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Zelensky vows Ukraine will seek out Russian troops who target nuclear plant

Aug. 14, 2022 Updated Sun., Aug. 14, 2022 at 8:45 a.m.

Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine's prime minister, at a news conference on the sidelines of the Eastern Partnership Summit at the Europa building in Brussels on Dec. 15, 2021.    (Valeria Mongelli/Bloomberg)
Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine's prime minister, at a news conference on the sidelines of the Eastern Partnership Summit at the Europa building in Brussels on Dec. 15, 2021.   (Valeria Mongelli/Bloomberg)
By Rachel Pannett and Annabelle Timsit The Washington Post

Officials in southern Ukraine reported strikes overnight against two cities near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, adding to the growing international concern about damage to the sensitive facility. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for those responsible for attacks near Zaporizhzhia to be “tried by an international court.”

Ukrainian forces will target Russian soldiers who shoot at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant or shoot from the facility, Zelensky said in his nightly address Saturday, as Russia and Ukraine traded accusations of additional shelling in the area. He said the Russian soldiers are becoming a “special target” and repeated his call for sanctions against Russia’s nuclear industry.

The cities of Nikopol and Marhanets faced additional attacks overnight into Sunday, according to the regional governor of Dnipropetrovsk, who reported property damage but no casualties. Zelensky claimed Saturday that Russian soldiers are hiding behind the nuclear plant to fire at the two cities, which are located across from it on the bank of the Dnieper River.

Three of six turbines at a hydropower plant were damaged by HIMARS missiles, Russian state TV claimed. The network, run by the Russian Defense Ministry, said the damage to the Kakhovka plant could affect the cooling of nuclear reactors at Zaporizhzhia. The reports could not be independently verified.

Ukrainian forces are continuing to disrupt Russian supply lines supporting Kremlin troops on the right bank of the Dnieper in southern Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a D.C.-based think tank, said in its latest assessment. Kyiv’s troops struck a bridge on the Kakhovka plant dam again on Saturday, rendering it unusable, according to Ukrainian military officials.

Several bridges are now out of action in the area. If Russia can’t fix them, its forces on the west bank of the Dnieper “will likely lose the ability to defend themselves against even limited Ukrainian counterattacks,” the ISW said. British defense officials said Saturday that Russia is probably relying on two pontoon ferry crossing points to resupply several thousand troops in the area.

Zelensky said in his address late Saturday that “fierce fighting” continues in Donbas. ISW analysts say Russian forces may be refocusing their efforts in the northeast to draw Ukrainian forces away from counterattacks in the south. Particularly heavy fighting was reported in the Donetsk village of Pisky, which Russia claimed control of Saturday. But British defense analysts said the village, which is less than four miles west of Donetsk Airport, “probably remains contested.”

Vulnerable NATO allies such as Latvia are scaling up their defenses out of fear they could be Russia’s next target. About 100,000 U.S. troops are deployed across Europe, but for those on Russia’s doorstep, that’s not yet enough, The Washington Post reports.

Norway has become the latest country to join an international coalition helping train Ukraine’s Armed Forces. The U.K.-based program “has already provided vital military skills to soldiers now serving on the front line,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.

A total of 16 grain ships have now left Ukrainian ports, Zelensky said Saturday, under a U.N.-brokered deal to ease the global food crisis.

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