Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) over the past 24 hours, as concern grows over the safety of Europe’s largest nuclear power station.
The site, in southern Ukraine, was captured by Russian troops soon after their invasion began in February.
On Saturday the Russian Ministry of Defense said four Ukrainian shells hit a building housing nuclear fuel.
Speaking to Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov, a ministry spokesman, said Ukraine had fired on the Zaporizhzhia NPP three times in the last day.
He said: “A total of 17 shells were fired, four of which hit the roof of special building No. 1, where 168 assemblies with American nuclear fuel from Westinghouse are stored.
“Another 10 shells exploded 30 meters from the dry storage of spent nuclear fuel, three exploded in the area of the special building No. 2, which houses a storage unit for fresh nuclear fuel from the [Russian nuclear fuel] TVEL company and a storage facility for solid radioactive waste.”
Konashenkov claimed Russian forces returned fire, destroying “an American M777 howitzer” in Ukrainian service.
No evidence was provided to substantiate any of these claims, which Newsweek has not been able to independently verify.
Separately Energoatom, the Ukrainian state run company which manages Zaporizhzhia NPP, said the site had been struck by Russian shelling.
The company said: “Over the past day, the Russian military has repeatedly shelled the ZNPP site, the damage is currently being investigated.
“The Ukrainian staff of the ZNPP continues to work and make every effort to ensure nuclear and radiation safety, as well as eliminate the consequences of damage.
“Ukraine calls on the world community to take immediate measures to force Russia to liberate the ZNPP and transfer the power plant to the control of our country for the sake of the security of the whole world.”
Earlier this week Energoatom said the ZNPP was completely cut-off from the main power grid, and forced to rely on generators to keep the site running.
There are fears a total loss of power could lead to a nuclear meltdown similar to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
On Thursday UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned: “Any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide.”
Geng Shuang, China’s UN ambassador, said an incident at the site could result in a “serious nuclear accident with irreversible consequences for the ecosystem and public health” for Ukraine and neighboring countries.
Newsweek has contacted the defense ministries of Russia and Ukraine for comment.