The war in Ukraine entered a new deadlier phase Saturday as Russian troops advanced into the country’s south and shelling was reported at a power complex in the area, igniting fears of a nuclear disaster.
A British intelligence report warned that Russian troops are making headway into southern Ukraine, and predicted the fighting would now shift from the Donbas region in the eastern part of the country to Kherson and the Crimea Peninsula in the south.
“Russia’s war with Ukraine is about to enter a new phase, with the heaviest fighting shifting to a roughly 350km front line stretching southwest from near Zaporizhzhya to Kherson, paralleling the Dnieper River,” Britain’s Defense Ministry said.
“Russian forces are almost certainly massing in the south in anticipation of Ukraine’s counter-offensive or in preparation for a possible assault,” the intelligence report added.
On Friday, explosions were reported at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power complex, which Russian forces took over in March. The plant, the largest in Europe, is on the banks of the Dniepro River in southern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed Russia for the attack, calling it a “brazen crime” and an “act of terror.”
“Today, the occupiers created another extremely risky situation for everyone in Europe,” Zelensky said on his nightly broadcast Friday.
Russia denied that it launched the attack, and put the blame on Ukrainian forces.
A spokesman for the Russian defense ministry said that the generating capacity of one unit at the plant had been reduced, and power was cut to another unit, according to CNN.
Separately, at a closed door meeting at the Russian resort in Sochi, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday offered to set up a summit between Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Zelensky.