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Nuclear agency warns of renewed shelling at Ukrainian plant

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Powerful explosions shook Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region that is the site of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant Sunday morning, the global nuclear watchdog said in a statement, calling for “urgent measures to help prevent a nuclear accident” in the Russian-occupied facility.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said two explosions — one on Saturday evening and another on Sunday morning — near the Zaporizhzhia plant abruptly ended a period of relative calm around the nuclear facility that has been the site of fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces since the start of the war on Feb. 24.

Fears of a nuclear catastrophe have been at the forefront since Russian troops occupied the plant during the early days of the invasion of Ukraine. Continued fighting in the area has raised the specter of a disaster.

In what appeared to be renewed shelling both close to and at the site, IAEA experts at the Zaporizhzhia facility reported hearing more than a dozen blasts within a short period of time on Sunday morning, the statement said, adding that the IAEA team could see some explosions from their office windows.

Several buildings, systems and equipment at the power plant — none of them critical for the nuclear safety and security of the plant — were damaged in the shelling, the IAEA statement said, citing information provided by the plant’s management. There were no reports of casualties.

Grossi said reports of shelling were “extremely disturbing.” He added: “Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately.

“As I have said many times before, you’re playing with fire!” Grossi said, and appealed to both sides in the conflict to urgently agree and implement a nuclear safety and security zone around the nuclear facility.

Russia has been pounding Ukraine’s power grid and other key infrastructure from the air, causing widespread blackouts for millions of Ukrainians amid frigid winter weather with snow blanketing the capital, Kyiv, and other cities.

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Follow all AP stories about the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.

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