KYIV, Ukraine (TBEN) — A Russian missile struck Monday near a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, not damaging three reactors but hitting other industrial equipment in what Ukrainian authorities denounced as an act of ‘nuclear terrorism’.
The strike follows warnings from Russian President Vladimir Putin of possible intensified attacks on key Ukrainian infrastructure after his troops suffered humiliating setbacks on the battlefield.
The missile struck just 300 meters (yards) from the Pivdennoukrainsk Nuclear Power Plant, also known as the Southern Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, according to Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom.
Black and white CCTV footage released by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry showed two large fireballs erupting one after the other in the dark. followed by glowing showers of sparks. A timestamp on the video read 19 minutes past midnight.
The ministry and Energoatom both called the attack “nuclear terrorism.” The Russian Defense Ministry had no immediate comment.
The nuclear power plant is the second largest in Ukraine, after the Zaporizhzhya plant, which has come under repeated fire. Their reactors are of the same design.
The factory in Zaporizhia, the largest in Europe, has been occupied by Russian troops since the early days of the nearly seven-month invasion of Moscow. Repeated shelling cut the transmission lines, forcing operators to shut down the six reactors to avoid a radiation disaster. Russia and Ukraine have taken the blame for the shelling. The International Atomic Energy Agency said the main transmission line was reconnected on Friday.
In issuing his warning Friday of possible escalating attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure, Putin claimed that his forces have so far acted with restraint against Ukrainian attempts to hit Russian facilities.
“If the situation develops in this way, our response will be more serious,” Putin said.
“Recently, the Russian armed forces have carried out a number of high-impact attacks,” he said, referring to last week’s Russian attacks. “Let’s think of those as warning strikes.”
In addition to infrastructure, Russian troops continue to pound other sites. The latest shelling killed at least eight civilians and injured 22 others, Ukraine’s presidential office said Monday.
At night, Russian forces struck Nikopol and Marhanets across the Dniper River from the factory in Zaporizhzhia, damaging dozens of buildings and cutting power to some parts of the cities, the presidential office said.
Russian attacks also hit Kramatorsk and Toretsk in the eastern region of Donetsk, it said. In the village of Strilecha in the northeastern region of Kharkiv, four medical workers were killed while trying to evacuate patients from a psychiatric hospital, and two patients injured, Kharkiv Governor Oleh Syniehubov said.
Energoatom said the explosive force of Monday’s rocket attack broke more than 100 windows in the industrial complex that includes the Pivdennoukrainsk plant. The strike also caused the temporary closure of a nearby hydroelectric plant, it said. Ukraine’s presidential office said the attack also severed three power lines.
The plant is located along the Southern Bug River in the southern region of Mykolaiv, about 300 kilometers (190 miles) south of the capital Kiev.
The United Nations nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, which has observers at its Zaporizhzhya plant, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the attack.
Other recent Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure have targeted power plants in the north and a dam in the south. They came in the wake of a sweeping Ukrainian counter-attack in the east of the country that has ravaged Russian forces, reclaimed much of previously occupied territory in the Kharkiv region, and what had largely become a stalemate in the war.
The Russian withdrawal marked Moscow’s worst defeat since it withdrew its troops from the Kiev area after failing to take the capital in the opening stages of the invasion.
The setback has sparked renewed debate among Russian nationalist critics of the Kremlin who question why Moscow failed to plunge Ukraine into darkness at the start of the invasion by hitting all of its major nuclear plants.