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Ukraine says parts of nuclear plant 'seriously damaged' in strikes

A local resident looks at the rubble of a destroyed building in Toretsk, eastern Ukraine, on Saturday amid the Russian war of Ukraine. - AFP)
A local resident looks at the rubble of a destroyed building in Toretsk, eastern Ukraine, on Saturday amid the Russian war of Ukraine. - AFP)

KYIV: Parts of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant were "seriously damaged" by military strikes that forced one of its reactors to shut down, the plant's operator said on Saturday.


The Friday strikes on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in south Ukraine -- Europe's largest atomic power complex -- "seriously damaged" a station containing nitrogen and oxygen and an "auxiliary building," Energoatom said on the Telegram messaging service.


Kyiv and Moscow blamed each other for the attacks.


The strikes had damaged a power cable, forced one of the reactors to stop working and "there are still risks of leaking hydrogen and radioactive substances, and the risk of fire is also high," it said.


The shelling "has caused a serious risk for the safe operation of the plant."


Russian troops have occupied the Zaporizhzhia plant since the early days of their war and Kyiv has accused them of storing heavy weapons there.


But Moscow, in turn, has accused Ukrainian forces of targeting the plant.


The European Union hit out at Russia on Saturday over the shelling.


"The EU condemns Russia's military activities around #Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant," the bloc's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, wrote on Twitter.


"This is a serious and irresponsible breach of nuclear safety rules and another example of Russia's disregard for international norms."


Borrell insisted that the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, be given access to the plant.


The IAEA has been trying for weeks to send a team to inspect the plant. Ukraine has so far rejected the efforts, which it says would legitimise Russia's occupation of the site in the eyes of the international community.


It said employees of Russian nuclear operator Rosatom had left the plant shortly before the attacks but that Ukrainian personnel had stayed on and the plant was still generating electricity.


Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky had said on Friday that "any bombing of this site is a shameless crime, an act of terror."


And the Ukrainian foreign ministry had said that the "possible consequences of hitting a working reactor are equivalent to using an atomic bomb".


Earlier in the week, the IAEA said that the situation at the nuclear power plant was "volatile."


"Every principle of safety has been violated one way or the other," IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said.


QUITS OVER RIGHTS REPORT


The head of Amnesty International's Ukraine office has resigned, accusing the rights organisation of parroting Kremlin propaganda in a controversial report that criticised the war-torn country's military response to Russia's war.


Amnesty sparked outrage in Ukraine with the publication of a report on Thursday that accused the military of endangering civilians by establishing bases in schools and hospitals, and launching counterattacks from heavily populated areas.


"If you don't live in a country invaded by occupiers who are tearing it to pieces, you probably don't understand what it's like to condemn an army of defenders," Amnesty's Oksana Pokalchuk said on social media, announcing her resignation late on Friday.


"And there are no words in any language that can convey this to someone who has not experienced this pain."


Pokalchuk said she had tried to warn Amnesty's senior leadership that the report was one-sided and failed to properly take into account the Ukrainian position, but she was ignored.


Amnesty Secretary-General, Agnes Callamard, responded to Pokalchuk's resignation, saying: "Oksana has been a valued member of Amnesty staff and has led the Amnesty International Ukraine office for seven years with many significant human rights successes." - AFP


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