The risk of a disaster at Europe’s largest nuclear plant “increases every day”, the mayor of the city where it is located told AFP on Sunday, after Ukraine and Russia exchanged blame for new shelling around the facility.

The Zaporozhye plant in southeastern Ukraine has been occupied by Russian troops since March, and Kyiv has accused Moscow of stationing hundreds of soldiers and storing weapons there.

Last week, the facility was repeatedly shelled, raising the specter of a nuclear disaster.

“What is happening there is straight up nuclear terrorism, and it could end unpredictably at any moment.”

This was reported by the mayor of the city of Energodar, where the plant is located, Dmitry Orlov.

“The risks are growing every day”

he told AFP by phone from the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporozhye.

According to him, the factory is being shelled by mortars “every day and night”.

“The situation is dangerous and the biggest concern is the lack of a de-escalation process,”

he added.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky previously accused Russia of nuclear “blackmail” and using nuclear power plants for “very cynical intimidation of people.”

He also said that Russian troops were “hiding” behind the plant to arrange bombings of the Ukrainian-controlled cities of Nikopol and Morganets.

But pro-Moscow officials in the occupied regions of Zaporozhye accused Ukrainian forces of shelling.

The rockets fell “in the areas located on the banks of the Dnieper River and in the vicinity of the plant,” said a member of the Moscow administration, Uladzimir Rohau, without reporting any casualties or damage.

The river separates the territories occupied by Russia and the territories under the control of Ukraine.

Orlov said that during the last day, Energodar, which he left at the end of April, was fired upon for the first time, which led to a sharp increase in those hoping for evacuation.

Amid security concerns, he warned there may not be enough staff to staff the station in the “foreseeable future”.

Nuclear disaster

Kyiv and Moscow have traded accusations over several strikes on nuclear power plants this month, with the strikes sparking fears of a nuclear disaster.

In the village of Vyshchetarasauka, which is on the opposite bank of the Dnieper from the plant, resident Viktar Shabanin says that the recent events “made people nervous.”

“The wind often blows in our direction. So the radiation will go straight to us, and the radiation will go into the water.”

The 57-year-old added.

AFP correspondents on the ground on Sunday heard air raid sirens and long-range gunfire, but reported no fresh fighting around the facility.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on this situation and warned of a “serious” crisis unfolding in Zaporozhye.

The panic over Zaporozhye has revived painful memories of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster — the world’s worst nuclear accident — which struck Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union and sent radioactive dust and ash across Europe.

Anastasia Rudenko believes that her late husband, who worked on the decontamination of the accident zone at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, died in 2014 of bladder cancer due to radiation.

“We may face the same fate as Chernobyl”

The 63-year-old told AFP.

“There’s nothing good about what’s going on, and we don’t know how it’s going to end.”

With the support of Western allies, Ukraine called for the creation of a demilitarized zone around the nuclear power plant and demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops.

READ ALSO: The first UN ship, which will transport Ukrainian grain to Africa, is preparing for departure

UN grain is ready for shipment

Russian forces trying to continue their offensive in the Dnieper region of southern Kherson region are under pressure after damaging strategically important bridges, a Ukrainian politician said on Sunday.

Regional lawmaker Siarhei Khlan said the pontoons used by the Russians could not fully meet their needs and that the command centers were being moved because they risked being cut off from supplies.

In his daily address on Sunday, Zelensky backed the idea of ​​a complete EU visa ban for all Russian travelers, which is currently being considered by the Czech Republic, which holds the EU presidency.

“The discussion… is expanding every day, new states and new politicians are joining it. Ultimately, this should lead to appropriate decisions.”

He also informed that the Ukrainian parliament will “soon” decide on the extension of martial law.

An important consequence of the war was a sharp rise in food prices after the Russian naval blockade and the mine-mining of its ports by Kiev, which prevented the sale of Ukrainian grain on world markets.

Last month’s landmark deal between Russia and Ukraine, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, created safe corridors to allow major grain exports to resume.

On Sunday, Kyiv said that the first UN-chartered vessel carrying grain from Ukraine to address the global food crisis was loaded with 23,000 tons of wheat and was ready to set sail.

The Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine, Oleksandr Kubrakov, said that the MV Brave Commander, which is currently in the Black Sea port of Pudnevy, will head to Africa with a 23,000-ton cargo of wheat.

© Agence France Presse

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