(Kyiv) The Russian army Friday occupied the largest Ukrainian nuclear power plant, where bombings in the night raised fears of a disaster, on the ninth day of an offensive accompanied by a growing repression of any dissenting voice in Russia.
In southern Ukraine, Zaporijjia, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, hit overnight by Russian artillery strikes according to the Ukrainians, was the scene of a fire.
This fire contributed to the growing anxiety of Westerners in the face of a conflict which now engulfs the whole country, with an increasingly long list of bombarded cities, on the ninth day of the Russian invasion.
At the start of the morning, the Ukrainian regulator however indicated that the fire, which had affected a laboratory and a training building, had been extinguished and that no radioactive leak had been detected.
“The territory of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant is occupied by the armed forces of the Russian Federation. The operational staff controls the energy blocks and ensures their operation in accordance with the requirements of the technical regulations for operating safety,” added the regulator.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed that radioactivity levels remain unchanged at the site of the plant, which provides much of the country’s electricity, and said no “essential” equipment is was damaged.
Its leader, Rafael Grossi, said he was ready to go to Ukraine to negotiate a solution to guarantee the security of nuclear sites.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on him to strengthen Western sanctions against Moscow after this attack.
“An immediate tightening of sanctions against the nuclear terrorist state is necessary,” he said in a video address in the morning, calling on Russians to “take to the streets” to stop attacks against nuclear sites in Ukraine. .
“The attack on a nuclear power plant demonstrates the irresponsibility of this war and the need to end it,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said ahead of an emergency meeting of NATO foreign ministers. Alliance in Brussels.
Earlier, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for another emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, while US President Joe Biden “urged Russia to cease its military activities in the area” of the plant. .
Zaporizhia, located on the Dnieper River about 550 km southeast of Kyiv, has a total capacity of almost 6,000 megawatts, enough to supply electricity to around four million homes. It was inaugurated in 1985, when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union.
On February 24, fighting had already taken place near the former Chernobyl power plant, about a hundred kilometers north of Kyiv, now in the hands of Russian troops.
” A hell ”
Elsewhere in the country, Ukraine notably accused Moscow on Thursday of having bombed a residential area and schools in Cherniguiv, north of Kyiv, killing 33 people. Fighting continued there on Friday, according to the Ukrainians.
The situation has also become “hell” in Okhtyrka, and “critical” in Sumy, two towns some 350 km east of Kyiv, according to local authorities.
As for the strategic port of Mariupol, in the south-east, where the mayor accused Thursday the Russian forces of wanting to establish “a blockade”, the regional authorities indicate that they have “no communication”.
In statements on Russian television Thursday, President Vladimir Putin gave no hope of appeasement.
“The special military operation is going strictly according to schedule, according to plan,” he said. He praised the courage of Russian soldiers who are fighting against “neo-Nazis” and “foreign mercenaries” who use civilians as “human shields”.
However, Moscow suffered a new diplomatic setback with the vote, Friday morning, at the UN Human Rights Council, by an overwhelming majority, of a resolution in favor of an international commission of inquiry into the violations human rights and humanitarian law in Ukraine.
The resolution was adopted by 32 votes for, 2 against (Russia and Eritrea) and 13 abstentions.
“The whole world is against you,” launched the Ukrainian ambassador to the UN in Geneva, to the attention of President Putin.
New repressive laws
At the same time, the Kremlin has tightened its repression of all dissenting voices in the face of the conflict.
Since the beginning of the offensive on February 24, arrests, closures of the few remaining independent media and new repressive texts have followed, while the Kremlin and the major Russian media present the conflict as “a special military operation” and banish the word “invasion”.
On Friday, the Russian authorities restricted access to the sites of four independent media: the local edition of the BBC, the German international radio and television station Deutsche Welle, the independent site Meduza and Radio Svoboda, the Russian branch of RFE/RL.
The Russian deputies also adopted a text providing for penalties of up to fifteen years in prison for anyone publishing “false information” which would have “serious consequences” for the armed forces.
As Moscow faces unprecedented economic sanctions imposed by the West, another text plans to penalize “calls to impose sanctions on Russia”.
Searches are also underway on Friday at the Moscow premises of the emblematic human rights NGO Memorial, the most respected in the country, after its dissolution ordered by justice, Memorial said.
Many Russians try to leave their country. With the suspension of almost all flights connecting Russia to Europe, trains connecting Saint Petersburg to Helsinki arrive crowded in the Finnish capital, noted AFP.
“We decided to return as soon as possible, because we don’t know what the situation will be in a week,” Polina Poliakova, a Muscovite studying in Paris, told AFP on her arrival in Helsinki.
However, these trains are de facto only accessible to Russians who already live or work in Europe: only people with a valid Schengen visa and an anti-COVID-19 vaccine recognized by the European Union pass, in other words not the most administered Sputnik vaccine in Russia.
It was not known for the moment whether the “humanitarian corridors”, which Russian and Ukrainian negotiators agreed on Thursday to organize, were being put in place.
These negotiators had found themselves on the border between Poland and Belarus, after a first attempt on Monday, in the hope of obtaining a truce. “Unfortunately, there are not yet the expected results for Ukraine. There is only one solution to organize humanitarian corridors”, lamented after the discussions a member of the Ukrainian delegation, Mikhaïlo Podoliak.
More than 1.2 million refugees have already fled the country, according to the UN.