Fighting rages near Europe's largest nuclear plant

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Fighting rages near Europe's largest nuclear plant

Russian forces began staging artillery attacks from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, about a month ago.

A series of blasts Friday at the plant the Russian military is using as cover for artillery attacks has renewed concerns of a potential nuclear war.

DRUZHKIVKA, Ukraine - Fighting raged on Saturday near a sprawling nuclear power plant in the south of Ukraine despite warnings from nuclear safety watchdogs earlier this week that conditions there were out of control. The Russian military has been using the Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe's largest, as a base to attack the Ukrainian-controlled town of Nikopol across the river. On Saturday it fired a volley of Grad rockets that damaged 11 apartment buildings and 36 privately owned houses and wounded three people, the Ukrainian military said. The Ukrainian military said that the assault has knocked out electricity, water and natural gas supplies in the town, where residents have been fleeing from the artillery attacks and the associated risk of radiation.

Ukraine has accused Russians of setting off explosions at the plant, intended to unnerve European allies about nuclear safety and discourage arming Ukraine. The plant of Zaporizhzhia occupies a dangerous spot on the broad Dnipro River, along the frontline of the war between Russia and Ukraine. The Ukrainian army controls the western bank, while the Russians are encroaching around the plant on the east bank. The battles close to the nuclear plant came as Russian artillery and tank attacks on the eastern town of Bakhmut, the site of some of the fiercest fighting along the front in recent days.

A second series of explosions damaged a building on the plant's premises later in the day, according to Ukraine's state nuclear power company. Russia staged the attacks, Russia s military said the attacks came from the Ukrainian side. President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke about the brazen crime of the Russian military using the nuclear power plant as a cover in his nightly address to Ukrainians. The explosions at the plant were cited by the occupiers, which created another extremely risky situation for everyone in Europe, according to Zelensky. This is the largest nuclear power plant on our continent. Any shelling of this facility is an act of terror. An adviser to Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, addressed the risk even more bluntly in a post on Saturday, suggesting a disaster sending radiation wafting across Europe might occur some day. This morning in Europe became possible because the Zaporizhzhia NPP miraculously did not explode yesterday, he wrote, using shorthand for nuclear power plant. He suggested that the United Nations should negotiate a Russian withdrawal from the plant that would put the site under control of an independent special commission. Russia s use of the site for military purposes is intended to signal the danger of continuing Western policies of arming Ukraine, Ukraine s National Security and Defense Council said in a statement. The aim of the Center for Counteracting Disinformation was to increase the fear in Europe of the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe and reduce the desire of Western countries to provide military assistance.