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Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant faces fresh shelling

U.N. nuclear inspectors are nearing a deal to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which has faced fresh shelling Saturday. File Photo by Sergei Supinsky/EPA-EFE
U.N. nuclear inspectors are nearing a deal to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which has faced fresh shelling Saturday. File Photo by Sergei Supinsky/EPA-EFE

Aug. 27 (UPI) -- The nuclear power plant in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia faced fresh shelling Saturday as officials worked on finalizing plans for U.N. inspectors to visit the besieged facility, officials said.

Russian and Ukrainian authorities blamed each other for the attacks, one of which struck the power plant. Energoatom, the Zaporizhzhia plant's operator, warned the facility is at risk of having a "hydrogen leak."

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"As a result of periodic shelling, the infrastructure of the power plant has been damaged, there are risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive substances, and the fire hazard is high," Energoatom said in a statement.

Russian forces have held the nuclear power plant since March, but Ukrainian staff are working there.

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"Ukraine calls on the world community to take immediate measures to force Russia to liberate the ZNPP and transfer the power plant to the control of our country for the sake of security of the whole world," Energoatom added.

The shelling has also hit civilian areas near the plant. Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the minister of internal affairs, said Russian shelling struck an apartment building, killing at least five people.

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Among the dead were Anastasia Borovyk, 29, and her 8-and 2-year-old children.

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The fresh violence comes as United Nations nuclear inspectors near an agreement to visit the facility. The shelling was disconnected from Ukraine's electrical grid twice this week. Kiyv officials said they don't believe the damage to the transmission line was intentionally.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is planning to send inspectors to the facility next week, when inspectors could check on key systems and get a better picture of the plant's health. Ukrainian officials said details of the trip are being worked out.

According to information observed by The New York Times, the IAEA plans to send its chief, Rafael Mariano Grossi, along with 13 other experts.

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Meanwhile, an analysis from Britain's Ministry of Defense indicates Russia may be looking to increase its attacks on the Donbas region, which includes the separatist-backed Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. The ministry said the escalation may be in response to Ukraine's plans for a counteroffensive, according to The Washington Post.

Donetsk regional head Pavlo Kyrylenkso said nearly three-quarters of the oblast's population has evacuated since the start of the war in February.

Clyde Hughes contributed to this report.

Ukraine marks Independence Day amid war

A Ukrainian servicemen stands guard by the wall of memory to the fallen Ukrainian soldiers in Kyiv, Ukraine on Wednesday, August 24, 2022. This year, Ukraine's Independence Day, which commemorates their break with the Soviet Union in 1991, coincides with the six-month mark since Russia launched its large-scale invasion of the country. The fighting has largely focused on the eastern Donbas region and the south, but most anywhere in Ukraine remains vulnerable to Russian air strikes. Photo by Vladyslav Musiienko/UPI | License Photo

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