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Ukraine war latest: Russia prepares to damage Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Zelensky warns

by Alexander Khrebet July 5, 2023 1:40 AM 5 min read
A Russian military vehicle pictured in front of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar, on March 29, 2023. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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Key developments on July 4:

  • Ukraine prepares for potential Russian attack on nuclear plant
  • Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant reportedly loses connection to its main line
  • Russian missile strike injures 43, including infants, in Pervomaiskyi
  • Ukrainian forces advance up to 2 km in several directions
  • Air Force downs 26 Russian drones overnight

President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening address, citing intelligence, that Russia is "preparing a provocation" at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

According to Zelensky, Russian forces placed explosives on the roof of two power units.

The General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported in its evening update that Russian troops are preparing a strike "in the near future."

"Their detonation should not damage power units but may create a picture of shelling by Ukraine's military," the General Staff said.

Meanwhile, Renat Karchaa, an adviser to the head of Russia's nuclear power operator Rosenergoatom, claimed that "Ukraine is going to attack" the nuclear power plant with "precision weapons and kamikaze drones" overnight on July 5, according to the Russian state-controlled agencies.

Karchaa claimed Ukraine intended to hit the plant with a Tochka, Soviet-made tactical ballistic missile, "with a warhead filled with radioactive waste."

Russia has regularly blamed Ukraine for attacks it itself has perpetrated.

"Now the whole world must realize that common security depends entirely on global attention to the occupiers' actions at the station," said Zelensky.

Amid the situation around the nuclear plant, Ukraine's Health Ministry issued recommendations on how to behave in a contaminated zone.

Yet, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi, in his press statement on July 4 didn't mention any new installations on the power units' rooftops nor the possible provocation by the Russian forces.

Life near Russian-occupied nuclear plant: ‘I don’t know if tomorrow will come’
Editor’s Note: The Kyiv Independent talked to residents who are still in Russian-occupied Enerhodar and those who recently left but still have family in the city. For their safety, we do not disclose their identities. When Russian soldiers captured Enerhodar, the satellite city of the Zaporizhzhia…

Nuclear power plant disconnected from the grid

Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant again lost connection to its main external power line overnight on July 4, Ukraine's state nuclear energy agency Energoatom reported.

The biggest nuclear power plant in Europe, located in the occupied city of Enerhodar, switched to the only available 330 kilovolt (kV) backup power line, which was recently reconnected after being inactive since March 1.

By July 1, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant relied exclusively on the only main power line for external electricity needed for reactor cooling and other critical functions.

Before the Russian occupation in March 2022, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant had six backup lines and four main lines of 750 kV.

Europe's largest nuclear power plant has been experiencing major off-site power problems since Russia unleashed its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and effectively occupied the power plant.

Russian forces have been using the nuclear plant as a military base to launch attacks against Ukrainian-controlled territory across the Dnipro River.

Due to Russian attacks on the country's energy infrastructure, the plant has been fully disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid several times, having to resort to diesel generators.

On June 20, Zelensky said, citing intelligence, that Moscow was considering a terrorist attack on the nuclear power plant through radiation leakage.

Russian missile strike on Kharkiv Oblast injures 43

The Russian missile strike on a residential area in Pervomaiskyi, Kharkiv Oblast, injured 43 civilians, including 12 children, Governor Oleh Syniehubov reported on July 4.

The State Emergency Service reported that two infants were among the injured. The medics stabilized the 10-month-old boy, who was hospitalized in the intensive care unit following the attack.

According to the local authorities and emergency services, other children got shrapnel wounds after the Russian missile attack damaged high-rise buildings and cars in Pervomaiskyi, a town of some 30,000 residents.

The attack occurred at 1:35 p.m. local time, the governor said.

Pervomaiskyi, located 86 kilometers south of the regional capital, sits on the railway connecting Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia.

General Prosecutor Andriy Kostin reported that Russian forces struck the town with Iskander missiles.

The General Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation into violations of the laws and customs of war.

Russian forces used the Iskander missiles to attack Kramatorsk in Donetsk Oblast on June 27, killing 13 people and injuring 60 more. Ukrainian writer and war crimes researcher Victoria Amelina died on July 1 after sustaining injuries in that missile strike.

In addition, Russian forces launched over 20 loitering munitions to attack Ukraine over the past day. The Air Force downed 20 attack drones and six reconnaissance drones, spokesman Yurii Ihnat reported on July 4.

However, a drone hit Sumy, killing three and injuring 21 civilians, according to the local authorities.

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Ukrainian forces advance

Ukrainian forces advanced in southern and eastern directions, the military reported on July 4.

The Tavria military command spokesman Valerii Shershen said Ukrainian troops have advanced up to two kilometers in the Berdiansk direction.

Shershen also reported that Ukrainian forces are "solidifying the newly taken positions," conducting aerial reconnaissance, clearing out mines, and shelling the Russian positions in the area.

Russian forces are attempting offensive operations in the Rivnopil sector in Donetsk Oblast, while trying to repel Ukraine's advance in the southern direction, the spokesperson said.

Ukrainian forces also advanced on the southern flank of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar told national television on July 4.

Russian forces are "deploying all their forces" to stop the Ukrainian advance in the south and in the east, the military official said.

Nevertheless, Russian forces are conducting a "powerful offensive" in the Lyman, Svatove, and Bakhmut directions, where they established "three-tiered staggered defense" lines, according to Maliar.

Over the past week, the Ukrainian forces have liberated 28.4 square kilometers in the south and nine square kilometers in the east, Maliar reported on July 3.

‘It’s a lottery’: How Ukraine’s assault brigade counterattacks near Bakhmut
Editor’s note: The Kyiv Independent spent a day with soldiers from the 80th Separate Assault Brigade in June, and the story is comprised of interviews with them about their experience near Bakhmut. The soldiers are identified by their names or callsigns, and their deployment locations are not reveal…
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