Russia has shelled cities around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant overnight despite international calls for all fighting around the reactors to stop.
Nikopol, a city that sits six miles downstream from Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and on the opposite side of the Dnipro River, was hit three times overnight.
Four people were injured in the strikes, regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko said, including two who had to be taken to hospital.
It comes despite calls from the UN to halt fighting around the plant, with President Joe Biden calling European leaders to express his concern at the weekend.
Fears about the plant are growing as Volodymyr Zelensky warns Russia could be plotting ‘something particularly ugly’ to coincide with Ukraine’s Independence Day celebrations this week.
Russia struck the city of Nikopol, which sits just across the Dnipro River from Europe’s largest power plant, three times overnight Sunday
The shelling wounded four people, two of whom had to be taken to hospital, after striking residential areas, the local governor said
The strikes came despite international alarm at fighting around the plant and calls for an immediate stop to hostilities
The date – August 24 – marks the day Ukraine issued its Declaration of Independence from the Soviet Union back in 1991.
It also happens to mark six months since Putin began his war on February 24, 2022.
Speaking overnight, President Zelensky said: ‘We must all be aware that this week Russia could try to do something particularly ugly, something particularly vicious.
‘All of Ukraine’s partners have been informed about what the terrorist state can prepare for this week.’
Aside from a possible nuclear disaster at the Zaporizhzhia plant, Ukraine has also been warning of missiles massing in Belarus for apparent strikes on the capital Kyiv, and of show trials that could take place in occupied Donbas.
Zelensky warned that Russian-backed proxy groups could be preparing to put Ukrainian prisoners of war – including those who surrendered in the city of Mariupol – on trial, and facing the death penalty.
If that happens, he said, then it will forever close the door to a diplomatic solution to the fighting.
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is Europe’s largest, containing six reactors (pictured left) which provide a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity
Russian forces have been in control of the plant since early in the war, but recent fighting around it has led to concerns of a meltdown
‘This will be the line beyond which no negotiations are possible. There will be no more conversations. Our state has said everything,’ he added.
Ukraine views the soldiers defending Mariupol as heroes, while Russia has denigrated them as far-right sympathizers, war criminals and Nazis.
They are thought to have surrendered following a months-long siege on the understanding they would be traded back to Ukraine as part of a prisoner-swap.
But since then, several dozen have burned to death at a prison camp in what Russia says was a Ukrainian strike – but which Kyiv and independent analysts say was a fire started by Russian troops inside a dormitory to cover up torture.
It comes as Putin’s invasion of Ukraine reaches a near-stalemate, with both sides digging in and attempting to hold their territory while being seemingly unable to carry out further large-scale attacks.
British intelligence believes that Russian commanders are increasingly reliant on offering ‘direct financial incentives’ to get their men to fight while ‘some combat units are deemed unreliable for offensive operations’.
The UK Ministry of Defence delivered its analysis after a video taken from Luhansk showed men who were likely conscripted into the armed forces there refusing to fight in neighbouring Donetsk.
President Zelensky has warned that Russia could be preparing a ‘particularly ugly’ attack this week to coincide with Independence Day celebrations on August 24
Luhansk has been largely liberated by Russian forces while heavy fighting is still underway in Donetsk, and the men said they were refusing to go to war there despite ‘threats and intimidation by senior commanders’.
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been under Russia’s control since early in the war, after forces in Crimea broke out and seized swathes of southern Ukraine.
The situation around the plant has been calm since then, but tensions have ramped up in recent weeks as Ukraine attempts to push Putin’s men back.
Blasts have been reported around the plant’s six nuclear reactors, which Ukraine says are false flag attacks by Russia while Moscow blames Kyiv for carrying them out.
Ukraine further says Russia has stationed military equipment including explosives in and around the plant’s reactors to shield them from attacks, and says troops are trying to disconnect the plant from the country’s electrical grid.
This is dangerous, Kyiv says, because it will leave some of the plant’s emergency systems reliant on diesel generators for power.
Zelensky has called for international inspectors to be sent to the plant – a cause that is also being championed by the UN, though Russia has so far rebuffed it.