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Zelensky criticizes Amnesty International as fighting escalates around Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky criticized the human rights organization Amnesty International on Saturday as fighting escalated around the Zaporizhzhia Power Plant. Photo courtesy Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky criticized the human rights organization Amnesty International on Saturday as fighting escalated around the Zaporizhzhia Power Plant. Photo courtesy Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook

Aug. 7 (UPI) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky criticized the human rights organization Amnesty International as fighting escalated around the Zaporizhzhia Power Plant.

Zelensky's comments came one day after Oksana Pokalchuk, the head of Amnesty International's office in Ukraine, resigned from her post Friday amid a scandal over the human rights organization's criticism of the actions of Ukraine's military amid its war with Russia.

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Pokalchuk announced her resignation after Amnesty International accused the Ukrainian military of endangering civilians by establishing military bases in schools and hospitals, and launching counterattacks from heavily populated areas.

Zelensky in his nightly address Saturday that the fighting around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant had worsened and blasted Amnesty International for its "very eloquent silence" about the fighting.

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"Russian terrorists became the first in the world to use a nuclear plant for terror. The biggest in Europe! We will draw the world's attention to this and insist on new sanctions against Russia for creating such a global threat," Zelensky said.

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"And despite the fact that the Russian shelling of the nuclear plant is one of the most dangerous crimes against Ukrainians and all Europeans, against the right to life of every person, for some reason there is no report or even a simple notification from Amnesty International about it."

Enerhoatom, Ukraine's nuclear energy company, said in a statement to Telegram on Sunday that "the Russian military keep committing acts of nuclear terrorism" at the plant which has been under Moscow's control since March.

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The Ukrainian company said Russian forces on Saturday night "once again fired rockets" at the site of the nuclear power plant and the town of Enerhodar and hit next to an on-site dry spent fuel storage facility.

"Apparently, they aimed specifically at the casks with spent fuel, which are stored in the open near the site of shelling," Enerhoatom claimed.

"Currently, there are 174 casks there, each containing 24 assemblies of spent nuclear fuel!"

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Enerhoatom claimed that three radiation monitoring detectors around the dry storage facility were damaged from the "hostile rocket attacks."

The company claimed that one employee was hospitalized with shrapnel wounds caused by an explosion and that as many as 500 Russian soldiers stationed at the facility sheltered in a bunker beforehand.

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"This time a nuclear catastrophe was miraculously avoided, but miracles cannot last forever," Enerhoatom said.

"The actions of russian nuclear terrorists must be urgently put to an end in order to protect Ukraine and the world from a nuclear disaster."

The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., said in an analysis on Saturday that Russian and Ukrainian forces "traded accusations of dangerous shelling at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant."

"Both sides claimed that the shelling caused a fire at the hydrogen station at the plant," the think tank said in its analysis.

Russia has been accused of storing explosives and other ammunition around the nuclear power plant and has reportedly mined the turbine room of one of its energy blocks, according to a Russian opposition news outlet cited by the Institute for the Study of War.

The report said that 500 Russian soldiers are believed to be stationed at the power plant and that the area around it has been mined by Russian forces who have been firing on the nearby city of Nikopol from near the plant's nuclear reactors.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Wednesday that the war has pushed Europe's largest nuclear plant into "grave" danger.

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Grossi said the situation with the plant is "completely out of control" because of the shelling around the facility.

He called for Russia and Ukraine officials to allow experts to visit the complex to prevent a nuclear accident.

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