Zelenskiy says Russia probably targeted nuclear plant with drones

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said a Russian drone attack early on Wednesday in the western Khmelnitskyi region had probably targeted the area’s nuclear power station.

The attack shattered windows at the plant and injured 20 people.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, said blasts from the drone attack did not affect the plant’s operations or its connection to the grid. Power was temporarily cut to some off-site radiation monitoring stations.

In his nightly video address, Zelenskiy said the attack provided yet more evidence that tougher sanctions were needed against Russia.

“It is most likely that the target for these drones was the Khmelnitskyi nuclear power station,” he said.

“The shock wave from the explosion shattered windows, including on the nuclear power station’s premises.”

Zelenskiy said every Russian strike, “especially those daring enough to target nuclear power stations and other critical facilities, serves as an argument that pressure on the terrorist state is insufficient.”

Regional governor Serhiy Tyurin gave a more complete picture of the extent of the damage, saying more than 1,700 buildings sustained damage.

Tyurin, in a statement posted on Telegram, said these included 282 apartment blocks, more than 1,400 private homes, 41 educational institutions and six healthcare buildings.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, in a statement, said: “The fact that numerous windows at the site were destroyed shows just how close it was. Next time, we may not be so fortunate.”

Ukraine’s air force destroyed all 11 Russian drones launched overnight, the military said. Damage was caused by blast waves and falling debris, according to the interior minister.

“At night, the enemy struck territory near the Khmelnytskyi nuclear power plant. As a result of the explosion, windows in administrative and laboratory buildings have been damaged,” the Energy Ministry said on the Telegram messaging app.

Power lines were also damaged, it said, with more than 1,800 consumers in the adjacent towns of Netishyn and Slavuta facing power cuts.

In Slavuta, 20 buildings were damaged, including a building used by a fire and rescue unit and another by a police department, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said on Telegram.

The town’s mayor, Vasiliy Sydor, said 20 people were hurt.

Reuters was not able to verify the reports.

The Khmelnytskyi region has regularly been a target of attacks by Russian drones and missiles, which analysts link to a military airfield in the region.

Ukraine’s five nuclear power stations have been a point of contention in the 20-month-old Russian invasion. Russia occupied the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest such facility, early in the conflict and each side has since routinely accused the other of planning to shell or attack the site.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Yuliia Dysa; Editing by Robert Birsel, Tom Balmforth and Ron Popeski)