War fears at another Ukraine nuclear site

A vast crater several meters deep in empty land strewn with wild grass bears witness to the shelling this week at the Pivdennoukrainskpower plant site in southern Ukraine, the latest sign of nuclear risk in the war-scarred nation.

Small shards of gray metal, similar to rocket and missile fragments that litter innumerable fighting-damaged Ukrainian places, dot the loamy earth gouged out by the impact.

“That’s where the blast of the explosion went towards,” said Ivan Zhebet, security chief at the Pivdennoukrainsk plant in the southern Mykolaiv region.

A compass reading by an AFP journalist indicated that it was fired from the southeast, territory under Russian control.

The shell struck shortly after midnight on Monday, just minutes after an air raid warning sounded in nearby Yuzhnourainsk, a town that had until then been relatively calm.

Others said they saw a flash of light in the sky.

All the residents questioned by AFP worried that the nuclear site — which directly provides jobs for 6,000 of the town’s 42,000-strong population and indirectly for many more — would be hit.

Pivdennoukrainskis the third nuclear site to be caught up in a conflict that began with Russia’s invasion in February.

The Ukrainian army rejected any idea that the strike at Pivdennoukrainsk could have been accidental.

According to Pierre Grasser, a Paris-based expert on Russian defence, it was possible that the cabling network, transformers or air defense systems which Ukrainians and Russians often place near strategic sites were targeted.

– ‘Frightening’ –

Soon after the invasion the Russian forces sought to break through at Mykolaiv and reach the strategic Black Sea port of Odessa, they advanced as far as Voznesensk, just 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the nuclear installation.

“They wanted to take Odessa, they wanted to take our plant. But our lads prevented them from doing so,” Nataliya Stoikova, a department head at Pivdennoukrainsk, said with pride.

“The danger is really frightening. If something were to happen (at Pivdennoukrainsk) or Zaporizhzhia, the accident at Chernobyl would be almost small” by comparison.

Originally published as War fears at another Ukraine nuclear site

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