A small town in the middle of Ukraine has suddenly become a hotspot in the week-old conflict — because it’s home to one of Europe’s largest nuclear power plants.
Two days ago, Russian forces said they controlled the territory around the town of Enerhodar, but on Wednesday a large crowd of workers from the power plant and civilians blocked access to the town, building makeshift barricades of trucks and tires.
At one point, Russian forces fired close to the crowd, according to geolocated social media videos, injuring at least one man.
The situation deteriorated further Thursday.
Thick black smoke rose from the barricades as sirens went off in the town, according to videos CNN has geolocated and authenticated.
“The sirens are not stopping,” a woman is heard saying in one of the videos. “The column of Russian tanks are trying to fight though the checkpoint, can you hear the fighting, the explosions.”
The person filming, along with others, retreated from the barricades.
“This is peacekeeping operation from Russia,” a man said in the video. “This is what it looks like.”
“Without warning, whatsoever, they arrived, put everyone down,” a man said, appearing to be talking on the phone with someone. “Stay at home, don’t go anywhere.”
The mayor of Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, painted an increasingly grim picture about the Russian offensive around the town.
At one point, he posted on Facebook: “The enemy column of military equipment is again actively circling near Enerhodar! We are staying at home for now! In case of an alarm — we all block the entrance to the city.”
Later, Orlov posted: “The enemy is approaching the city, with weapons, the checkpoint was fired at! Stay at home!!!…The battle continues at the checkpoint. Our guys are resisting and doing their best to keep the enemy from passing.”
He alleged that shellfire had hit residential buildings in the city, as well as a school, and said that power and water had been cut in some neighborhoods.
In another video, a man said: “Yesterday we had 5,000 people on the streets in a peaceful protest and today they must be holding talks, but this is happening. The people stood as a human shield for days, even today. Did you see this? The shelling.”
It’s unclear whether Ukrainian authorities still control the nuclear power plant near the town.
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