A Russian missile struck within 328 yards of three reactors at the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant on Monday, Ukrainian officials said. This is the country's second-largest nuclear power station, and Ukraine's Defense Ministry called the attack an act of "nuclear terrorism."
Energoatom, Ukraine's nuclear operator, said the missile left a hole nearly seven feet deep and 13 feet wide. While industrial equipment was damaged, no power plant employees were injured and the reactors are functioning normally. The Russian Defense Ministry has not commented on the missile strike.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his forces have been holding back on hitting infrastructure in Ukraine, but recently "delivered a couple of impactful strikes. Let's consider those as warning strikes." His remarks came after a Ukrainian counteroffensive picked up steam, and some areas of Ukraine were taken back from Russia.
Not long after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, Russian troops entered the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is the largest such facility in Europe. There has been intense shelling in the area, and Patricia Lewis, an international security research director at the Chatham House think tank, told The Associated Press that Russian forces are likely trying to get Ukraine's nuclear plants offline before winter.
"It's a very, very dangerous and illegal act to be targeting a nuclear station," she said. "Only the generals will know the intent, but there's clearly a pattern. What they seem to be doing each time is to try to cut off the power to the reactor. It's a very clumsy way to do it, because how accurate are these missiles?"