Ukraine accuses Russia of using nuclear plant for deadly rocket attack

KYIV: Ukraine accused Russia on Wednesday (Aug 10) of firing rockets from around a captured nuclear power plant, killing at least 13 people and wounding 10, in the knowledge it would be risky for Ukraine to return fire.

The town Ukraine says Russia targeted – Marhanets – is one Moscow says its foes have used in the past to shell Russian soldiers at the Zaporizhzhia plant, which they seized in March.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces would respond to the shelling of Marhanets. Ukraine’s military said Russia also bombarded several other areas in the Zaporizhzhia region including the coal-mining town of Vuhledar.

Calling on foreign allies to send more powerful weapons, Zelenskyy said in a late-night video address that Kyiv “will not leave today’s Russian shelling of the Dnipropetrovsk region unanswered”.

Ukrainians and the country’s allies must think about “how to inflict the greatest possible losses on the occupiers in order to shorten the war,” he said.

Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of imperilling the plant, Europe’s largest nuclear complex, with attacks nearby.

After the United Nations atomic energy watchdog sounded the alarm over a potential nuclear disaster, the Group of Seven leading industrialised countries on Wednesday told Russia to hand back the plant to Ukraine.

There were no indications that their demand will sway Moscow, which on Wednesday received powerful endorsement from China of its rationale for the Feb 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Beijing’s ambassador to Moscow, Zhang Hanhui, accused Washington of backing Russia into a corner with repeated expansions of the western-led NATO military alliance and support for Ukraine’s alignment with the European Union.

Washington’s “ultimate goal is to exhaust and crush Russia with a protracted war and the cudgel of sanctions, Zhang was quoted as saying.

Beijing is also involved in a standoff with the United States over Taiwan: Since the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, China has been conducting extensive military drills around the self-ruled island it claims as its own.

Russia has not commented on the Ukrainian allegations of an attack on Marhanets and Reuters could not independently verify Kyiv’s version. Moscow says it does not deliberately target civilians in what it calls its “special military operation” aimed at safeguarding its security against NATO expansion.

Ukraine and the West accuse Moscow of waging an unprovoked imperial-style war of aggression.

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Andriy Yermak, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, said Russia was launching attacks with impunity from Zaporizhzhia knowing it was risky for Ukraine to fight back.

“The cowardly Russians can’t do anything more so they strike towns ignobly hiding at the Zaporizhzhia atomic power station,” he said on social media

Ukraine says around 500 Russian troops with heavy vehicles and weapons are at the plant, where Ukrainian technicians continue to work.