Fighting around a Ukrainian nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, has stoked fears of an international nuclear disaster, and global leaders are voicing concerns.
Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven, an inter-governmental political forum of leading industrialized countries, on Wednesday demanded that Russia return control of the plant to Ukraine, Reuters reported.
Russian troops took over the Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine, one of the 10 largest nuclear plants in the world, shortly after invading the country in February. Before the war, the plant accounted for about half of the electricity generated by nuclear power in Ukraine.
Ukrainian staff members have been kept in place to continue the plant’s operations. But conflict around the facility has fueled fears of nuclear disaster similar to that in Chernobyl, which saw the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Associated Press last week that the situation near the Zaporizhzhia plant “is completely out of control” as he pleaded with Russia and Ukraine to allow inspectors to visit the site. Grossi said the supply chain for equipment to the plant has been interrupted and there have been reports of violence between Russian troops and Ukrainian staff members.
“What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely grave and dangerous,” Grossi said.
USA TODAY ON TELEGRAM:Join our Russia-Ukraine war channel to receive updates
►Ukraine on Wednesday accused Russia of using its position near the nuclear power plant to target the nearby town of Marhanets in a rocket attack that killed at least 13 people, Reuters reported. Russia did not immediately comment on the allegations of the attack.
►While the European Union moved to block two of Russia’s top propaganda and misinformation channels – RT and Sputnik – early in the war, NewsGuard, a New York-based firm that tracks online misinformation, has identified 250 websites spreading propaganda and disinformation, with dozens of new ones in recent months.
A Russian journalist who was fined three times for criticizing the war in Ukraine has now been detained and faces 10 years in prison if convicted, her lawyer said.
Marina Ovsyannikova, who rose to international fame in March when she held up an anti-war sign behind the anchor of a news broadcast on state-funded Channel One, has been charged with spreading false information about Russia’s armed forces, lawyer Dmitry Zakhvatov said in a Telegram post. Ovsyannikova’s home was raided and she was taken for questioning Wednesday, he said.
Ovsyannikova, born to an Ukrainian father and a Russian mother, quit her job as a Channel One producer and became an activist after her initial protest, which led to her arrest and a fine.
During a demonstration in July, she held up a banner calling out Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying, “Putin is a killer, his soldiers are fascists. 352 children have been killed (in Ukraine). How many more children should die for you to stop?”
Shortly after invading Ukraine in February, Russia passed a law that penalizes statements against the military with up to 10 years in prison. According to Net Freedoms, a legal aid group focusing on free speech cases, as of Wednesday there were 79 criminal cases on charges of spreading false information about the military and up to 4,000 administrative cases on charges of disparaging the armed forces.
The Ukrainian air force said Wednesday that nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in multiple massive explosions at an air base in Russian-held Crimea. The blasts killed one person and wounded 13 others.
Russia has denied that any aircraft were damaged, saying several munitions at the base caught fire and blew up. But the explosions have sparked speculation that they resulted from a Ukrainian attack, though Ukrainian officials have stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility.
The blasts also knocked out windows, caused damage to nearby apartment buildings and sent tourists fleeing. Russian officials sought to downplay the explosions.
A spreading resistance of Ukrainian guerrilla forces has blown up bridges and trains and killed pro-Moscow officials in Russian-occupied areas of southeastern Ukraine.
The Zhovta Strichka, or “Yellow Ribbon,” resistance group has been assisting the Ukrainian military and eroding Russian control in the area.
The guerrilla groups coordinate with the Ukrainian military’s Special Operations Forces and help with such functions as selecting targets, preparing ambushes and establishing a network of weapons caches and secret hideouts in Russian-occupied areas.
“Our goal is to make life unbearable for the Russian occupiers and use any means to derail their plans,” Andriy, a 32-year-old coordinator of the guerrilla movement in the southern Kherson region, told The Associated Press. He spoke on the condition of not being fully identified.
Contributing: The Associated Press