Ukrainian Atomic Energy Agency accused Russia to use Europe’s largest nuclear power plant to stockpile weapons and bomb the surrounding areas of Nikopol and Dnipro which were hit on Saturday.
Petro Kotin, chairman of Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom, described the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as “extremely tense” with up to 500 Russian soldiers controlling the plant.
The factory in southeastern Ukraine has been under Russian control since the first weeks of the invasion of Moscow, although it is still operated by Ukrainian personnel.
“The occupiers are bringing their devices there, including missile systems, from which they are already bombarding the other bank of the Dnipro River and the Nikopol Territory,” he said in an interview with Ukrainian television broadcast on Friday. .
On Saturday, Russian missiles hit residential buildings in the town of Nikopol, killing two people, Dnipro regional governor Valentin Reznichenko said.
In the northeastern region around Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv, Governor Oleg Synyehubov said a Russian missile attack overnight killed three people in the town of Chuhuiv.
In the central Ukrainian town of Vinnytsia, officials said the death toll rose to 24 following Russian strikes after a woman died of her injuries in hospital on Saturday . Ukraine says three children are among the dead.
“Sixty-eight people continue their treatment, including four children. Four people are still missing,” said Vinnytsia district chief Sergiy Borzov.
Outpouring for a four-year-old child
President Volodymyr Zelensky accused the Russians of wanting to “cause maximum damage to Ukrainian cities”.
“I urge you, once again: please don’t ignore the air raid signals now,” he said in his daily address on Friday.
Russia claimed that the strikes in Vinnytsia – hundreds of miles from the frontline fighting – had killed Ukrainian military officials and foreign arms suppliers.
But Ukraine said among the dead was four-year-old Liza Dmitrieva, who has Down syndrome and whose death sparked an outpouring after footage of her last moments alive went viral on social media.
Officials initially believed Liza’s mother was also killed, but have since confirmed she was in “critical” condition following the operation.
The missile strikes on Vinnytsia were the latest attacks to take a heavy civilian toll and came less than a week after strikes on Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region left nearly 50 people dead.
“I have no words to describe the horror I experienced today,” Anastasia said after rockets fell near her home in Kramatorsk, a major city and administrative center of Donbass, Friday.
“It’s good that he fell outside and didn’t fly into the house. It was lucky.”
‘Clearing’ the city of Donbass
Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24 and the conflict has killed thousands, destroyed cities and forced millions to flee their homes.
The heaviest fighting has recently centered on the industrial Donbass region to the east, where trench battles and artillery duels are turning into a war of attrition.
Britain said on Friday the Kremlin “must take full responsibility” for the death of a British captive in eastern Ukraine.
“I am shocked to learn of the death of British aid worker Paul Urey while in the custody of a Russian proxy in Ukraine,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said.
Moscow-backed separatists said on Friday they were closing in on their next target, Siversk, after wresting control of sister cities Lysychansk and Sieverodonetsk about 30 kilometers to the east.
Donetsk separatist official Daniil Versonov said rebel fighters were “clearing” the eastern neighborhoods of Siversk in small groups.
Ukraine has repeatedly urged its allies to provide it with advanced long-range precision artillery systems that would allow it to target Russian forces deeper inside Ukrainian-held territory.
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Friday that Ukraine had taken delivery of its first batch of advanced M270 rocket systems, adding to a growing arsenal of Western-supplied artillery. According to Kyiv, the dynamics are changing on the battlefield.