Ukraine says Russia has bombed a facility with a nuclear reactor in Kharkiv

There has been no change in background radiation so far, president’s office says

Moment Russian airstrike hits Kharkiv physics institute hosting nuclear reactor

Ukraine has accused Russian forces of shelling a nuclear research institute housing an experimental reactor in the country’s second-largest city of Kharkiv.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry, said on Thursday that a shell hit a building where there is an equipment that could release radiation if it were damaged.

So far, there has been no change in background radiation, according to the president’s office.

The shelling set the building on fire, which was later doused by firefighters. The research facility is a part of the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology, which reportedly produces radioactive materials for medical and industrial usage.

"There are no threats to the civilian population yet," Oleh Synegubov, the local governor, said in a video address on Friday.

The Ukrainian centre for strategic communications and information security tweeted that eyewitnesses reported a fire in the building of the Kharkiv Institute. “The building contains equipment which, if damaged, can lead to radioactive pollution of the environment,” it added.

The same facility was shelled earlier last Saturday, the Kharkiv oblast branch of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), had said. It warned that potential destruction of the facility would lead to a large-scale environmental disaster.

This map shows the extent of Russia’s war in Ukraine

The state nuclear regulatory inspectorate of Ukraine has accused Russia of committing “an act of nuclear terrorism” and said it is surveying the damage from the attack.

Russian forces have already taken over two nuclear power plants in Ukraine, including Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear plant in Europe.

Ukraine has accused Russia of cutting off the power supply to the Chernobyl power plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, and asked for a temporary ceasefire to allow repairs on the electric line.

“Reserve diesel generators have a 48-hour capacity to power the Chornobyl NPP. After that, cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, making radiation leaks imminent. Putin’s barbaric war puts entire Europe in danger. He must stop it immediately,” Ukraine foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the US and UK have warned against Russia’s possible use of biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine.

“The stuff which you are hearing about chemical weapons is straight out of the Russian playbook,” British prime minister Boris Johnson told Sky News.

“We should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them,” warned White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

The World Health Organisation has asked Ukraine to destroy “disease-causing pathogens” housed in the country’s public health laboratories, pointing out a potential risk of disease spreading among the population if “high-threat” pathogens were not destroyed to prevent “any potential spills”.

Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has forced over two million people to flee to neighbouring countries.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered.

To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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