Moscow, Aug 11 (IANS) The Foreign Ministers of the G7 economic powers urged Moscow to immediately return Ukraine's embattled Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant to full Ukrainian control as fears of disaster grow.
'Ukrainian personnel responsible for the operation of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant must be able to carry out their duties without threats or pressure,' the statement issued on Wednesday said.
'It is Russia's continued domination of the nuclear power plant that endangers the region.'
The plant, which is near the southern city of Enerhodar and is Europe's biggest, has been shelled several times and was partially damaged last weekend. However, the critical infrastructure is said to remain intact.
Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the attacks. So far, the accusations cannot be independently verified, the dpa news agency reported.
On Russia's initiative, the UN Security Council is to deal with the shelling on Thursday in New York. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, is to brief the Council.
The G7 Foreign Ministers stressed 'the importance of allowing IAEA experts to be sent to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant to address nuclear safety and security concerns and measures'.
Moscow lashed out at the UN.
'The UN has unfortunately played a negative role in the case at hand,' Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russian state radio station Sputnik.
Zakharova accused authorities at the UN of preventing an inspection by the IAEA.
'In the UN Secretariat, which deals with problems of nuclear energy, including the consequences of technical disasters and the problem in its broadest sense, they should understand that the world is walking on the precipice,' she said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry had already complained in a statement on Tuesday that a planned trip by IAEA representatives to the plant fell through at the last minute because of security concerns raised by the UN Secretariat.
The plant's operator Enerhoatom said on Telegram on Wednesday that the site was operating 'with the risk of violations of radiation and fire safety specifications'.
Elsewhere, at least seven civilians were killed in Russian shelling in the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, justice officials said on Wednesday.
The general prosecutor's office in Kiev said that high-rise buildings, single-family houses and shops in the city centre were hit. Seven residents were injured by bomb splinters.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military said it rendered a bridge near the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine unusable, after it was hit by missiles. The occupying forces, however, have not confirmed this information.
Russia largely conquered the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson on the lower reaches of the Dnipro river shortly after the invasion in February. Using long-range missile systems, the Ukrainian army is systematically trying to destroy the only three river crossings in the area to prevent the Russian army from resupplying on the right bank.
In Kiev, the Head of the Ukrainian presidential office said that the country needs the war with Russia to end before the start of winter.
Otherwise, there was a risk that Russia would destroy the heat and energy infrastructure, Andrii Yermak, according to an Interfax agency news agency report on Wednesday.
There was also fighting in Ukraine's Dnipropetrovsk region. Not far from the Zaporizhzhya plant, at least 11 people were killed in missile attacks overnight, the local military said.
A day after explosions rocked Russia's Saki air base on the annexed Crimean Peninsula on Tuesday, information was trickling in, Mykhailo Podoliak said.
At least 10 Russian aircraft were destroyed in the series of blasts, according to Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuri Ihnat.
Officials in Moscow say a breach of fire safety rules was responsible.
But observers assume that bold attack, which took place far beyond the war's front lines, was carried out by Ukrainians.
The leadership in Kiev has not directly claimed responsibility, although presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak tweeted: 'This is just the beginning.'
It would be the first military attack on targets in Crimea since the Russian annexation in 2014.
Crimea's Russian-appointed leader Sergei Aksyonov declared state of emergency in the local district, according to the Interfax news agency. At least 252 residents of the nearby seaside town of Novofedorivka will be relocated to emergency shelters, he added.
He said that criminal investigations into the explosions are ongoing and that two gas supply lines had been temporarily shut down.
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