ZAPORIZHYA, Ukraine — The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Saturday that Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporozhye nuclear power plant had been disconnected from its last external power line but was still able to run electricity through a backup line amid continued shelling In the area.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi said in a statement that agency experts who arrived in Zaporizhia on Thursday had been informed by senior Ukrainian personnel that the fourth and final operational line had been cut. The other three were lost earlier in the conflict.
But IAEA experts learned that a backup line connecting the facility to a nearby thermal power plant supplies the power generated by the plant to the external grid, the statement said. The same backup line can also provide backup power to the plant if needed, he added.
“We now have a better understanding of the functionality of the backup line in connecting the facility to the grid,” Grossi said. “This is important information to assess the overall situation there.”
In addition, plant management informed the IAEA that one reactor was shut down on Saturday afternoon due to network constraints. Another reactor is still operating and producing electricity for both cooling and other essential safety functions at the site and for households, factories and others through the grid, the statement said.
The Zaporizhia facility, which is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, has been held by Russian forces since early March, but its Ukrainian personnel continue to operate it.
The Russian-appointed city administration in Enerhodar, home to the Zaporizhia plant, blamed suspected Ukrainian shelling on Saturday morning for the destruction of a key power line.
“The provision of electricity to the territories controlled by Ukraine has been suspended due to technical difficulties,” the municipal administration said in a post on its official Telegram channel. It was unclear whether electricity from the plant was still reaching Russian-controlled areas.
Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Kremlin-appointed regional administration, said on Telegram that a projectile hit an area between two reactors. His claims could not be immediately confirmed.
Over the past few weeks, Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for shelling at and near the plant, while accusing each other of trying to thwart a visit by IAEA experts whose mission is to help secure the site. Grossi said their presence on the site is a “game changer.”
Russia’s defense ministry said Ukrainian troops made another attempt to seize the headquarters late Friday despite the presence of IAEA monitors, sending 42 boats with 250 special forces personnel and foreign “mercenaries” to try to land on the bank of the nearby Kakhovka dam. .
The ministry said four Russian fighter jets and two helicopter gunships destroyed about 20 boats and the rest returned. It added that Russian artillery struck the Ukrainian-controlled right bank of the Dnieper River to target the retreating landing force.
The ministry said the Russian military killed 47 soldiers, including 10 “mercenaries” and wounded 23. The Russian claims could not be independently verified.
The plant has repeatedly suffered total disconnections from Ukraine’s electricity grid since last week, with the country’s nuclear power operator Enerhoatom blaming mortar fire and fires near the site.
Local Ukrainian authorities have accused Moscow of firing missiles at two towns overlooking the plant across the Dnieper River, an accusation they have made repeatedly in recent weeks.
In Zorya, a small village about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Zaporizhia plant, residents could hear the sound of explosions in the area on Friday.
It was not the shelling that scared them the most, but the danger of a radioactive leak in the plant.
“The power plant, yes, that’s the scariest,” said Natalia Stokoz, a mother of three. “Because children and adults will be affected and it’s scary if the nuclear power plant is blown up.
Alexander Pascoe, a 31-year-old farmer, said “there is concern because we are quite close.” Pascoe said Russian shelling had intensified in recent weeks.
In the first weeks of the war, authorities gave iodine tablets and masks to people living near the plant in case of radiation exposure.
They also recently distributed iodine pills in the city of Zaporozhye, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the plant.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered to take on the role of “mediator” on the Zaporozhye plant issue in a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, according to a statement from the Turkish presidency.
Ukraine’s military said on Saturday morning that overnight Russian forces pressed their stalled advance into the country’s industrial east while trying to hold captured areas in northeastern and southern Ukraine, including the Kherson region cited as a target of the recent counteroffensive of Kyiv.
It added that Ukrainian forces had repelled about half a dozen Russian attacks in the Donetsk region, including near two towns identified as key targets in Moscow’s stepped-up effort to retake the rest of the province. The Donetsk region is one of two that make up Ukraine’s industrial heartland in the Donbass, along with Luhansk, which was captured by Russian troops in early July.
Separately, the British military confirmed in its regular update on Saturday morning that Ukrainian forces were conducting “renewed offensive operations” in southern Ukraine, advancing on a broad front west of the Dnieper and focusing on three axes in the Russian-occupied Kherson region.
“The operation has limited immediate objectives, but Ukraine’s forces have likely achieved a degree of tactical surprise; using poor logistics, administration and leadership in the Russian Armed Forces,” the British Ministry of Defense tweeted.
Russian shelling killed an 8-year-old child and wounded at least four others in a southern Ukrainian town near the Kherson region, Ukrainian officials said.
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