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Fears of new Chernobyl are mounting as the area around the Ukrainian nuclear power plant is hit

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Russia has shelled cities around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant overnight, despite international calls to end all fighting around the reactors.

Nikopol, a town six miles downstream from the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant and across the Dnipro River, was hit three times overnight.

Four people were injured in the strikes, regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko said, two of whom were taken to hospital.

It comes despite calls from the UN to end fighting around the factory, with President Joe Biden over the weekend calling on European leaders to voice his concerns.

Fears for the plant are mounting as Volodymyr Zelensky warns that Russia could be plotting “something particularly ugly” to coincide with Ukraine’s Independence Day celebrations this week.

Russia hit the city of Nikopol, which lies across the Dnipro River from Europe’s largest power plant, three times in the night from Sunday to Sunday.

Four people were injured in the shelling, two of whom had to be taken to hospital after attacking residential areas, the local governor said.

Four people were injured in the shelling, two of whom had to be taken to hospital after attacking residential areas, the local governor said.

The strikes came despite international alarm at fighting around the factory and calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities

The strikes came despite international alarm at fighting around the factory and calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities

The date – August 24 – marks the day Ukraine issued its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

It also happens to be six months since Putin started his war on February 24, 2022.

President Zelensky said overnight: “We should all be aware that this week Russia could try to do something very ugly, something very mean.

“All of Ukraine’s partners have been informed about what the terrorist state can prepare this week.”

Aside from a possible nuclear disaster at the Zaporizhzhya plant, Ukraine has also warned of missiles gathering in Belarus over apparent attacks on the capital Kiev, as well as show trials that could take place in occupied Donbas.

Zelensky warned that Russian-backed proxy groups could be preparing to try and face the death penalty on Ukrainian POWs — including those who surrendered in the city of Mariupol.

If that happens, he said, it will forever close the door to a diplomatic solution to the fighting.

The Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is the largest in Europe and contains six reactors (pictured left) that supply one-fifth of Ukraine's electricity

The Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is the largest in Europe and contains six reactors (pictured left) that supply one-fifth of Ukraine’s electricity

Russian forces have controlled the factory since the start of the war, but recent fighting around it has raised concerns about a meltdown

Russian forces have controlled the factory since the start of the war, but recent fighting around it has raised concerns about a meltdown

“This will be the border beyond which no negotiations are possible. There will be no more conversations. Our state has said everything,” he added.

Ukraine regards the soldiers defending Mariupol as heroes, while Russia denigrates them as far-right sympathizers, war criminals and Nazis.

They allegedly surrendered after a months-long siege, on the understanding that they would be traded back to Ukraine as part of a prisoner swap.

But since then, dozens have been killed in a detention camp in what Russia says was a Ukrainian attack but which Kiev and independent analysts say was a fire started by Russian troops in a dormitory to cover up torture.

It comes as Putin’s invasion of Ukraine nears a stalemate, with both sides digging in and trying to hold onto their territory while seemingly incapable of carrying out further large-scale attacks.

British intelligence believes Russian commanders are increasingly dependent on offering “direct financial incentives” to get their men to fight, while “some combat units are deemed unreliable for offensive operations.”

The British Ministry of Defense delivered its analysis after a video from Luhansk showed men believed to have been enlisted in the armed forces there refusing to fight in neighboring Donetsk.

President Zelensky has warned that Russia could be preparing a

President Zelensky has warned that Russia could be preparing a “particularly ugly” attack this week to coincide with the Independence Day celebrations on August 24.

Luhansk has been largely liberated by Russian forces while fierce fighting continues in Donetsk, and the men said they refused to go to war there despite “threats and intimidation from senior commanders.”

The Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant has been under Russian control since the start of the war, after troops broke out in Crimea and seized parts of southern Ukraine.

The situation around the factory has been calm since then, but tensions have risen in recent weeks as Ukraine tries to push back Putin’s men.

Detonations have been reported around the plant’s six nuclear reactors, which Ukraine says are Russia’s false flag attacks, while Moscow blames Kiev for carrying them out.

Ukraine goes on to say that Russia has stationed military equipment, including explosives, in and around the plant’s reactors to protect them from attack, and says troops are trying to disconnect the plant from the country’s electrical grid.

This is dangerous, Kiev says, as it will cause some of the plant’s emergency systems to rely on diesel generators for power.

Zelensky has called for international inspectors to be sent to the plant – a matter also defended by the UN, although Russia has so far rejected this.

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