Members of International Atomic Energy Agency inspect the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, last Thursday. The inspectors have called for a safe zone around the facility. Photo by IAEA Press Office/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Russian mortar fire exploded in areas near the vulnerable nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine on Wednesday, one day after United Nations inspectors issued its first assessment and called for a safe zone around the facility.
A local official said that Russian shelling resumed close to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, where an inspection team from the International Atomic Energy Agency have been for days assessing its safety.
In its first report, the IAEA team said on Tuesday that Ukrainian and Russian leaders should carve out a safety zone around the plant so that no gunfire, shells or rocket strikes compromise the integrity of the plant.
Experts have been worried about the Russian-controlled plant for weeks due to the close proximity of the shelling. An accident or heavy damage to one of the reactors could trigger a core meltdown or a disaster similar to the one that rocked Ukraine's Chernobyl plant in 1986.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials said on Wednesday that they have expanded the counteroffensive in the northeast around Kharkiv and the eastern Donbas region as forces battles to regain territory from Russia.
Ukraine has targeted the town of Balakliia in the Kharkiv region and officials said that forces destroyed an important Russian pontoon bridge in the Kherson region that Moscow used to resupply troops.
A Russian rocket is fired during military exercises outside Ussuriysk in Russia's Far East on Tuesday. The exercises, involving several Kremlin-friendly countries including China, was scheduled to conclude on Wednesday. Photo by Russian Ministry Defense/UPI
"Over the last 24 hours, heavy fighting has taken place on three fronts: in the north, near Kharkiv; in the east in the Donbas; and in the south in Kherson Oblast," Britain's defense ministry said in a tweet.
"Russia's planned main effort is probably an advance on Bakhmut in the Donbas, but commanders face a dilemma of whether to deploy operational reserves to support this offensive, or to defend against continued Ukrainian advances in the south."
Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Gaidai said Ukrainian forces are having some success with the counteroffensive.
The Institute for the Study of War said on Tuesday that Russian movements from Kharkiv to the south of Ukraine have created an opportunity for Ukrainian forces to be successful in fighting in the northeast.
Elsewhere in southern Ukraine, satellite photos show a destroyed Russian-held bridge near Darivka in the Kherson region across the Ingulets River, near a cluster of Russian military equipment and troops. The bridge was another key point for Moscow in the area.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed the West for much of the problems that have emerged from the war in Ukraine, such as global food insecurity and the disruption of supply chains.
"I am sure that we have not lost anything and we will not lose anything," Putin said on Tuesday according to BBC News.