Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of shelling huge nuclear plant

  • In World
  • 2022-08-08 12:49:04Z
  • By CBS News

Odesa, Ukraine - There was growing concern on Monday that the ongoing war in Ukraine could lead to serious damage at Europe's largest nuclear power plant. As CBS News senior foreign correspondent Charlie D'Agata reports, Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of shelling the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station - a sprawling facility on Russian occupied ground that continues to function as the war rages around it.

Russian emergency services released images of damage around the plant after both sides traded fresh accusations of shelling the compound.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned the renewed shelling as "Russian nuclear terror," as the United Nations-backed global nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, expressed grave concern about the safety of plant and called for a team of its inspectors to be allowed immediate access.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday morning that any that "any attack to a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing."

Ukraine's nuclear power operator Energoatom said Russian shelling damaged three radiation monitors around a storage facility containing spent fuel rods at the Zaporizhzhia facility and left one worker injured. Russian news agencies quoted the Moscow-backed rebels who control the territory as saying Ukrainian forces had fired the shells.

Russian or Russian-backed forces have controlled the nuclear plant for most of the last year, and Energoatom said the troops based at the facility took shelter in bunkers before the shells struck on Saturday.

Shelling around Zaporizhzhia was just one example of Russia's ongoing aerial assault amid fierce battles between Ukraine's military and Moscow's invading forces. As D'Agata reports, dozens of towns along the front lines in southeast Ukraine were hit over the weekend.

A Russian serviceman stands guard outside the second reactor of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar, Ukraine, in a May 1, 2022 file photo.
A Russian serviceman stands guard outside the second reactor of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar, Ukraine, in a May 1, 2022 file photo.  

Russian missiles and artillery hammered the city of Mykolaiv, southwest of the nuclear plant and just north of Ukraine's major Black Sea ports. Despite the fighting, more ships carrying vital food supplies have managed to leave those ports, including from the city of Odesa.

As of Monday about 10 more ships had been cleared to sail, but as D'Agata reports, there's a backlog of around 20 million tons of grain waiting to ship out under the protection of a deal struck last month between Russia and Ukraine.

While the slow, but so-far-steady stream of ships chips away at that backlog to get the food out to the world, Ukraine's farmers in front-line towns and villages are putting their lives on the line to harvest this year's crops.

D'Agata says that while the tug-of-war over the country's grain may have shifted in Ukraine's favor right now with the agreement on exports, in addition to the overflowing silos at the ports, millions more tons of wheat, corn and other food staples are still piling up on farms in the region. Third generation farmer Yurri Yalovchuk told CBS News that if the grain deal collapses, so too will his farm just north of Odesa. "We do not have much trust in Russians," he told D'Agata. "They can strike the grain ships with a missile at any moment."

He said he was banking on shipping out this year's harvest first, before clearing last year's backlogged crops, as his grain is worth more while it's still fresh, and he's got nowhere to store it anyway.

Yalovchuk's harvest from last year - along with that of hundreds of other Ukrainian farmers - is likely among the millions of tons of grain still stuck in warehouses across the country.

But even as the farmers work to pull in this year's crops, Russia's forces are attacking their fields, farms and storage facilities across the south and east. D'Agata says some have even started working their land in flak jackets.

Whole fields of crops have been torched as the two sides exchange fire, with families' livelihoods wiped out and some of the world's hungriest people being starved of vital food supplies in the process.

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