A small town in central Ukraine has suddenly become a flashpoint in the week-long dispute, as it is home to one of Europe’s largest nuclear power plants.
Two days ago, Russian forces claimed to control the territory around the town of Enerhodar, but on Wednesday a large crowd of power plant workers and civilians blocked access to the town, building barricades of fortune of trucks and tires.
At one point, Russian forces fired near the crowd, according to geotagged videos on social media, wounding at least one man.
The situation deteriorated further on Thursday.
Thick black smoke billowed from the barricades as sirens went off in the city, according to videos that CNN has geotagged and authenticated.
“The sirens don’t stop,” a woman is heard saying in one of the videos. “The column of Russian tanks is trying to fight through the checkpoint, do you hear the fighting, the explosions.”
The person filming, along with others, withdrew from the barricades.
“It’s a peacekeeping operation from Russia,” one man said in the video. “Here is what it looks like.”
“Without any warning they came, shot everyone,” said one man, appearing to be talking on the phone with someone. “Stay home, don’t go anywhere.”
Enerhodar Mayor Dmytro Orlov painted an increasingly bleak picture of the Russian offensive around the city.
At one point, he posted on Facebook: “The enemy column of military equipment is once again actively rotating near Enerhodar! We’re staying home for now! In the event of an alarm, we all block the entrance to the city.
Later, Orlov posted: “The enemy is approaching the city, with weapons, we fired at the checkpoint! Stay at home!!!… The battle continues at the checkpoint. Our guys resist and do their best to keep the enemy from passing.”
He alleged that shellfire hit residential buildings in the city, as well as a school, and said electricity and water were cut off in some neighborhoods.
In another video, a man said: “Yesterday we had 5,000 people in the streets for a peaceful protest and today they have to hold talks, but it’s happening. People stood like a human shield for days, even today. Did you see that? The bombing.
It is unclear whether the Ukrainian authorities still control the nuclear power plant near the city.