Russian strikes raise fear of 'nuclear catastrophe'

Russian strikes raise fear of 'nuclear catastrophe'

Three nuclear plants back online but 70% of Kyiv still without power as temperatures fall below freezing

Burnt cars are seen in front of a damaged residential building, following a Russian strike in the town of Vyshgorod on the outskirts of Kyiv on Wednesday night. (AFP Photo)
Burnt cars are seen in front of a damaged residential building, following a Russian strike in the town of Vyshgorod on the outskirts of Kyiv on Wednesday night. (AFP Photo)

KYIV: Russia caused a “real danger of a nuclear and radioactive catastrophe” by launching attacks in which all Ukraine’s nuclear reactors were disconnected from the power grid for the first time in 40 years, Ukraine’s nuclear energy chief said on Thursday.

Petro Kotin, head of the nuclear power company Energoatom, said the vast nuclear power plant in the Zaporizhzhia region had been reconnected to the national power grid after the Russian air strikes on Wednesday, and that the backup diesel generators had been turned off. 

Two other nuclear power plants still under Ukrainian control were also brought back online, the energy ministry said on Thursday, but about 70% of the capital Kyiv remained without power.

The Russian strikes have piled more pressure on the national grid, which was forced to enact emergency blackouts amid below-zero temperatures, disrupting power supplies in southern and eastern regions, with water and electricity cuts in Kyiv.

Energy providers in Kyiv were struggling on Thursday to restore electricity with most of the capital still offline, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

“Seventy percent of the capital remains without electricity,” Klitschko said. “Energy companies are making every effort to return it as soon as possible.”

Water supplies were restored on Kyiv’s left bank but only after engineers “worked all night”, he said.

“After Wednesday’s massive shelling, energy workers were able to unify the power system and reconnect three nuclear power plants to the power grid by morning,” the ministry said on social media.

The plants should start supplying electricity by Thursday evening local time, it added.

Ukraine said Russian forces fired 70 cruise missiles at targets across the country on Wednesday, deepening an energy crisis after months of targeted attacks.

The governor of the eastern Kharkiv region, home to the country’s second largest city, said on Thursday that the eponymous city was experiencing “issues with electricity supplies” and reported “emergency power shutdowns”.

The head of the central region of Poltava, Dmytro Lunin, said authorities were “working around the clock to restore power.”

“In the coming hours, we will start supplying energy to critical infrastructure and then to the majority of households,” Lunin said.

About 50% of consumers in the central Dnipropetrovsk region had electricity, said the head of the Regional Military Administration, Valentyn Reznichenko.

“The energy supply situation is complicated. So shutdowns will continue in the region to reduce the pressure on the grid as much as possible,” Reznichenko warned.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed the UN Security Council after Russia launched its latest massive missile assault, calling it “a clear crime against humanity.”

“When it is freezing temperature outside and millions of people are cut off from electricity, heating and water as a result of Russia’s missile attack on energy facilities, it is a clear crime against humanity,” Zelenskiy told the gathering by video link.

“We are waiting for the world’s tough response to Russia’s terror. Ukraine proposes the UN Security Council adopt a resolution on condemning any form of energy terror.”

He invited UN experts to inspect Ukraine’s infrastructure that has been hit by Russian missiles, or could become a target. “There is a need of fair assessment of damages. We need to record that those are strikes on that infrastructure that ensures lives of tens of millions of people,” he said.

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