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Russia fires rockets at areas near nuclear plant; Kyiv bans Independence Day rallies

Russia fired rockets at towns to the west of Europe's largest nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine early on Monday while the capital Kyiv banned rallies this week to commemorate independence from Soviet rule for fear of Russian attacks.

Artillery and rocket fire close to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor complex, on the Russian-occupied south bank of the Dnipro River, has stirred fears of a nuclear disaster and calls for the surrounding area to be demilitarised.

Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for the repeated shelling, some of which has grazed the plant. It was seized by Russian forces shortly after they invaded Ukraine in February but is still run mainly by Ukrainian technicians.Overnight Russian rocket salvoes into Nikopol, across the Dnipro from Russian-occupied Enerhodar where the Zaporizhzhia plant is situated, and nearby Krivyi Rih and Synelnykovsky districts injured at least four people, regional Governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Telegram on Monday.

Ukraine also reported a Russian missile strike on Voznesensk, to the southwest and not far from the country's second-largest atomic power station.

On Sunday, US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron held a phone call stressing the importance of ensuring the safety and security of Ukraine's nuclear installations.

They also welcomed recent discussions on enabling a mission by the UN nuclear watchdog agency to Zaporizhzhia, while reaffirming their "steadfast commitment" to support Ukraine in the face of Russia's invasion.

Since Ukraine repelled a Russian attempt to capture Kyiv early in the war, the fighting has been concentrated in the east and south where frontlines have been largely static for weeks.

Independence Day celebrations banned

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned of the risk of more severe attacks ahead of Ukraine's 31st anniversary on Wednesday of independence from Russian-dominated Soviet rule.

Local authorities in Kyiv have banned large public events, rallies and other gatherings related to the anniversary in the capital from Monday until Thursday due to the possibility of rocket attacks, according to a document published by the Kyiv military administration signed by its head Mykola Zhyrnov.

Zelenskyy said Moscow could try "something particularly ugly" in the run-up to Wednesday, which also marks half a year since Russia invaded.

Zelenskyy said he had discussed "all the threats" with his French counterpart and word had also been sent to other leaders including Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and the UN.

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