Worker wounded in new Russian strike on Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Ukraine says

Ukraine's state nuclear power company Energoatom said on Sunday that a worker was wounded when Russian forces again shelled the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe, on Saturday evening.

Watchdog agency says shelling of plant shows risk of nuclear disaster

Soldiers walk near nuclear plant.
This file photo from May 1 shows a Russian military convoy stationed on the road toward the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, in Enerhodar, in the Zaporizhzhia region of southeastern Ukraine. (The Associated Press)

Ukraine's state nuclear power company, Energoatom, said on Sunday that a worker was wounded when Russian forces again shelled the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe, on Saturday evening.

The site of the plant's dry storage facility, where 174 containers with spent nuclear fuel are stored in the open air, was hit by rocket attacks, Energoatom said on the Telegram messaging app.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had raised grave concerns on Saturday about shelling the previous day at Zaporizhzhia, saying the action showed the risk of a nuclear disaster.

The Zaporizhzhia plant was captured by Russian forces in the opening stage of the war but is still run by Ukrainian technicians.

Shells hit a high-voltage power line on Friday at the nuclear facility, prompting its operators to disconnect a reactor despite no radioactive leak being detected.

Both sides accused each other on Saturday of engaging in "nuclear terrorism." Energoatom blamed Russia for the damage while Russia's Defence Ministry accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the plant.

On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for a stronger international response to what he described as Russian "nuclear terror."

During a phone call with European Council President Charles Michel, Zelenskyy called for sanctions to be imposed on the Russian nuclear industry and nuclear fuel, the Ukrainian leader wrote on Twitter.

Zelenskyy says no talks if referendums go ahead

In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy said that if Russia proceeded with referendums in occupied areas of his country on joining Russia, there could be no talks with Ukraine or its international allies.

Russian forces and their separatist allies now hold large swathes of territory in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region and in southern areas after launching what the Kremlin calls a "special military operation" into its neighbour's territory. Officials in both areas have raised the possibility of holding referendums.

Zelenskyy said Kyiv was holding fast to its position of yielding no territory to Russia.

"Our country's position remains what it always has been. We will give up nothing of what is ours," Zelenskyy said.

A woman pushes a bicycle while a man stands nearby in front of a pile bricks, boards and rubble from a destroyed house.
A local resident pushes her bicycle through damaged buildings in Toretsk, Ukraine, on Aug. 5, 2022, in the embattled eastern Donbas region. (Bulent Kilic/AFP via Getty Images)

Russian forces hold most of the Kherson region in southern Ukraine and officials in charge have suggested a referendum on joining Russia could be held within the coming weeks or months.

In Donbas, Russian proxies seized chunks of territory in 2014, held independence referendums and proclaimed "people's republics" in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The Kremlin recognized the republics on the eve of the February invasion.

The governor of Luhansk region — almost entirely under Russian control for several weeks — suggested over the weekend that Russia was preparing for a new referendum in newly captured areas and was offering residents benefits for taking part.

Battle to control Donbas

Putin's troops are trying to gain control of the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine where pro-Moscow separatists seized territory after the Kremlin annexed Crimea to the south in 2014.

Russian forces stepped up their attacks north and northwest of Donetsk city in the Donbas on Sunday, Ukraine's military said. The Russians attacked Ukrainian positions near the heavily fortified settlements of Piski and Avdiivka, as well as shelling other locations in the Donetsk region, it said.

Kyiv also says Russia was strengthening in southern Ukraine to prevent a potential counter-offensive near Kherson.

More ships cleared to depart

Elsewhere, four more ships carrying agricultural cargo held up by the war received authorization Sunday to leave Ukraine's Black Sea coast, under a deal to export grain trapped since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly six months ago.

The body overseeing the international agreement intended to get some 18 million tonnes of grain out of Ukraine and to feed impoverished people in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia said the loaded vessels were expected to depart Chornomorsk and Odesa on Monday.

Monitors said the ships would be transporting more than 155,000 tonnes of corn combined. One carrier is destined for Istanbul, another is headed to Nantong in China and a third is going to Turkey's Iskenderun port on the Mediterranean.

The fourth ship cleared for departure is carrying more than 5,900 tonnes of sunflower oil to Monopoli, Italy.

With files from The Associated Press