Russia fired rockets at southern Ukraine on Sunday, killing at least one person, as concern grows over a nuclear power plant in the region that has come under fire.
A Russian diplomat called on Kyiv to offer security assurances so international inspectors could visit the Zaporizhzhia plant — Europe’s largest nuclear power station — which is held by Moscow’s forces but still operated by Ukrainians.
A foreman who worked at the plant was killed in the rocket attack Sunday as he walked his dog near his home in the city of Enerhodar, Ukraine’s state-run nuclear company Energoatom said.
Russia claims the man’s death was due to Ukrainian bombing.
With fighting raging on in the Mykolaiv region, fears have mounted about the plant. Both sides have blamed each other for occasional bombing that has hit the station. Officials say it’s led to damaged monitoring equipment with worry it could result in a nuclear catastrophe.
Russia’s envoy to international organizations, Mikhail Ulyanov, demanded Ukraine stop attacking the plant to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect it.
“It is important that the Ukrainians stop their shelling of the station and provide security guarantees to members of the mission. An international team cannot be sent to work under continuous artillery shelling,” he told the Russian state news agency Tass.
But Ukraine says Russian is shelling regions near the plant and storing weapons there, with President Volodymyr Zelensky warning Russian soldiers who shoot at the power station or use it for cover that they will become “special targets” for Kyiv’s forces.
“Every Russian soldier who either shoots at the plant, or shoots using the plant as cover, must understand that he becomes a special target for our intelligence agents, for our special services, for our army,” he said in a Saturday evening address.
Zelensky argued Russia was using the plant as nuclear blackmail.
Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said the Kremlin was “hitting the part of the nuclear power plant where the energy that powers the south of Ukraine is generated.”
“The goal is to disconnect us from the (plant) and blame the Ukrainian army for this,” he wrote on Twitter.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the area at the plant to be a demilitarized zone.
Amid the fighting that is reaching its sixth-month mark, a UN-chartered ship with 23,000 metric tons of Ukrainian grain meant for Ethiopia began is voyage Sunday from a Black Sea port.
It’s the first shipment of its kind in a program to help countries facing famine.
The Brave Commander left from the Ukrainian port of Yuzhne, regional governor Maksym Marchenko said and will reach Djibouti, where the grain will then be transferred to the east African country at the direction of the World Food Program initiative.
The shipment stems from a deal brokered between Russia, Ukraine and Turkey that restarted grain deliveries after Russia’s invasion began in February.
Ethiopia is one of five countries where its people could starve, according to the UN.
“The capacity is there. The grain is there. The demand is there across the world and in particular, these countries,” WFP Ukraine coordinator Denise Brown told The Associated Press. “So if the stars are aligned, we are very, very hopeful that all the actors around this agreement will come together on what is really an issue for humanity. So today was very positive.”
With Post wires