Kyiv alleges ‘terrorism’ after rocket hits near second nuclear power plant

KYIV, Ukraine – Pro-Russian officials in two self-proclaimed breakaway “republics” in eastern Ukraine on Monday asked for an urgent vote calling on Moscow to immediately annex territories, a clear sign of panic. It is clear that the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine is losing.

The calls from the authorities in the people’s republics of Luhansk and Donetsk come as Ukrainian forces continue to stretch their gains in recent days, which have driven the Russian military out of most of its territory. the northeastern region of Kharkiv.

Journalists’ access to the frontline is limited. However, it is reported that Ukrainian troops have entered the city of Lysychansk in the Luhansk region, and also the fighting around the city of Slovyansk in the Donetsk region – suggesting that Russia is in danger of losing the territory it already controls. earlier in the east. Donbas region.

In a statement published on the website of the “public chamber” of the Luhansk People’s Republic, the deputy head of the department, Lina Vokalova, called for a referendum to approve the merger and said the withdrawal votes will “realize our dream of returning home – to the Russian Federation. “

A similar message came from the pro-Kremlin puppet government in Donetsk.

“The time has come to remove the nonexistent border between our nations, since it has long been erased from our hearts, and conduct a referendum on the question of DPR becoming part of the Russia,” said the head of the Donetsk public service Aleksander Kofman.

Before launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, Russian President Vladimir Putin officially recognized the independence of the two regions.

Russian officials have also discussed holding referendums in the Ukrainian territories they captured during the war, but many of those plans have become uncertain because of the results. Kyiv’s recent military.

In Moscow, some pro-war propagandists who pushed for Russia to strike back at Ukraine more forcefully cheered the call for annexation.

Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the RT television network, writes: “Today is a referendum, tomorrow – recognition as part of the Russian Federation. “The day after tomorrow – attacks on Russian territory become an all-out war between Ukraine and NATO against Russia, exposing Russia in all aspects.”

Ukrainian officials accused Russia of “nuclear terrorism” on Monday after a missile allegedly hit reactors at Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear power plant, disabling it three high-voltage power lines and a hydroelectric power unit.

Energoatom, Ukraine’s national nuclear power company, said a “strong explosion” had occurred near midnight at the reactors of the Southern Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Yuzhnoukrainsk, near the city of Yuzhnoukrainsk. about 300 meters on Monday, emitting shock waves that damaged and shattered buildings. more than 100 windows.

Details of the missile attack, which Energoatom reported on its Telegram channel, could not be independently verified. However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a short video of what appeared to be strike footage shot from a closed camera, along with photos of the damage.

“Russia endangers the whole world,” Zelensky wrote in his Telegram post. “We must stop it before it’s too late.”

Russia did not immediately comment on the allegation.

Fear So far, Russia’s war in Ukraine that could trigger a nuclear disaster has centered on the country’s largest atomic power station, in Zaporizhzhia, where all six reactors are now decommissioned. Consecutive shelling and fires caused the Zaporizhzhia plant to disconnect from the national power grid, requiring emergency measures to prevent essential cooling processes from being disrupted.

Before the war, Ukraine had four operating nuclear power plants, accounting for nearly half of the country’s electricity production.

A team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited Zaporizhzhia plant this month, and the agency’s director-general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, has called for the creation of a “nuclear safety and security protection zone” around the facility, located in the territory occupied by the forces. Russian occupation.

On Saturday, Grossi reported that the Zaporizhzhia plant had been reconnected to the national grid but three out of four power lines remained cut. “The overall situation of the factory in the middle of a war zone is still precarious,” he said.

The South Ukraine nuclear power plant is located far from the front line of the fighting, about 250 miles west of the Zaporizhzhia plant, so it faces fewer risks. The missile attack appeared to be part of a series of attacks on civilian infrastructure that Russia carried out after its messy retreat from the Kharkiv region.

Things to know about Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

The Kremlin’s top spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, on Monday denied new allegations of war crimes by the Russian military, which emerged in recent days in Izyum and other Ukrainian cities to be resolved launch in Kharkiv. Ukrainian officials documented evidence of potential atrocities, including murder, sexual assault and torture.

“This is the same scenario as in Bucha,” Peskov said during his daily conference call, referring to the suburb of Kyiv where atrocities were discovered in April after Russian forces were repelled. . “This is a lie,” Peskov continued, adding that Russia would “defend the truth in this whole story.”

The creepy discovery In Izyum, a burial ground of 445 unmarked graves, and a mass grave containing the bodies of 17 Ukrainian soldiers, have issued new appeals to the army, military commanders and officials. Russia is indicted for war crimes.

Russia’s chaotic retreat from Kharkiv has exposed deep weaknesses in the country’s armed forces, with analysts and experts saying it will be difficult if not impossible for Russia to retake the territories. territories liberated without a full military mobilization and national draft.

‘Look, these are our boys’: Ukrainian army drives Russian tanks on new front lines

Mr. Putin has come under growing pressure over the war, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s severe public rebuke at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Uzbekistan last week. Also at the summit, Putin acknowledged questions and concerns about the war from Chinese President Xi Jinping.

At home, Putin is being squeezed by the right, who are demanding that he hit back at Ukraine and declare a national draft, and from the left by critics of the war, who seem increasingly willing to risk arrest and prosecution. to speak out.

In a surprising turn of events, 73-year-old Alla Pugacheva, a Russian pop icon popular during Soviet times and especially beloved by elders, publicly spoke out against the war on Sunday.

In a post on Instagram, where she has 3.4 million followers, Pugacheva asserts that Russians are dying because of “false goals”.

Robyn Dixon, Mary Ilyushina and Natalia Abbakumova of Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.

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