Fighting around a Ukrainian nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, has stoked fears of an international nuclear disaster and global leaders are voicing concerns.
Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven, an inter-governmental political forum of leading industrialized countries, on Wednesday demanded that Russia return control of the plant to Ukraine, Reuters reported.
Russian troops took over Southern Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia plant, one of the 10 largest nuclear plants in the world, shortly after its invasion of Ukraine in February.
Ukrainian staff members have been kept in place to continue the plant's operations. But conflict around the plant has fueled fears of nuclear disaster similar to that in Chernobyl, which saw the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986.
"We demand that Russia immediately hand back full control to its rightful sovereign owner, Ukraine, of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as well as of all nuclear facilities within Ukraine's internationally recognized borders to ensure their safe and secure operations," the foreign ministers of G7 said Wednesday in a statement released in Germany, according to Reuters.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Associated Press last week that the situation near the Zaporizhzhia plant "is completely out of control" as he pleaded with Russia and Ukraine to allow inspectors to visit the site. Grossi said the supply chain for equipment to the plant has been interrupted and there have been reports of violence between Russian troops and Ukrainian staff members.
"What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely grave and dangerous," Grossi said.
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?Ukraine on Wednesday accused Russia of using its position near the nuclear power plant to target the nearby town of Marhanets in a rocket attack that killed at least 13 people, Reuters reported. Russia did not immediately comment on the allegations of the attack.
?While the European Union moved to block two of Russia's top propaganda and misinformation channels ” RT and Sputnik – early in the war, NewsGuard, a New York-based firm that tracks online misinformation, has identified 250 websites spreading propaganda and disinformation with dozens of new ones in recent months.
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Ukrainian guerrilla forces push back
A spreading resistance of Ukrainian guerrilla forces has blown up bridges and trains and killed pro-Moscow officials in Russian-occupied areas of southeastern Ukraine.
The Zhovta Strichka, or “Yellow Ribbon,” resistance group has been assisting the Ukrainian military and eroding Russian control in the area.
The guerrilla groups coordinate with the Ukrainian military's Special Operations Forces and help with such functions as selecting targets, preparing ambushes and establishing a network of weapons caches and secret hideouts in Russian-occupied areas.
“Our goal is to make life unbearable for the Russian occupiers and use any means to derail their plans,” Andriy, a 32-year-old coordinator of the guerrilla movement in the southern Kherson region, told The Associated Press. He spoke on the condition of not being fully identified.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration said Monday that it was shipping its biggest yet direct delivery of weapons to Ukraine as that country prepares for a potentially decisive counteroffensive in the south against Russia, sending $1 billion in rockets, ammunition and other material to Ukraine from Defense Department stockpiles.
TUESDAY'S UPDATES: Explosions rock Russian base in Crimea, killing 1 and wounding several
Blasts at Crimea air base kill 1, injure 13
The Ukrainian air force claimed Wednesday that nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in multiple, massive explosions at an air base in Crimea. The blasts killed one person and wounded 13 others.
Russia has denied that any aircraft were damaged, explaining that several munitions at the air base caught fire and blew up. But the explosions have sparked speculation that they resulted from a Ukrainian attack, though Ukrainian officials have stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility.
The blasts also knocked out windows, caused damage to nearby apartment buildings and sent tourists fleeing, and Russian officials sought to downplay the explosions.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Extremely grave and dangerous': International leaders voice concern over fighting near Ukrainian nuclear plant. Live updates.