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Russia Has Rocket Launcher at Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, Utility Says

A Ukrainian serviceman patrols near the Antonovsky bridge, which was destroyed by Russian forces after withdrawing from Kherson, Ukraine, Dec. 8, 2022.

Russia has placed several Grad rocket launchers at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear power utility.

The weapons were placed “near power unit No. 6, right next to the territory of the station's dry storage of spent nuclear fuel, where they had previously built some ‘protective structures’ in a secret regime, violating all the conditions for the organization of nuclear and radiation safety,” the company said.

Energoatom said the “most likely” scenario Russia is preparing for with the launchers at the power plant is “the shelling of the opposite bank of the Dnieper, in particular the Nikopol and Marganets ... using the ‘cover’ of power units and spent nuclear fuel storage.”

Energoatom said Russia has use Zaporizhzhia for “military purposes” since the “very beginning” of its invasion of Ukraine.

“And once again,” Energoatom said, “we call for the creation of a security zone inside and around the station for its complete demilitarization and deoccupation.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday in his daily address that he has signed decrees for honors that will be awarded posthumously to four police officers who lost their lives Wednesday to Russia mines in the Kherson region.

“Already returning after completing one of the tasks, when they removed weapons and ammunition from the cache of the occupiers, many of which were left in the Kherson region, the policemen stumbled upon a mine trap,” the president said. “And this is the form of Russian terror that will have to be countered for years to come.”

Russian and Ukrainian forces traded attacks in the critical eastern and southern regions of Ukraine on Thursday as the two countries fought over territory that Moscow has tried to annex in its 10-month war.

Fighting raged along the entire line of demarcation in the Donetsk region, with a Ukrainian official saying the front-line town of Avdiivka was shelled by Russian tanks Thursday morning.

Ukraine's governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said that Russia deployed more troops near the city of Lysychansk to try to capture the village of Bilohorivka and described an intensifying Russian air offensive.

"They are bringing in more and more reserves" around Bilohorivka, Haidai told Ukrainian television. "There are constant attacks."

In the settlement of Bakhmut and other parts of the Donetsk region that neighbors Luhansk, an assault killed nine civilians, a Ukrainian official said. Ukrainian forces countered with barrages from rocket launchers.

In the Russian-controlled Ukrainian city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia region, a supply route into Crimea, Russian-installed authorities summoned men of fighting age to mobilize, Ukraine's military general staff said in a statement.

Russia has launched dozens of attacks from multiple rocket launchers since Wednesday, the Ukrainian general staff said, along with 16 airstrikes and seven missile attacks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has given conflicting statements on the goals of the war since his Feb. 24 invasion, but it is now clear that his aims include some expansion of Russia’s borders.

Putin said Wednesday that the war will be a “long process” but asserted that Russia had already become geographically bigger by annexing Ukrainian territory, a reference to internationally disputed claims he made in September that four Ukrainian provinces are now part of Russia.

“This is a significant result,” Putin said, although Russia does not control all of the Ukrainian land it claims. He described the Sea of Azov as its "internal sea," now bounded by Russia and Russian-controlled territory in southern Ukraine, including Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized in 2014.

Zelenskyy says his troops will eventually drive Russia from all the captured territory, including Crimea.

Some material in this report came from Reuters.