Fresh missile strikes target Kyiv as Ukraine extends martial law

IAEA head Rafael Grossi has discussed potential nuclear risks with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

IAEA head Rafael Grossi has discussed potential nuclear risks with President Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/EPA

Russia has launched missile strikes on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, with falling debris cutting off electricity to parts of the capital, officials say.

Several waves of blasts rocked Kyiv during the Wednesday’s attacks, the first in February, with air defence systems engaged in destroying the missiles, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging app.

At least two people were injured in Dniprovskyi district that lies along the Dnipro River, the mayor said.

The scale of the attacks, which lasted several hours, was not immediately known. There was no immediate response from Russia’s defence ministry to Reuters’ request for comment.

Ukraine’s largest private energy company, DTEK, said Dniprovskyi district was left partially without electricity. Klitschko said falling debris from a downed Russian missile damaged some power lines.

The strikes came after the Ukrainian parliament extended martial law and the mobilisation imposed after the full-scale Russian invasion by a further 90 days or until mid-May and as the United Nations nuclear watchdog chief said he would visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

A clear two-thirds majority voted in favour of both bills introduced by President Volodymyr Zelensky, several MPs said.

Regular parliamentary and presidential elections have also been suspended.

Ukraine has been fending off a full-scale Russian invasion for almost two years.

Martial law gives the military more rights.

Men between the ages of 18 and 60 who are eligible for military service are only allowed to leave the country in exceptional cases.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi said he would visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Russian-occupied Ukraine on Wednesday to see if it can be run with a reduced number of staff and whether its years-old uranium fuel is safe.

Russia gained control of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in early 2022 and its six nuclear reactors are now idled.

Ahead of his visit, Grossi discussed the current security situation and potential risks at the occupied plant on Tuesday in Kyiv with Zelensky, the presidential office reported.

Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko said the Russian occupation authorities were preventing hundreds of qualified workers from working at the plant, which he said dramatically reduces safety.

“We’re talking about 400 people who are highly skilled and, most importantly, licensed. You can’t just take them away,” Galushchenko told a joint news conference with Grossi.

“There is the issue of the staff. The situation where the plant is operating with a very, very small number of operators,” Grossi added.

Thousands of people work at the plant but some of them refused to sign contracts with the Russian nuclear power firm, which was the formal reason for their non-admission.

“One of my main points of interest for my visit that starts tomorrow morning will be to inquire precisely about this. One of the most important things for me is to assess the operational impact of this decision,” Grossi said.

Grossi, who described the technical condition of the plant as “very delicate”, said another problem was the situation with the nuclear fuel, which has been inside the reactors for years and is reaching the end of its useful life.

He said he intended to discuss the fuel issue both at the plant and during his subsequent visit to Moscow, and that IAEA experts should be able to have an “independent safety assessment of the status of condition of this fuel”.

Galushchenko said the experts needed an opinion from the fuel producers – the Russian company TVEL and Westinghouse – on whether it can continue to be used.

“Its service life is over and the manufacturer has to say whether the fuel can be used further. If not, then it is necessary to take action to unload this fuel … then the question of storing that fuel,” he said.

Zaporizhzhia was one of Ukraine’s key energy assets, guaranteeing both the country’s domestic energy needs and substantial electricity exports.

Last month Ukraine said it intends to start construction of new nuclear power-generating facilities in the second half of this year to compensate for the loss of Zaporizhzhia.

-DPA, with Reuters

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.