A Russian missile struck close to a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine without damaging the three reactors but hit other industrial equipment yesterday in what Ukrainian authorities denounced as an act of “nuclear terrorism.”
The strike followed warnings from Russian President Vladimir Putin of possible stepped-up attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure after his forces suffered humiliating battlefield setbacks. It also renewed fears of a possible radioactive disaster in the nearly 7-month-long war.
The missile struck within 300 meters of reactors at the Pivdennoukrainsk plant, also known as the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, blasting a crater 2 meters deep and 4 meters across, according to Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom.
Black-and-white CCTV footage released by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense showed two large fireballs erupting one after the other in the dark, followed by incandescent showers of sparks. A time stamp on the video read 19 minutes after midnight.
The ministry and Energoatom both called the strike “nuclear terrorism.” The Russian Defense Ministry had no immediate comment. The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The industrial complex that includes the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear plant sits along the Southern Bug River about 300 kilometers south of the capital, Kyiv. The attack caused the temporary shutdown of a nearby hydropower plant and shattered more than 100 windows at the complex, Energoatom said.
Ukraine’s presidential office said the attack also severed three power transmission lines.
The nuclear plant is Ukraine’s second-largest after the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which is Europe’s largest and has repeatedly come under fire. The two plants have reactors of the same design. KARL RITTER & JON GAMBRELL, KYIV, MDT/AP