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Fire at Ukrainian nuclear plant extinguished, says Kiev


Ukraine’s Interior Ministry on Friday confirmed that a fire at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which Ukrainian authorities said was sparked by sustained Russian shelling, had been extinguished.

There were no deaths or injured people, the ministry said on Twitter, noting that the building that had been on fire was a training complex.

The fire broke out after Russian troops invaded the Zaporizhzhia complex, the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had said earlier that there had been targeted shelling on reactor blocks by Russian tanks.

“There are tanks equipped with thermal imaging cameras. That means they know where they’re shooting, they’ve prepared for it,’’ he said in the early hours of Friday in a video posted on his telegram channel.

It was not possible to independently verify his statements.

Firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze, the Ukrainian State Civil Defence said, adding that there were no plans to evacuate homes in nearby Enerhodar.

The fire at the plant came on the ninth day of a Russian attack on Ukraine.

Russian troops continued their advance on the capital Kiev, according to the Ukrainian army.

“The main efforts of the occupiers are concentrated on encircling Kiev,’’ the Ukrainian army said in its morning report.

No details were given on fighting within the city.

City authorities had sounded an air alert several times since midnight and residents had been told to seek cover in air raid shelters.

The southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol is now completely surrounded, they said, adding that Russian troops had a `significant technical advantage.’

The information could not be independently verified.

U.S. Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, said that the Zaporizhzhia Power Plant’s reactors are protected by robust containment structures and reactors were being safely shut down, after she spoke with her Ukrainian counterpart, Herman Halushchenko.

Halushchenko said that he called for the closure of Ukraine’s airspace and NATO intervention in the call with Granholm. He said tanks and aircraft were firing on the plant.

“That is why we demand not only a professional assessment of what is happening, but a real intervention with the toughest measures, including by NATO and countries that have nuclear weapons,” Halushchenko wrote on Facebook early Friday.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had earlier tweeted that the Russian army was “firing from all sides” at the plant and said a fire had broken out. He warned an accident could be “10 times larger” than Chernobyl. Zelensky also pointed to the Chernobyl disaster as an example of the danger.

The accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine in 1986 had remained one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.

After the explosion of a reactor block, radioactive substances spread over large parts of Europe for several days.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said early Friday that it was aware of the reports and was in 24/7 full response mode due to the situation.

Essential equipment had not been affected and the plant’s personnel were taking mitigatory actions, the IAEA tweeted, citing Ukrainian authorities.

The nuclear agency earlier said Ukraine’s nuclear regulator reported no change in radiation levels at the site.

The IAEA’s Director-General, Rafael Grossi, appealed for a halt to the use of force and warned of “severe danger’’ if reactors were hit, the agency tweeted.

Russia had earlier told the IAEA that Russian units took control of the area around the nuclear power plant.

The IAEA understands this as meaning Russia has control of the plant but operations were still being carried out by Ukrainian staff under the supervision of authorities in Kiev.

Currently, only the fourth unit of the nuclear power plant is in operation.

U.S. President, Joe Biden, demanded that Russia should halt its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders access to the site.

He had spoken to Zelensky by phone to receive an update on the fire, the White House said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a statement after speaking with Zelensky.

Johnson said the “reckless actions’’ of Russian President Vladimir Putin could directly threaten the safety of all of Europe’’and that he would be requesting an emergency UN Security Council meeting in the coming hours.

Earlier on Thursday, the IAEA condemned the Russian military taking over Ukrainian nuclear plants, in a vote that saw only Russia and China voting against.

The resolution stated that the risk of a nuclear accident with international repercussions had increased substantially in the wake of the Russian invasion.