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Ukraine denies Russian claim it struck Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

FILE - The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe's largest, is seen in Russian-occupied Enerhodar, Ukraine, June 27, 2023. The plant has been under Russian military control since 2022.
FILE - The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe's largest, is seen in Russian-occupied Enerhodar, Ukraine, June 27, 2023. The plant has been under Russian military control since 2022.

Kyiv dismissed Russian claims that Ukraine was behind the drone attacks Sunday on the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear station, that injured three people, one of them seriously.

"Ukraine is not involved in any kind of armed provocations on the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant illegally occupied by Russia," Andriy Yusov, spokesperson for Ukraine's Main Directorate of Intelligence, told Ukrainian reporters.

"Russian strikes, including imitation ones, on the territory of the Ukrainian nuclear power plant ... have long been a well-known criminal practice of the invaders," he said on the messaging app Telegram.

Earlier Sunday, Russia accused Ukraine of striking various sites of the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear station, including the dome of an inactive reactor Sunday injuring the three staff members. Zaporizhzhia is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

Russian state-owned nuclear agency Rosatom called the series of attacks on the plant "unprecedented."

Plant officials informed the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, of the attack, U.N. nuclear watchdog officials said on X, formerly Twitter. The plant came under Russian control shortly after the beginning of the war in Ukraine in 2022.

"IAEA experts have been informed by ZNPP that a drone detonated on site today. Such detonation is consistent with IAEA observations," the agency posted on X.

Nuclear safety was not compromised, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on the social media platform X, but IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi warned both sides that striking the plant could eventually "jeopardize nuclear safety."

The facility is near combat zones, and both Ukraine and Russia have often blamed each other for attacking the plant, risking a possible nuclear disaster.

The Reuters news agency could not verify battlefield reports from either side.

Meanwhile, three people were killed Sunday in Russian shelling on the front-line village of Huliaipole, in Ukraine's southeastern Zaporizhzhia region.

“Two men and a woman died under the rubble of their own house, in Russian shelling," the region’s local governor, Ivan Fedorov, said on Telegram.

One more person was injured, he said.

Reuters could not independently verify that report either.

In his nightly video address, Sunday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called once again for more air defense systems such Patriot missiles, surface-to-air missiles that can intercept air attacks.

Zelenskyy said, the recent spate of Russian airstrikes on cities such as Kharkiv, Kupyansk, as well as cities in Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Sumy regions and elsewhere, highlights Ukraine's need for more air defense systems.

“The only thing needed is the political will to transfer these systems to Ukraine. I am grateful to those countries that have already helped,” he said.

Peace summit

Zelenskyy expressed hopes Sunday, that he and Swiss President Viola Amherd will schedule, within the next few days, a date for a world peace summit on the war in Ukraine, that will take place in Switzerland.

"We expect to have 80 to 100 countries." He added, "This is the number of countries, I believe, that will be able to at least try to force Russia to a fair peace."

Russia has pointed out that such a summit would be fruitless if it is not invited to be at the negotiating table.

Russia says that any peace in Ukraine would have to acknowledge Moscow’s control of about one-fifth of Ukraine and include a broader agreement on European security.

Ukraine says it will not rest until every Russian soldier withdraws from its territory.

Fighting around Chasiv Yar

A spokesperson for a Ukrainian artillery brigade Sunday described the fighting around eastern Ukraine’s front-line city of Chasiv Yar as “difficult end tense,” but added that the Russian troops were now "in retreat.”

The Russian army was "using infantry backed by armored fighting vehicles," and "warplanes," Oleg Kalashnikov said during an interview on Ukrainian television.

"But all their attacks have been repelled. They are in retreat," he added.

Kalashnikov, a spokesperson for an army brigade deployed in the area, stressed Sunday the strategic importance of Chasiv Yar. If Russian forces take the devastated town of Chasiv Yar, where 770 people remain out of a pre-invasion population of 13,000, they will be able to advance to other towns other Ukrainian towns in the Donetsk region, he said.

Chasiv Yar sits on a hill west of the ruined Russian-occupied city of Bakhmut.

Some information for this report came from Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.

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