Russian shellfire hit the towns of Nikopol and Marhanets near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine on Saturday, Nikopol’s mayor said, fuelling more fears of a potential radiation leak. Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom said it was assessing damage to the grounds of the plant after a day of shelling by Moscow’s forces. Ukraine and Russia continue to trade blame for the attacks. Read about the day’s events as they unfolded on our liveblog. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
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11:58pm: EU foreign policy chief says a visa ban on Russians is unlikely
European Union foreign ministers meeting later this week are unlikely to unanimously back a visa ban on all Russians, as would be needed to put such a ban in place, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told Austria’s ORF TV on Sunday.
“I don’t think that to cut the relationship with the Russian civilian population will help and I don’t think that this idea will have the required unanimity,” Borrell, who chairs EU foreign ministers’ meetings, told the national broadcaster.
“I think that we have to review the way that some Russians get a visa, certainly the oligarchs not. We have to be more selective. But I am not in favour of stopping delivering visas to all Russians.”
5:13pm: Russia doesn’t acknowledge radiological risk at Ukraine nuclear power plant, US says
The United States said on Sunday that Russia did not want to acknowledge the grave radiological risk at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, adding that was the reason it blocked a nuclear non-proliferation treaty deal’s final draft.
“The Russian Federation alone decided to block consensus on a final document at the conclusion of the Tenth Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Russia did so in order to block language that merely acknowledged the grave radiological risk at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine,” the US State Department said in a statement.
The statement comes after Russia blocked an agreement on Friday on the final draft of a review of the UN treaty considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament over criticism of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
1:36pm: Russian forces hit Motor Sich plant in Zaporizhzhia region, says Russian defence ministry
Russian air forces hit workshops at a Motor Sich factory in the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine where helicopters were being repaired, Russian state news agency RIA quoted the defence ministry as saying.
The defence ministry also said Russian forces destroyed fuel storage facilities in Ukraine’s Dnipro region which supplied the Ukrainian army in the Donbas region, Interfax news agency reported.
11:50am: Shelling at Zaporizhzhia sparks fresh radiation fears
Iodine capsules are being handed out in a radius of 50 km around the plant to a population of about 400,000 people, and while people are being told not to panic, the move is unusual. Meanwhile, a team of 14 IAEA experts has been assembled and is awaiting access to inspect safety at the plant. FRANCE 24 senior reporter James Andre reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine, has more on the story.
9:23am: UK says it is unclear how Russia will recruit more soldiers
Britain’s defence ministry said on Sunday it was not yet clear how Russia would achieve an announced large increase in its armed forces, but the boost was unlikely to substantially increase its combat power in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree last week to increase the size of Russia’s armed forces to 2.04 million from 1.9 million as the war in Ukraine enters its seventh month.
The UK defence ministry said in a regular update on the war that it was not clear if this would be achieved by recruiting more volunteers or by increasing conscription.
Either way it would likely not have a big impact on the war in Ukraine, given that “Russia has lost tens of thousands of troops; very few new contract servicemen are being recruited; and conscripts are technically not obliged to serve outside of Russian territory,” the ministry said on Twitter
7:50am: Energoatom says it is assessing damage from new round of shelling at Zaporizhzhia
Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom blamed Russia on Saturday for shelling at the grounds of the complex. “The damage is currently being ascertained,” Energoatom wrote in a statement on Telegram.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, said on Thursday that his agency was “very, very close” to being able to send officials to inspect the plant.
Energoatom’s statement on Saturday said its staff at the plant had come under “increased pressure” ahead of the likely visit from the IAEA “to hush up their testimonies about the crimes of the occupiers at the station and using it as a military base”.
6:49am: Fresh shelling at Zaporizhzhia plant and in surrounding area heightens risk of radiation leak
Shellfire at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine fuelled fears of disaster as both sides blamed the other, while Russian forces targeted towns on the far side of the river from Europe’s largest atomic plant.
The governor of Zaporizhzhia region, Oleksandr Starukh, told Ukrainian television that people in the city of Zaporizhzhia, a two hours’ drive from the plant, were being informed how to apply iodine in case of a radiation leak.
On the opposite shore from the Zaporizhzhia plant, the towns of Nikopol and Marhanets were hit by shells on Saturday afternoon and evening, Nikopol Mayor Yevhen Yevtushenko said on Telegram.
Moscow’s defence ministry on Saturday accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the plant complex three times in 24 hours. It said in a statement 17 shells were fired, with four hitting the roof of a building storing “168 assemblies of U.S. Westinghouse nuclear fuel”.
It said 10 shells exploded near a dry storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and three near a building that houses fresh nuclear fuel storage. It said the radiation situation at the plant remained normal.
Neither the Russian nor Ukrainian reports could be independently verified.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)