Russia has denied shelling the factory, instead accusing Ukraine’s 44th artillery brigade of launching attacks from the nearby town of Marganets. Ukraine was responsible for “a new act of nuclear terrorism,” Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.
The nuclear reactor complex was operating in “normal mode,” Yevgeniy Balitsky, Russia’s installed head of local government, said Monday, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency. The Defense Department later said the power line had been damaged, causing a power surge and forcing staff to reduce the output of two of the site’s six reactors to avoid “disruption.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the shelling “extremely dangerous” in his daily conversation with reporters Monday, adding: “We expect the countries that have absolute influence over the Ukrainian leadership to use this influence to plan the continuation of such shelling. Close.”
State Secretary Antony Blinken said last week that he “very worriedthrough the takeover of the factory by Russian troops.
“There are credible reports,” he said, “that Russia is using this factory as the equivalent of a human shield, but a nuclear shield in the sense that it is firing at Ukrainians from all over the factory and of course the Ukrainians cannot and will not. ” don’t fire back or there would be a terrible accident at a nuclear power plant.”
Russian forces seized the factory in March, just over a week after the invasion began, but it is still run by Ukrainian staff. About 500 Russian soldiers and 50 military vehicles are at the factory, Energoatom said.
The 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant near the northern Ukrainian city of Pripyat is considered the worst ever. It required the evacuation of more than 100,000 people living within a radius of nearly 30 miles, and the resulting radiation was detected across Europe. Officially, fewer than 50 people died as a direct result of Chernobyl, but this is fiercely contested by scientists and environmental groups.
Ukrainian lawmakers have speculated that as many as 3 million people could die and 51 million otherwise be affected by radiation in the event of a serious incident at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.
Josh Lederman reported from Kiev and Patrick Smith reported from London.
Reuters, Erika Angulo, Morgan Chesky and Yuliya Talmazan contributed.