Russia said on Thursday it may shut down Europe’s largest nuclear power plant after it was bombed at the front in Ukraine, a move kyiv said would increase the risk of a nuclear catastrophe in that country.
Moscow has also rejected international calls to create a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which it seized early in the war and is still operated by Russian-occupied Ukrainian engineers.
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who discussed the situation at the plant with the general secretary of the UNAntónio Guterres, who was visiting Lviv, asked the United Nations to guarantee his demilitarization and protection.
“This deliberate terror on the part of the aggressor can have catastrophic consequences for the entire world.“, wrote Zelensky on the Telegram messaging app, accusing Russia of “nuclear blackmail” in the center.
The plant is located on the southern shore of a huge reservoir controlled by Russia; Ukrainian forces hold the north bank. In recent days there have been several attacks against the plant, which both parties blame each other.
Ukraine also accuses Russia to use the plant as a shield for his forces to launch attacks through the reservoir on cities controlled by Ukrainesomething that Moscow denies.
Foreign countries and the United Nations have asked Moscow to allow the entry of international inspectors. Reuters could not independently confirm the military situation at the scene or responsibility for the attack on the plant.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday that calls for a demilitarized zone around the plant were “unacceptable”. The Defense Ministry said Moscow could close the plant if it came under further attack.
The Ukrainian authorities have accused Russia of planning the closure of the plant to disconnect it from the Ukrainian electricity grid and switch it to the Russian one, thus stealing its production.
Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear power company, Energoatom, said closing the plant would increase the risk of “a radiation disaster at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
Disconnecting the complex’s generators from the Ukrainian power system would prevent them from being used to keep nuclear fuel cold in the event of a power outage at the plant, he said.
The Russian Defense Ministry accused kyiv of planning some kind of incident at the nuclear power plant as “provocation” to take place during the visit of Guterres. A Ukrainian official rejected what he described as a cynical statement from Moscow.
The last time Guterres visited UkraineIn April, Russia fired missiles at a residential building in kyiv, injuring at least 10 people just as Guterres he finished his talks with Zelensky nearby.
At that time, Guterres described the incident asshocking” Y Ukraine accused Moscow of wanting to humiliate the United Nations. Russia denied targeting civilians or intentionally timing its attack to coincide with the visit.
Shutting down a nuclear power plant is a complicated operation that requires stopping the nuclear chain reactions and protecting the fuel from heating up and causing a meltdown.
“If Russia takes steps to force the exit (of the plant) from the Ukrainian electricity system, that could threaten the operational safety of the station, as well as escalate the energy crisis in Ukraine in the winter,” Mark Hibbs told Reuters. , a senior fellow with the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in an email.
At a briefing, Igor Kirillov, head of Russia’s radioactive, chemical and biological defense forces, said the plant’s support systems had been damaged as a result of the shelling. He presented a slide showing that, in the event of an accident, the radioactive material would cover Germany, Poland and Slovakia.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he had spoken with the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who was willing to lead a delegation to the plant.
“I stressed the urgency of the mission to address nuclear security threats caused by Russia’s hostilities,” he said on Twitter.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is also expected in talks with Guterres and Zelensky in Lviv to discuss progress in resuming Ukrainian grain exports under a deal brokered by the United Nations and Ankara to lift the blockade. Russian. Both Russia and Ukraine are major food producers, and the blockade has threatened to exacerbate world hunger.
Guterres is also expected to discuss the UN’s role in the POW negotiations. Relatives of Ukrainian troops who surrendered at Mariupol’s Azovstal steel factory under a UN-backed deal staged a rally during Guterres’ visit, calling for more efforts to protect them.
Dozens of the Azovstal prisoners died in the custody of Russian-backed separatists last month in a prison explosion. kyiv called it a massacre and a war crime; Moscow accused Ukraine of attacking the prison with rockets, although it did not explain why no guards were injured. The same day, the Russian embassy in the UK posted a tweet saying that the Azovstal prisoners “deserve a humiliating death.”
After months in which Russian forces made modest territorial gains in heavy fighting in the east, Ukraine’s front lines have remained comparatively static in recent weeks.
kyiv says it is preparing for a counterattack to recapture a swath of southern territory, including Kherson province and neighboring Zaporizhzhia, where the plant is located.
The war has killed thousands of people and forced millions to flee. Moscow says its goal is to demilitarize Ukraine and protect Russian-speakers in territory that President Vladimir Putin says historically belongs to Russia.
kyiv and the West describe it as an unprovoked war to conquer Ukraine and erase its ancient national identity.