August 14, 2022

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By ANDREW DRAKE, FRANCESCA EBEL, YURAS KARMANAU and MSTYSLAV CHERNOV

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian troops Friday seized the largest nuclear energy plant in Europe after a middle-of-the-night assault that set it on fireplace and briefly raised worldwide fears of a disaster in probably the most chilling flip but in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Firefighters put out the blaze, and no radiation was launched, U.N. and Ukrainian officers mentioned, as Russian forces pressed on with their week-old offensive on a number of fronts and the variety of refugees fleeing the nation eclipsed 1.2 million.

With world condemnation mounting, the Kremlin cracked down on the stream of knowledge at house, blocking Fb, Twitter, the BBC and the U.S. government-funded Voice of America. And President Vladimir Putin signed a regulation making it a criminal offense punishable by as much as 15 years in jail to unfold so-called faux information, together with something that goes towards the official authorities line on the struggle.

Whereas the huge Russian armored column threatening Kyiv remained stalled outdoors the capital, Putin’s army has launched a whole lot of missiles and artillery assaults on cities and different websites throughout the nation, and made important positive aspects on the bottom within the south in an obvious bid to chop off Ukraine’s entry to the ocean.

Within the assault on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant within the southeastern metropolis of Enerhodar, the chief of the U.N.’s Worldwide Atomic Power Company, Rafael Mariano Grossi, mentioned a Russian “projectile” hit a coaching heart, not any of the six reactors.

The assault triggered world alarm and concern of a disaster that might dwarf the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe, at Ukraine’s Chernobyl in 1986. In an emotional nighttime speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy mentioned he feared an explosion that might be “the top for everybody. The top for Europe. The evacuation of Europe.”

However nuclear officers from Sweden to China mentioned no radiation spikes had been reported, as did Grossi.

Authorities mentioned Russian troops had taken management of the general web site however plant workers continued to run it. Just one reactor was working, at 60% of capability, Grossi mentioned within the aftermath of the assault.

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Two individuals had been injured within the fireplace, Grossi mentioned. Ukraine’s state nuclear plant operator Enerhoatom mentioned three Ukrainian troopers had been killed and two wounded.

Within the U.S., Pentagon spokesman John Kirby mentioned the episode “underscores the recklessness with which the Russians have been perpetrating this unprovoked invasion.” At an emergency assembly of the U.N. Safety Council, Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, mentioned the fireplace broke out because of Russian shelling of the plant and accused Moscow of committing “an act of nuclear terrorism.”

With out producing proof, Russian Protection Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed {that a} Ukrainian “sabotage group” had set the fireplace at Zaporizhzhia.

The disaster unfolded after Grossi earlier within the week expressed grave concern that the preventing might trigger unintentional harm to Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors at 4 crops across the nation.

Atomic security consultants mentioned a struggle fought amid nuclear reactors represents an unprecedented and extremely harmful scenario.

“These crops at the moment are in a scenario that few individuals ever critically contemplated once they had been initially constructed,” mentioned Edwin Lyman of the Union of Involved Scientists in Washington. “No nuclear plant has been designed to resist a possible risk of a full-scale army assault.”

Dr. Alex Rosen of Worldwide Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear Warfare mentioned the incident was in all probability the results of army items overestimating the precision of their weapons, on condition that the prevailing winds would have carried any radioactive fallout straight towards Russia.

“Russia can’t have any curiosity in contaminating its personal territory,” he mentioned. He mentioned the hazard comes not simply from the reactors however from the danger of enemy fireplace hitting storage services that maintain spent gasoline rods.

Within the wake of the assault, Zelenskyy appealed once more to the West to implement a no-fly zone over his nation. However NATO Secretary-Common Jens Stoltenberg dominated out that chance, citing the danger of a a lot wider struggle in Europe. He mentioned that to implement a no-fly zone, NATO planes must shoot down Russian plane.

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“We perceive the desperation, however we additionally consider that if we did that, we’d find yourself with one thing that might finish in a full-fledged struggle in Europe,” Stoltenberg mentioned.

The plant fireplace was the second time because the invasion started that issues a couple of potential nuclear accident arose, after a battle on the closely contaminated web site of the now-decommissioned Chernobyl plant.

Russian forces, in the meantime, pressed their offensive within the southern a part of the nation. Severing Ukraine’s entry to the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov would deal a extreme blow to its economic system and will worsen an already dire humanitarian scenario.

A spherical of talks between Russia and Ukraine yielded a tentative settlement Thursday to arrange protected corridors to evacuate residents and ship meals and medication. However the mandatory particulars nonetheless needed to be labored out.

The U.N. human rights workplace mentioned 331 civilians had been confirmed killed within the invasion however the true quantity might be a lot larger.

In Romania, one newly arrived refugee, Anton Kostyuchyk, struggled to carry again tears as he recounted leaving the whole lot behind in Kyiv and sleeping in church buildings together with his spouse and three youngsters throughout their journey out.

“I’m leaving my house, my nation. I used to be born there, and I lived there,” he mentioned. “And what now?”

Showing on video in a message to antiwar protesters in a number of European cities, Zelenskyy continued to attraction for assist.

“If we fall, you’ll fall,” he mentioned. “And if we win, and I’m positive we’ll win, this would be the victory of the entire democratic world. This would be the victory of our freedom. This would be the victory of sunshine over darkness, of freedom over slavery.”

Inside Ukraine, frequent shelling might be heard within the heart of Kyiv, although extra distant than in current days, with loud thudding each 10 minutes resonating over the rooftops.

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Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich mentioned battles involving airstrikes and artillery continued northwest of Kyiv, and the northeastern cities of Kharkiv and Okhtyrka got here underneath heavy fireplace.

He mentioned Ukrainian forces had been nonetheless holding the northern metropolis of Chernihiv and had prevented Russian efforts to take the essential southern metropolis of Mykolaiv. Ukrainian artillery additionally defended Odesa from repeated makes an attempt by Russian ships to fireside on the Black Sea port, Arestovich mentioned. Odesa is Ukraine’s greatest port metropolis and residential to a big naval base.

The Ukrainian Navy scuttled its flagship on the shipyard the place it was present process repairs to maintain the frigate from being seized by the Russians, authorities mentioned.

One other strategic port, Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, was “partially underneath siege,” and Ukrainian forces had been pushing again efforts to encompass the town, Arestovich mentioned. The preventing has knocked out the town’s electrical energy, warmth and water techniques, in addition to most cellphone service, officers mentioned.

“The humanitarian scenario is tense,” he mentioned.

Amid the warfare, there have been occasional indicators of hope.

As explosions sounded on the fringes of Kyiv, Dmytro Shybalov and Anna Panasyk smiled and blushed on the civil registry workplace the place they married Friday. They fell in love in 2015 in Donetsk amid the preventing between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces that was a precursor to the countrywide struggle.

“It’s 2022 and the scenario hasn’t modified,” Shybalov mentioned. “It’s scary to suppose what’s going to occur when our youngsters shall be born.”

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Karmanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Chernov reported from Mariupol, Ukraine. Sergei Grits in Odesa, Ukraine; Jamey Keaten in Geneva; Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland; Frank Jordans in Berlin; Matt Sedensky in New York; Robert Burns in Washington; and different AP journalists from world wide contributed to this report.

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Observe the AP’s protection of the Ukraine disaster at