A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. File/Reuters
Ukrainian and Russian-installed officials have traded accusations over who is responsible for attacks close to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned Russian soldiers that if they attack the site in the now Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar, or use it as a base to shoot from, then they will become a "special target".
"If through Russia's actions a catastrophe occurs the consequences could hit those who for the moment are silent," he said in a late Monday-night address, calling for new sanctions on Russia's nuclear sector.
Volodymyr Zelensky (right) visits the frontline positions during a trip to the Zaporizhzhia region. File/AFP
"If now the world does not show strength and decisiveness to defend one nuclear power station, it will mean that the world has lost."
Vladimir Rogov, a Russia-installed official in Enerhodar, said on Monday about 25 heavy artillery strikes from US-made M777 howitzers had hit near the nuclear plant and residential areas during a two-hour period.
Russia's Interfax news agency, quoting the press service of Enerhodar's Russian-appointed administration, said Ukrainian forces had opened fire, with blasts near the power plant.
But according to the head of the administration of the Nikopol district, which lies across the river from Enerhodar and remains under Ukrainian control, it was Russian forces that had shelled the city to try to make it appear that Ukraine was attacking it.
A view shows a sign reading NPP (nuclear power plant) near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. File/Reuters
"The Russians think they can force the world to comply with their conditions by shelling the Zaporizhzhia NPP (nuclear power plant)," Andriy Yermak, chief of the Ukrainian presidential staff, wrote on Twitter.
Russian forces continued to shell towns and cities — Velika Kostryumka in the south and Marhanets — opposite the Zaporizhhia nuclear power plant, according to a report from the south district of the Ukrainian armed forces on Facebook.
Ukrainian forces killed 23 Russian soldiers and destroyed two reinforced positions, it added.
Reuters could not immediately verify battlefield reports.
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