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    Shells hit near nuclear plant; blackouts roll across Ukraine

    KYIV, UKRAINE (AP) – Powerful explosions from shelling shook Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, the site of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, the global nuclear watchdog said on Sunday, calling for “urgent measures to help prevent a nuclear accident” in the Russian-occupied facility.

    Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi said multiple explosions near the plant – on Saturday evening and again on Sunday morning – ended a period of relative calm around the nuclear facility that has been the site of fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces since the war began on February 24.

    The fighting has raised the spectre of a nuclear catastrophe ever since Russian troops occupied the plant during the early days of the war. In renewed shelling both close to and at the site, IAEA experts at the Zaporizhzhia facility reported hearing more than a dozen blasts within a short period on Sunday morning and could see some explosions from their windows, the agency said.

    Later in the day, the IAEA said the shelling had stopped and that its experts would assess the situation.

    “There has been damage to parts of the site, but no radiation release or loss of power,” the agency said.

    Still, Grossi called the shelling “extremely disturbing”, and appealed to both sides to urgently implement a nuclear safety and security zone around the facility. “Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately,” he said.

    “As I have said many times before, you’re playing with fire!”

    The weekend strikes damaged the system that would enable the plant’s power units 5 and 6 to produce electricity again, Ukraine’s state nuclear power operator Energoatom said.

    The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. PHOTO: AFP
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