President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday warned Ukrainians to be vigilant in the coming week as they prepare to celebrate their Independence Day, when new explosions hit Crimea and a missile injured 12 civilians near a nuclear power plant.
In his overnight video address, Zelensky said the Ukrainians should not allow Moscow to “spread despair and fear” among them as they mark the 31st anniversary of independence from the Soviet government.
“We should all be aware that this week Russia could try to do something particularly ugly, something very evil,” Zelensky said ahead of the August 24 birthday, which is also six months since Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine began.
Also on Saturday, a Russian missile hit a residential area of a city in southern Ukraine not far from a nuclear power plant, injuring 12 civilians, Russian and Ukrainian officials said.
That attack on the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant (southern Ukraine) and new shelling near Zaporizhzhya station, Europe’s largest such facility, sparked new fears of a nuclear accident during the war, Ukrainian officials said.
In his speech, Zelensky also referred obliquely to a series of explosions in recent days in Crimea, the Ukrainian territory occupied and annexed by Russia during a 2014 invasion.
Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the attacks, but analysts have said some of it was made possible by new equipment used by Ukrainian forces.
“You can literally feel Crimea in the air this year, that the occupation there is only temporary and that Ukraine is coming back,” Zelensky said.
In the latest attack on Crimea, the Russian-appointed governor who was not recognized by the West said a drone hit a building near the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet on Saturday morning.
“A drone flew on the roof. It flew low,” Governor Mikhail Razvozhayev said on Telegram. “It was shot down just above fleet headquarters. He fell on the roof and burned down. The attack failed.’
Razvozhayev later said the region’s anti-aircraft defense system was up and running and asked residents to stop filming and distributing photos of how it worked.
Ukrainian media reported explosions in nearby towns, including the resorts of Yevpatoriya, Olenivka and Zaozyornoye.
Children among the injured
After the strike near the power plant in southern Ukraine, Vitaliy Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv region, said on Telegram that four children were among the injured. Private houses and a five-storey apartment building were damaged in Voznesensk, 30 km (19 mi) from the factory, the second largest in Ukraine.
The prosecutor’s office in the Mykolaiv region, updating an earlier toll, said 12 civilians were injured.
The state-owned Energoatom, which operates all four of Ukraine’s nuclear power generators, described the attack on Voznesensk as “a new act of Russian nuclear terrorism”.
“It is possible that this missile was specifically aimed at the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant, which the Russian army attempted to capture in early March,” Energoatom said in a statement.
Russia did not immediately respond to the accusation. Reuters could not verify the situation in Voznesensk. There were no reports of damage to the factory in southern Ukraine.
Russia and Ukraine have exchanged new accusations about shelling around the Zaporizhzhya station, which has been in Russia’s hands since March.
Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official in the nearby city of Enerhodar, said Ukrainian forces carried out at least four attacks on the factory. Yevhen Yetushenko, mayor of Ukrainian-controlled Nikopol across the Dnipro River, said Russian forces had shelled the city repeatedly.
Talks have been underway for more than a week to arrange a visit to the plant by the UN nuclear power plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Ukrainian authorities have called on the United Nations and other international organizations to force Russian troops to leave the Zaporizhzhya factory.
And in Mariupol, a city in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia after weeks of shelling, officials said Russia’s new mayor, Konstantin Ivashchenko, had survived an assassination attempt.
“It didn’t work,” Petro Andryushchenko, an official from the deposed city council, told Telegram. “But this is just the beginning.”
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