By HANNA ARHIROVA – Associated Press
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Europe’s largest nuclear power plant relied on emergency diesel generators to run its safety systems on Thursday after external power to Ukraine’s power grid was cut off again, reports Ukrainian and UN officials reported.
Fighting in Ukraine has repeatedly damaged power lines and power substations that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant needs to run its safety systems, forcing workers to rely on backup generators to cool its six reactors until normal power is restored. All six reactors have been shut down. The generators have enough fuel to sustain the plant in southeastern Ukraine for just 15 days, nuclear power company Energoatom said.
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“The countdown has begun,” Energoatom said, noting that it had limited possibilities to “keep the ZNPP in safe mode.”
The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed the switch to emergency diesel generators and said it underscores “the extremely precarious nuclear safety and security situation”.
Rafael Grossi, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, said relying on diesel generators “is clearly not a sustainable way to operate a major nuclear facility” and again called for an area protection is established around the plant.
Russia and Ukraine swapped responsibility during the war for the bombings on and around the plant. Energoatom said on Thursday that Russian bombing destroyed the last two high-voltage transmission lines supplying the Zaporizhzhia power plant. Russia gave a different account, blaming Ukraine.
Russian news agency Tass quoted an official from Russian nuclear operator Rosenergoatom as saying Ukraine cut both power lines and denied that Russian bombing of the power lines caused the problems. He said the move deprived the town of Energodar, where the plant workers live, of heat.
Russian forces have occupied the factory since the start of the war. It is located in the Zaporizhzhia region, one of the four regions that Russia illegally annexed. Although Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree transferring the nuclear power plant to Russian ownership, Ukrainian workers continue to run the plant.
Energoatom said Russian officials were trying to connect the power plant to the Russian power grid so it could supply electricity to Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and Ukraine’s Donbass region, another area annexed by Putin.
The human toll from previous battles became evident again on Thursday, when Ukrainian officials said 868 civilian bodies, including 24 children, had been found in liberated areas of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Kherson regions. National Police chief Oleksii Serhieiev also told reporters that 34 torture sites had been discovered after Russian troops withdrew from those areas, as well as Kyiv, Sumy and Chernihiv regions.
Elsewhere on the frontline, Russia has used drones, missiles and heavy artillery to strike Ukrainian towns, killing six civilians and injuring 16, according to the president’s office. Russian attacks on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih have left several neighborhoods without electricity and water.
Further east, in the Donetsk region, fighting continued for the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka, where authorities said the population was under constant shelling and lived without electricity or heating. Six towns and villages in the region have been attacked over the past day, while in the northeast three Russian missiles hit Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.
Across the Dnieper from the Zaporizhzhia power plant, the town of Nikopol was also shelled again, damaging residential buildings, a gas station and several businesses, Zelenskyy’s office said Thursday.
In a rare hint of a possible retreat that the Ukrainians have treated with skepticism, a Moscow-appointed official in the occupied southern region of Kherson said Russian troops are “very likely” to cross the Dnieper away from the city of Kherson. Kirill Stremousov also told Russian state television that all Ukrainian attacks had been repelled.
Tens of thousands of civilians were evacuated from the city of Kherson in the face of a Ukrainian counter-offensive. Russian authorities removed their country’s flag from the administrative building in Kherson on Thursday, a week after the departure of the regional government.
Southern Ukraine’s military spokeswoman Natalia Humeniuk said removing the flag could be a provocation “and we shouldn’t rush to rejoice”. She also told Ukrainian television that some Russian servicemen dress up as civilians.
Neither party’s claims could be independently verified.
On the humanitarian front, seven ships carrying 290,000 tons of agricultural products left Ukrainian seaports for Asia and Europe, a day after Russia resumed its participation in a program allowing the export of Ukrainian grain. Putin said Moscow had received assurances that Ukraine would not use humanitarian corridors to attack Russian forces.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko denied that Kyiv had made any new commitments or used the grain corridor for military purposes.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned Russia’s move did not mean the grain deal would be extended after it expires on Nov. 19.
Russia suspended its participation in the deal last weekend, citing an alleged Ukrainian drone attack on its Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. Ukraine said the Russians mismanaged their own weapons.
In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned British Ambassador Deborah Bronnert to protest what he claimed was the assistance of British instructors during the October 29 drone attack on the Black Sea Fleet. in Sevastopol, Crimea. Bronnert did not comment after the meeting.
Under the grain deal, Russia was allowed to resume fertilizer and grain exports, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday he had not seen any progress in this regard.
Since the agreement was concluded in July, 430 ships have exported 10 million tons of Ukrainian agricultural products to Africa, Asia and Europe. Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said export volumes in October “could have been 30-40% higher if Russia hadn’t artificially blocked inspections.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres hailed the 10 million tonne milestone and called on all parties to renew the grain deal.
“I’m not optimistic, I’m not pessimistic. I am determined,” Guterres told reporters in New York, adding that it is important to remove barriers to Russian food and fertilizer exports.
The two sides announced another prisoner exchange on Thursday, involving a total of 214 military personnel.
Elsewhere, a Ukrainian military official said Russia was using Belarusian territory to launch drone strikes. Oleksii Hromov said Iranian drones were flying into Ukraine from a military base in the Belarusian town of Luninets, 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of the border.
The UN nuclear agency, meanwhile, said on Thursday that its inspections had found no evidence to support Russia’s baseless claims that Ukraine planned to set off radioactive “dirty bombs” after having examined three sites in Ukraine. Western nations called Moscow’s claims “transparently false.”
Zelenskky, in his late night address, said the inspectors had shown that “we have clear and irrefutable evidence that no one in Ukraine has created or is creating ‘dirty bombs’. And the only thing that is dirty in our region now are the leaders of those in Moscow.
Edith M. Lederer contributed from the United Nations and Frank Jordans reported from Berlin.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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