Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that his army is targeting Russian soldiers occupying a nuclear power plant in the south of the country.
Russia and Ukraine have traded accusations over multiple recent incidents of shelling at the Zaporizhzhia facility, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. Russian troops captured the station early in the war.
“Every Russian soldier who either shoots at the plant, or shoots using the plant as cover, must understand that he becomes a special target for our intelligence agents, for our special services, for our army,” Zelenskyy said in an address on Saturday evening.
Zelenskyy, who did not give any details, repeated accusations that Russia was using the plant as a form of nuclear blackmail.
Ukraine’s defence intelligence agency earlier warned of new Russian “provocations” around the plant while the exiled mayor of the town where the plant is located said it had come under renewed Russian shelling.
Earlier, local Russian-installed official Vladimir Rogov wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian forces were shelling the plant.
“Energodar and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant are again under fire by [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky’s militants,” said Rogov, referring to the town the plant is located.
Missiles fell “in the areas located on the banks of the Dnipro river and in the plant”, he said, without reporting any casualties or damage.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak accused Russia of “hitting the part of the nuclear power plant where the energy that powers the south of Ukraine is generated”.
“The goal is to disconnect us from the (plant) and blame the Ukrainian army for this,” Podolyak wrote on Twitter.
The defence intelligence agency said Russian troops had parked a Pion self-propelled howitzer outside the nearby town and put a Ukrainian flag on it.
The agency also said that Thursday’s attacks on the territory of the plant, which Ukraine says damaged water-pumping infrastructure and a fire station, had been conducted from the Russian-controlled village of Vodiane, about seven kilometres (4.35 miles) east of the plant.
Areas occupied by Russia and those under Ukraine’s control are divided by the Dnieper River.
The UN nuclear chief warned on Thursday that “very alarming” military activity at the plant could lead to dangerous consequences for the region and called for an end to attacks at the facility.
Rafael Grossi urged Russia and Ukraine, who blame each other for the attacks at the plant, to immediately allow nuclear experts to assess damage and evaluate safety and security at the sprawling nuclear complex where the situation “has been deteriorating very rapidly.”
Ukraine, backed by Western allies, has called for a demilitarised zone around the plant and for the withdrawal of Russian forces.