The war in Ukraine entered a new deadlier phase on Saturday as Russian troops moved into the south of the country and shelling was reported at a power plant in the area, raising fears of a nuclear disaster.
A British intelligence report warned that Russian forces were advancing into southern Ukraine and predicted that fighting would now shift from the Donbas region in the eastern part of the country to Kherson and the Crimean peninsula in the south.
“Russia’s war with Ukraine is about to enter a new phase, with the heaviest fighting shifting to an approximately 350 km long front line stretching southwest from Zaporizhzhya to Kherson, parallel to the Dnieper River,” it said. British Ministry of Defence.
“Russian forces are almost certainly gathering in the south in anticipation of Ukraine’s counteroffensive or in preparation for a possible attack,” the intelligence report added.
Explosions were reported Friday at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power complex, which was taken over by Russian forces in March. The factory, the largest in Europe, is located on the banks of the Dnieper River in southern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed Russia for the attack, calling it a “brutal crime” and an “act of terror”.
“Today the occupiers have once again created an extremely risky situation for everyone in Europe,” Zelensky said in his overnight broadcast.
Russia denied launching the attack and blamed Ukrainian troops.
A spokesman for Russia’s Defense Ministry said the generating capacity of one unit at the plant had been reduced and power to another unit had been cut, according to CNN.
Separately, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered Saturday in a closed meeting at the Russian resort in Sochi to host a summit between Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Zelensky.