widespread destruction in and around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, as well as the besieged capital Kyiv.

On Thursday, a Russian airstrike took out a purported ammo depot in the city, sending dark plumes of smoke skyward. Earlier this week, a separate strike leveled a civilian TV tower near the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial site, killing at least five people.

And defense forces said their anti-air weapons took down a Russian rocket near the city’s central train station, which damaged the building but claimed no lives.

The fighting at Enerhodar, near the Dnieper River, comes as Russian forces have seized the waterfront city of Kherson and were battling Ukrainian defenders in another port city, Mariupol.

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Along with Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea, conquering Ukraine’s southern ports would cut the country off from shipping lanes and give Putin’s forces greater logistical control of the area.

Ukrainian and Russian envoys met earlier Thursday for talks in neighboring Belarus to discuss ways to evacuate civilians.



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