Europe’s largest nuclear power plant was cut off from Ukraine’s power grid on Monday after its last transmission line was disconnected following a fire caused by Russian bombing, the facility’s operator said.
Russian forces have continued to shell the area around Zaporizhzhia intensively in recent days, Energoatom said in a statement.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations watchdog, said last Saturday that the plant had lost its last main line to the grid, but continued to send electricity to the grid through a line of Reserve.
Officials from the IAEA, which still has two experts on the plant, and Energoatom were not immediately available to explain the consequences of the line cut.
The developments came a day before UN inspectors reported on their efforts to avert a potential disaster at the Ukrainian site that has been engulfed by Russia’s war.
Earlier on Monday, the Russian military had accused Ukrainian forces of staging provocations at the factory, which is in an administrative zone set up by Russia.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that Kyiv forces targeted the territory of the factory on Sunday with a drone, which it said Russian troops were able to shoot down.
The ministry said Ukrainian troops also shelled the nearby town of Enerhodar twice overnight.
The two sides traded accusations of endangering the plant, which Kremlin forces have held since early March. The plant’s Ukrainian staff continue to operate it.
In a perilous mission, experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency crossed the war zone to reach the plant last week.
Four of the six UN nuclear agency inspectors have completed their work and left the site, Energoatom, the Ukrainian operator of the nuclear power plant, announced on Monday. Two of the experts are expected to stay at the plant permanently, Energoatom said.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak applauded the IAEA’s decision to leave a few experts at the plant.
There are now Russian troops who don’t understand what’s going on, don’t properly assess the risks, Podolyak said.
There are a number of our workers there, who need some kind of protection, people from the international community who stand with them and say (to the Russian troops): don’t touch these people, leave -work them,” he added.
UN inspectors are due to brief the Security Council on Tuesday on what they found during their visit. The plant is largely paralyzed, amid a bitter war that has rocked energy markets.
Meanwhile, a senior Kremlin official has blamed Western sanctions on Russia for its war in Ukraine for cuts in Moscow’s supply of natural gas to Europe, it claimed on Monday.
In some of the most blunt comments to date on the standoff between Moscow and Western Europe over energy supplies, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said problems pumping the gas had arisen because of the penalties.
Other reasons that would cause pumping problems do not exist, asserted Peskov.
Sanctions on Moscow and Russian companies have created equipment maintenance problems, he said, although that claim has been refuted by Western governments and engineers.
Russian energy company Gazprom announced on Friday that a suspension of gas supplies to the west via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline would be extended indefinitely as oil leaks in the turbines need to be repaired.
The move sent natural gas prices skyrocketing in Europe and rocked global stock markets.
High energy prices and possible shortages this winter in Western Europe have raised alarm bells among governments, especially those in the European Union.
Peskov firmly blamed the disruption on the gate of sanctions, which he says prevented the machines from working properly, even though experts say that is not true.
German officials dismissed those explanations, saying it was just a political power play. German Siemens Energy, which made the turbines used by the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, said leaking turbines can be repaired while gas continues to flow through the pipeline.
Elsewhere, fighting raged for a seventh month, with Ukraine’s presidential office saying on Monday that at least four civilians had been killed and seven others injured by renewed Russian shelling in several parts of Ukraine.
Most of the victims were in the eastern region of Donetsk, where three people were killed and four injured. Much of Donetsk is held by Russian-allied separatists.
Meanwhile, a counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces is making demonstrable progress in the south and east of the country, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of Warfare said.
The tempo of the counteroffensive will likely change drastically from day to day as Ukrainian forces work to starve the Russians of needed supplies, disrupt their command and control, and weaken their morale even as ground assaults counter-offensive continues, the institute said on Sunday evening.
In the eastern city of Sloviansk, Ukrainian Red Cross personnel on Monday picked up debris from a second rocket attack on its premises in a week.
No one was injured in the two attacks, said Taras Logginov, head of the agency’s rapid response unit. He blamed Russian forces and charged them with war crimes for the attacks.
In a row of apartment buildings across the road, the few residents who did not evacuate sawn off sheets of plywood to seal their shattered windows.
Henadii Sydorenko sat down on the porch of his building for a break. He says he doesn’t know whether to stay or go, torn between his responsibility to look after three apartments whose owners have already evacuated and growing fear from the now frequent bombings of Sloviansk.
It’s scary, the 57-year-old said of the shelling. I’m losing my mind, little by little.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Kyiv forces had liberated three settlements, two in the south and one in the east, in the Donetsk region. He did not provide the names of the settlements in his comments Sunday evening.
Amid increased Ukrainian strikes on the occupied Kherson region, Russian-installed authorities have said that for security reasons they are suspending plans for a local referendum on the region’s formal integration into Russia.
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