A call has been made to demilitarize the area around a Ukrainian nuclear power plant to avoid “irreparable consequences”.

The western town of Nikopol has come under daily shelling for most of the past week, killing people and destroying buildings.

The area is across the Dnieper River from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, and both Russia and Ukrainian officials have been accusing themselves for days of bombing it in violation of nuclear safety rules.

Russian troops have occupied the Zaporizhzhia plant since the early days of the Moscow invasion, although pre-war Ukrainian nuclear workers continue to run it.

Ukrainian military intelligence said on Saturday that shelling by Russian troops damaged a pumping station and a fire station in the compound.

And Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ministry of the Interior of Ukrainetweeted that people were fleeing the area and showed video of what appeared to be an explosion.

Sky News was unable to geotag the video.

The governor of Zaporizhzhia has now called for the demilitarization of the plant – and for international bodies to enforce it.

“The best option should be demilitarization,” Oleksandr Starukh said.

“There should be a reaction from the international structures. They should defend this position so that there are no weapons in or near the nuclear power plant.”

A man stands inside a crater left by a missile strike in the Zaporizhzhia region

In his video address, Mr Starukh added: “Sooner or later, the fact that troops and ammunition are stationed there can lead to irreparable consequences.”

He called for enforcement of the rules of bodies like the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).

“All these rules of war and all these rules made by the IAEA, which controls all nuclear safety issues, unfortunately, they don’t work, and some of them are not effective and need to be fixed.

“Thank goodness they didn’t bomb any objects that pose a nuclear threat, and the radiation background is within the normal range.

“But at the same time, sooner or later, the fact that troops and ammunition are stationed there can lead to irreparable consequences.”

Explanation: What are the risks of a nuclear accident in Ukraine?

He said that there should be “no weapons in or near the nuclear power plant…So that it does not happen that peaceful towns such as Marhanets and Nikopol are bombed under the cover of a nuclear power plant nuclear”.

His comments were echoed by the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in his nocturnal address to the nation.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy insists that Crimea is Ukrainian
Volodymyr Zelensky addressing the nation of Ukraine

“The occupiers are trying to intimidate people in an extremely cynical way, using the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” he said.

“They are actually hiding behind the factory to shoot at Nikopol and (nearby) Marhanets.

“Absolutely all those responsible for the terrorist state, as well as those who help them in this blackmail operation at the nuclear power plant, must be tried by an international court.

rocket attack

Meanwhile, across the country, the Russian military pounded other residential areas, as Ukrainian forces launched a counter-offensive in an attempt to retake an occupied southern region, hitting the last working bridge over a river in the Russian-occupied region of Kherson.

A Russian rocket attack on the city of Kramatorsk killed three people and injured 13 on Friday, according to the mayor.

Kramatorsk is the headquarters of Ukrainian forces in the war-torn east of the country.

The attack came less than a day after 11 more rockets were fired at the town, one of two main Ukrainian-held towns in Donetsk province, at the center of an ongoing Russian offensive to capture Donbass region in eastern Ukraine.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday that its forces had taken control of Pisky, a village on the outskirts of the city of Donetsk, the provincial capital claimed by pro-Moscow separatists since 2014.

Russian troops and Kremlin-backed rebels are seeking to take over Ukrainian-held areas north and west of the city of Donetsk to expand the separatists’ self-declared republic.

But the Ukrainian army said on Saturday its forces had prevented a night advance towards the small towns of Avdiivka and Bakhmut.

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