1 of 2 | The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station is seen in Enerhodar, Ukraine. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency cautioned the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that Russian fighting near the plant has created a "grave" hour. File Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE
Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Russian attacks on Friday again included targets near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine, pressing concerns about the security of the facility and eliciting a warning from the top U.N. nuclear watchdog.
For days this week, experts and Ukrainian officials have expressed a deep concern about fighting around the plant, which is the largest nuclear power facility in Europe. They worry that a nuclear catastrophe could result if it's hit, accidentally or intentionally.
Ukrainian officials said that Russian rockets hit in Nikopol on Friday, which is located just across the Dnipro River from the Zaporizhzhia plant. Officials worry that Moscow, which captured the plant many weeks ago, will continue to use the facility as a shield -- knowing that it can launch attacks against Ukrainian positions without fear of retaliatory fire.
On Thursday, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi issued a dire warning.
"Any military action jeopardizing nuclear safety, nuclear security, must stop immediately," he said in an address to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday.
"These military actions near to such a large nuclear facility could lead to very serious consequences."
Grossi said at the meeting that shelling late last week at the Zaporizhzhia plant set off several explosions near the electrical switchboard and caused a power shutdown. One reactor unit was disconnected from the electrical grid, he said, triggering its emergency protection system and setting generators into operation to ensure power supply. He also said there was shelling at a nitrogen oxygen station.
Grossi emphasized that there is no "immediate" threat at the plant, but cautioned that the status could change at any time.
"This is a serious hour, a grave hour, and the IAEA must be allowed to conduct its mission in Zaporizhzhia as soon as possible."
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine is the largest nuclear facility in Europe. Photo by Russian Emergencies Ministry/EPA-EFE
Meanwhile, Kharkiv -- Ukraine's second-largest city, which is still under Ukrainian control -- was targeted on Friday by numerous Russian attacks.
Ukrainian forces initially repelled a Russian advance earlier in the war, but Moscow has slammed the area in recent weeks with a barrage of shelling and rocket fire.
Kharkiv leader Oleg Sinegubov said four were fired from Belgorod into the district and two hit an institution in the Slobid district before dawn.
Elsewhere in the Kharkiv region, one rocket damaged the facade of an administrative building in the Novobavar district -- and another landed in the Kyiv region. Officials said areas between the village of Tsirkuny and Cherkasy Tyshky were also hit.
Ukrainian air defenses managed to shoot down a Russian missile over the Kharkiv region that was fired from the Caspian Sea, officials said.
Additionally, Ukrainian officials said a Russian missile attack killed seven civilians in Bakhmut on Thursday in what they said were indiscriminate attacks.
Since the war began, Russian forces have attacked numerous civilian locations across Ukraine -- although Moscow still denies that it's targeting civilians.
Late on Wednesday, a Belarusian air base used by Russian forces was hit with explosions just one day after a similar attack destroyed several Russian fighter jets at an airfield in Crimea.
Belarus has been a close ally of Russia and has allowed Moscow's military to fire on Ukrainian targets from the country since the fighting began in late February.