Communal workers operate at a site of a rocket hit in downtown Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday. Photo by Sergey Kozlov/EPA-EFE
Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Russian forces conducted a strike on the Motor Sich engine factory near Zaporizhzhia where Ukrainian Air Force helicopters were being repaired, the Russian Defense Ministry said Sunday.
The ministry also accused Ukraine of continuing "provocations" that "threaten a man-made nuclear disaster" at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and said in a statement that strikes in Sloviansk in the Donetsk province killed more than 250 Ukrainian fighters.
"Currently, a full-time technical staff monitors the technical condition of the nuclear plant and ensures its operation," the Russian Defense Ministry said. "The radiation situation in the nuclear power plant area remains normal."
The Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration said in a statement that Russian forces fired several rockets at infrastructure facilities in the Shevchenkiv district of Zaporizhzhia, where the Motor Sich factory is located.
"Fragments of rockets destroyed several buildings on the territory of the facilities. Some premises were directly hit by rockets, as a result of which the buildings were completely destroyed," the Ukrainian officials said.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a statement Sunday that Russian ships continue to carry out "reconnaissance and blockade of civilian shipping in the northwestern part of the Black Sea."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address Saturday that the Zaporizhzhia plant has been connected to the grid and produces power for Ukraine.
"Our nuclear scientists, all specialists in the energy industry, manage to protect the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant from the worst-case scenario, which is constantly being provoked by Russian forces," Zelensky said.
"I want to emphasize that the situation remains very risky and dangerous. Any repeat of yesterday's events, that is, any disconnection of the plant from the grid, any actions by Russia that could trigger the shutdown of the reactors, will again put the plant one step away from disaster."
Zelensky said that it is imperative that the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations, arrives at the plant "as soon as possible" and helps to keep the nuclear facility "under continuous control of Ukraine."
"That is why it is so important that Russian troops withdraw from the plant and neighboring areas and that the threat of shelling of the plant itself or power lines connected to it disappears," Zelensky said.
Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine's permanent ambassador to the United Nations, said in an interview with UPI last week that an incident at the plant "can be much worse than Chernobyl" and criticized Russia's status as a permanent member of the Security Council.
The British Defense Ministry, which has been providing intelligence updates since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, said Sunday that a decree from Russian President Vladimir Putin to boost his military "is unlikely to make substantive progress toward increasing Russia's combat power in Ukraine."
"This is because Russia has lost tens of thousands of troops, very few new contract servicemen are being recruited, and conscripts are technically not obliged to serve outside of Russian territory," the British Defense Ministry said.
The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, said in an analysis Saturday that Russian volunteer battalions "are likely being prepared to attempt offensive combined arms operations but will likely lack sufficient combat power to make a material difference on the battlefield."
"Russian military leadership may be shifting to a new phase of mobilization in central Russia and have likely exhausted pools of potential recruits in more peripheral and disenfranchised regions," according to the think tank.
The Institute for the Study of War added that Russian authorities "are intensifying law enforcement operations in occupied areas" of Ukraine.
Putin on Saturday also signed a decree stating that the government would give money to Ukrainians who fled the war to Russia.
The decree, published on the Kremlin's website, establishes a monthly pension of about $165 to Ukrainians "forced to leave the territories" of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces of Ukraine, which together make up the larger Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.
Donbas has been largely held by pro-Russian separatists since the Ukrainian territory of Crimea was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014. Putin recognized Luhansk and Donetsk as independent republics before the start of the invasion and is expected to try to annex the region into Russia in coming months.
The payment decree indicates that Ukrainians eligible for the monthly pension must have left Ukraine and entered Russia after Feb. 18 and payments will be made through December.
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