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Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

Aug 26 (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the world narrowly avoided a radiation disaster as electricity to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was cut for hours due to Russian shelling in the area, allegations that Moscow denied.

NUCLEAR PLANT

* Zelenskiy said Russian shelling on Thursday sparked fires in the ash pits of a nearby coal power station that disconnected the reactor complex from the power grid. A Russian official said Ukraine was to blame.

* Back-up diesel generators ensured power supply that is vital for cooling and safety systems at the plant, Zelenskiy said late on Thursday.

* State nuclear company Energoatom said on Friday that electricity for the plant's own needs was being supplied through a power line from Ukraine's electricity system, and work was ongoing to restore grid connection to the plant's two functioning reactors.

FIGHTING

* The Ukraine military said its forces had repulsed Russian assaults on the towns of Bakhmut and Soledar in the eastern Donetsk region and struck ammunition depots and enemy personnel in the southern Kherson region.

* Ukrainian forces used a U.S.-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launcher to fire about 10 rockets at the town of Stakhanov in the eastern Donbas region before dawn on Friday, according to pro-Moscow breakaway officials in Luhansk quoted by Russia's TASS news agency.

Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield reports of either side.

DIPLOMACY

* In Washington, the White House said on Thursday that Russia should agree to a demilitarized zone around the nuclear plant and allow the world nuclear body, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to visit as soon as possible to check on the safety and security of the system. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy earlier spoke to U.S. President Joe Biden by phone.

(Reporting by Max Hunder and Olzhas Auyezov; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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