Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on world leaders to put more pressure on Russia to remove its troops from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant — as it resumed operations early Friday after the unprecedented shutdown the day before.
Ukraine’s state nuclear company, Energoatom, said one of the plant’s two functioning reactors had been reconnected to the grid by 2 p.m. local time and was again supplying electricity after it fully disconnected.
Energoatom hailed staff at the plant as “real heroes” who “tirelessly and firmly hold the nuclear and radiation safety of Ukraine and the whole of Europe on their shoulders and work selflessly so that their native country has life-giving electricity.”
Back-up diesel generators ensured power supply vital for cooling and safety systems at the plant, Zelensky said.
The president credited the Ukrainian technicians for working to ensure the facility’s safety under the gaze of the Russian occupiers.
Zelensky said Russian shelling had sparked fires in the ash pits of a nearby coal power station that cut off the Zaporozhzhia plant from the electricity grid – but a Russian official said Ukraine was to blame.
“The key thing is … international pressure is needed that will force the occupiers to immediately withdraw from the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” he said in a video address on Thursday evening.
“The IAEA and other international organizations must act much faster than they’re acting now. Because every minute the Russian troops stay at the nuclear power plant is a risk of a global radiation disaster,” he said, referring to the United Nations nuclear watchdog.
A team from IAEA is expected to visit Zaporizhzhia soon, but more shelling was reported in the area overnight.
Lana Zerkal, an adviser to Ukraine’s energy minister, told Ukrainian that logistical issues are being worked out for the IAEA team to come to the Zaporizhzhia plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces and run by Ukrainian workers since the early days of the 6-month war.
Zerkal accused Russia of trying to sabotage the visit.
“Despite the fact that the Russians agreed for the mission to travel through the territory of Ukraine, they are now artificially creating all the conditions for the mission not to reach the facility, given the situation around it,” she said.
Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official in the occupied town of Enerhodar near the plant, blamed Ukrainian armed forces for Thursday’s incident, saying they caused a fire in a forest near the plant.
“This was caused by the disconnection of power lines from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station as a result of provocations by Zelensky’s fighters,” Rogov wrote on his Telegram channel. “The disconnection itself was triggered by a fire and short circuit on the power lines.”
But Rogov said that Russian authorities are prepared to ensure safety of the IAEA mission when it arrives.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday its forces had destroyed a US-made M777 howitzer which it said Ukraine had used to shell the Zaporizhzhia plant.
Regional authorities in Zaporizhzhia said more than 18,000 people across several settlements remained without electricity on Friday due to damage caused to power lines.
Germany on Friday condemned Russia’s continued occupation of the plant, calling the situation “very, very dangerous.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian rocket fire hit a key bridge used by Russian forces in southern Kherson region on Friday and put it out of action, Ukraine’s southern military command said.
“Rocket artillery units continued to conduct missions, including ensuring control over the Daryivskiy bridge. Its operation is currently halted,” the southern command said in a statement.
The Daryivskiy bridge is the only Russian-controlled crossing across the Inhulets river, a tributary of the vast Dnipro.
Earlier in the day, explosions were heard in the southern city of Mykolaiv, a battleground as Russian forces try to push westwards along the coast to cut Kyiv’s forces off from the Black Sea. The immediate cause of the blasts was unclear, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said.
Ukraine said it had repulsed Russian assaults on Bakhmut and Soledar in the eastern Donetsk region and struck ammunition depots and enemy personnel in the southern Kherson region.
Ukrainian forces fired some 10 rockets from a US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launcher at the town of Stakhanov in the eastern Donbas region, pro-Moscow breakaway officials in Luhansk were quoted by Russia’s TASS news agency as saying.
TASS said the deputy traffic police chief in the occupied Ukrainian city of Berdiansk was killed on Friday in a bombing. Its Russian-installed administration blamed the blast on “Ukrainian saboteurs.”
With Post wires