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Shellfire hit towns surrounding the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine on Saturday afternoon fuelling more fears of a potential radiation leak as both sides traded blame. Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom said it was assessing damage to the plant and that its staff were under pressure by the Russian occupiers ahead of a likely visit by the IAEA. Read our liveblog to keep up with the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
9:23am: UK says it is unclear how Russia will recruit more soldiers
Britain‘s defence ministry said on Sunday it was not yet clear how Russia would achieve an announced large increase in its armed forces, but the boost was unlikely to substantially increase its combat power in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree last week to increase the size of Russia’s armed forces to 2.04 million from 1.9 million as the war in Ukraine enters its seventh month.
The UK defence ministry said in a regular update on the war that it was not clear if this would be achieved by recruiting more volunteers or by increasing conscription.
Either way it would likely not have a big impact on the war in Ukraine, given that “Russia has lost tens of thousands of troops; very few new contract servicemen are being recruited; and conscripts are technically not obliged to serve outside of Russian territory,” the ministry said on Twitter
7:50am: Energoatom says it is assessing damage from new round of shelling at Zaporizhzhia
Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom blamed Russia on Saturday for shelling at the grounds of the complex. “The damage is currently being ascertained,” Energoatom wrote in a statement on Telegram.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, said on Thursday that his agency was “very, very close” to being able to send officials to inspect the plant.
Energoatom’s statement on Saturday said its staff at the plant had come under “increased pressure” ahead of the likely visit from the IAEA “to hush up their testimonies about the crimes of the occupiers at the station and using it as a military base”.
6:49am: Fresh shelling at Zaporizhzhia plant and in surrounding area heightens risk of radiation leak
Shellfire at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine fuelled fears of disaster as both sides blamed the other, while Russian forces targeted towns on the far side of the river from Europe’s largest atomic plant.
The governor of Zaporizhzhia region, Oleksandr Starukh, told Ukrainian television that people in the city of Zaporizhzhia, a two hours’ drive from the plant, were being informed how to apply iodine in case of a radiation leak.
On the opposite shore from the Zaporizhzhia plant, the towns of Nikopol and Marhanets were hit by shells on Saturday afternoon and evening, Nikopol Mayor Yevhen Yevtushenko said on Telegram.
Moscow’s defence ministry on Saturday accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the plant complex three times in 24 hours. It said in a statement 17 shells were fired, with four hitting the roof of a building storing “168 assemblies of U.S. Westinghouse nuclear fuel”.
It said 10 shells exploded near a dry storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and three near a building that houses fresh nuclear fuel storage. It said the radiation situation at the plant remained normal.
Neither the Russian nor Ukrainian reports could be independently verified.