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Ukraine targets more Russian arms depots as safety fears grow at occupied nuclear plant

Six power units generate 40-42 billion kWh of electricity, making the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. (Dmytro Smolyenko/Ukrinform/Zuma Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Ukrainian officials have reported that more Russian munitions depots were targeted by the military amid mounting safety concerns over a Russian-occupied nuclear plant in the south of the country.

“Large” depots in the Kherson region were destroyed overnight, Yuriy Sobolevskiy, the first deputy head of the Kherson regional council, said on August 14.

“There is confirmed information about the destruction of objects both in Nova Kakhovka and in Muzykivka. Quite large military warehouses with weapons and ammunition were located there. Military equipment was also stored there,” he told Ukrainian media.

For several weeks, Ukraine’s military has tried to lay the groundwork for a counteroffensive to reclaim southern Ukraine’s Kherson region, which borders Crimea and fell to the Russians soon after the February 24 invasion.

A local Ukrainian official reported on August 13 that a Ukrainian strike had damaged the last working bridge over the Dnieper River in the region, further crippling Russian supply lines.

The British Defense Ministry said on August 13 that damage to bridges across the Dnieper meant that “ground resupply for the several thousand Russian troops on the west bank is almost certainly reliant on just two pontoon-ferry crossing points.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has warned Russian forces not to use the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant for military purposes.

In his regular nightly address late on August 13, Zelenskiy said Ukraine would target Russian soldiers who either shoot at or from what is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

“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,” Zelenskiy said.

Zelenskiy said recent shelling at the plant had increased the threat of a radiation leak, and that Ukrainian diplomats and partner states “will do everything to ensure” that new sanctions block the Russian nuclear industry.

While the plant is controlled by Russia, its Ukrainian staff continues to run the nuclear operations. It is in Enerhodar, a city seized by Russian troops in early March soon after they invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Zelenskiy, who did not give any details, repeated accusations that Russia was using the plant as nuclear blackmail.

The G7 group of advanced economies has called on Moscow to withdraw its forces from the power station.

Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency earlier warned of fresh Russian “provocations” around the plant, while the exiled mayor of the town where the plant is located said it had come under fresh Russian shelling.

But local Russian-installed official Vladimir Rogov wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian forces were shelling the plant.

The UN nuclear chief warned on August 11 that “very alarming” military activity at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant could lead to dangerous consequences for the region and called for an end to attacks.

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.”

Elsewhere, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed on August 13 that its forces had taken control of Pisky, a village on the outskirts of the city of Donetsk, the main city in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk, most of which Moscow-backed separatists have controlled since 2014.

Russian troops and separatist forces are trying to seize Ukrainian-held areas north and west of the city of Donetsk, but the Ukrainian military said on August 13 that its forces had prevented an overnight advance toward the smaller cities of Bakhmut and Avdiyivka.