Ukraine Says Russian Missile Struck Close to Nuclear Plant

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
September 19, 2022 Updated: September 19, 2022

KYIV, Ukraine—A Russian missile blasted a crater close to a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on Monday, damaging nearby industrial equipment but not hitting its three reactors, Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom said.

The missile struck within 300 meters (328 yards) of the reactors at the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant near the city of Yuzhnoukrainsk in Mykolaiv province, leaving a hole 2 meters (6 1/2 feet) deep and 4 meters (13 feet) wide, according to Energoatom.

The reactors were operating normally and no employees were injured, it said. But the proximity of the strike renewed fears that Russia’s nearly 7-month-long war in Ukraine might produce a radiation disaster.

This nuclear power station is Ukraine’s second-largest after the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which has repeatedly come under fire.

Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened last week to step up Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure.

The industrial complex that includes the South Ukraine plant sits along the Southern Bug River about 300 kilometers (190 miles) south of the capital, Kyiv. The attack also caused the temporary shutdown of a nearby hydroelectric power plant, shattered more than 100 windows at the complex, and severed three power lines, Ukrainian authorities said.

Russia Ukraine War
The Pivdennoukrainsk Nuclear Power Plant, also known as the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, in the southern Mykolaiv region of Ukraine, on May 31, 2022, in a satellite image. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry released a black-and-white video showing two large fireballs erupting one after the other in the dark, followed by incandescent showers of sparks, at 19 minutes after midnight. The ministry and Energoatom called the strike “nuclear terrorism.”

The Russian Defense Ministry and the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), did not immediately comment on the attack.

Russian forces have occupied the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, since early after the invasion. Shelling has cut off the plant’s transmission lines, forcing operators to shut down its six reactors to avoid a radiation disaster. Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for the strikes.

The IAEA, which has stationed monitors at the Zaporizhzhia plant, said a main transmission line was reconnected Friday, providing the electricity it needs to cool its reactors.

But the mayor of Enerhodar, where the Zaporizhzhia plant is located, reported more Russian shelling Monday in the city’s industrial zone.

While warning Friday of a possible ramp-up of strikes, Putin claimed his forces had so far acted with restraint but warned “if the situation develops this way, our response will be more serious.”

“Just recently, the Russian armed forces have delivered a couple of impactful strikes,” he said. ”Let’s consider those as warning strikes.”

The latest Russian shelling killed at least eight civilians and wounded 22 others, Ukraine’s presidential office said Monday. The governor of the northeastern Kharkiv region, which is now largely back in Ukrainian hands, said Russian shelling killed four medical workers trying to evacuate patients from a psychiatric hospital and wounded two patients.

The mayor of the Russian-occupied eastern city of Donetsk, meanwhile, said shelling by Ukrainian forces had killed 13 civilians and wounded eight there.

In other developments:

—A governor said Ukraine had recaptured the village of Bilogorivka in the Russian-occupied eastern region of Luhansk. Russia didn’t acknowledge the claim.

—The Russian-installed leaders of Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk and Kherson regions reiterated calls Monday for referendums to be held to tie their areas formally to Russia. These officials have discussed such plans before but the referendums have been repeatedly delayed.

—The Supreme Court in the Russian-occupied region of Luhansk convicted a former interpreter for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and another person whose duties were not specified of high treason Monday. Both were sentenced to 13 years in prison.

—The Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia ,and Lithuania closed their borders Monday to most Russian citizens in response to domestic support in Russia for the war in Ukraine. Poland will join the ban on Sept. 26.