United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday he was gravely concerned by the situation at Europe’s largest nuclear power station after it came under shelling on the front lines in Ukraine.
Russia, which captured the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant soon after its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, said it could shut down the facility — a move Kyiv said would increase the risk of a nuclear catastrophe.
Guterres, speaking to reporters after talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, said military equipment and personnel should be withdrawn from the plant.
“The facility must not be used as part of any military operation. Instead, agreement is urgently needed to re-establish Zaporizhzhia’s purely civilian infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area,” he said.
WATCH l Potential for disaster great at Zaporizhzhia: UN envoy:
Shelling at Ukraine nuclear plant raises fears over health, environmental threats
The UN is urging inspectors with the International Atomic Agency to be allowed access to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant to check for radiation leaks after the site came under fire again over the weekend.
Moscow had earlier rejected international calls for a demilitarized zone around the plant, which is still operated by Ukrainian engineers under Russian occupation, as “unacceptable.”
The power station sits on the Russian-controlled south bank of a huge reservoir; Ukrainian forces hold the north bank. Recent days have seen several incidents of shelling at the plant, which both sides blame on each other.
A man looks out from a portion of a building in Kharkiv on Thursday, in the aftermath of a missile strike. (Andrii Marienko/The Associated Press)
Meanwhile, on the battlefield, at least 17 people were killed and 42 wounded in heavy Russian missile strikes on Ukraine’s Kharkiv region on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Ukrainian authorities said.
Russia’s military claimed that it struck a base for foreign mercenaries in Kharkiv, killing 90. There was no immediate comment from the Ukrainian side.
Debris is seen in a residential block of a tram depot hit by a Russian missile strike in Kharkiv, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine. (Vitalii Hnidyi/Reuters)
In the latest in a series of incidents on Russian soil near the border with Ukraine, an ammunition dump caught fire in the Belgorod region, the regional governor said. No casualties were reported.
Heightening international tensions, Russia deployed warplanes carrying state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles to the country’s Kaliningrad region, an enclave surrounded by two NATO countries, Lithuania and Poland.
Ukraine says Russia using plant as shield
Ukraine also accuses Russia of using the Zaporizhzhia plant as a shield for its forces to launch strikes across the reservoir on Ukrainian-held cities, which Moscow denies.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, left, speaks with Lyiv University rector Volodymyr Melnyk in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Thursday. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)
Reuters cannot independently confirm the military situation there or who is responsible for shelling.
Zelenskyy said after meeting Guterres on Thursday that they had agreed on parameters for a possible mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the plant.
“Russia should immediately and unconditionally withdraw its forces from the territory of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as well as stopping any provocations and shelling,” he said.
Earlier, he accused Russia of “nuclear blackmail.”
In Moscow, the defence ministry said Russia could shut the plant down if it came under further attack.
Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of planning to shut the plant to sever it from Ukraine’s power grid and switch it over to Russia’s — effectively stealing its output.
Shutdown would pose risks: energy company
Ukrainian state nuclear energy company Energoatom said shutting down the plant would increase the risk of “a radiation disaster at the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.”
Disconnecting the complex’s generators from Ukraine’s power system would prevent them from being used to keep nuclear fuel cool in the event of a power outage at the plant, it said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy poses for a selfie with an injured soldier at a hospital in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters)
Shutting down a nuclear power plant is a complicated operation that requires halting nuclear chain reactions while protecting fuel from heating up and causing a meltdown.
“Should Russia take actions to force [the plant] off the Ukraine power system, that could threaten the operational safety of the station, in addition to escalating Ukraine’s energy crisis into the winter,” Mark Hibbs, senior fellow at the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Reuters in an email.
Russia’s defence ministry and Ukraine’s main intelligence agency both accused the other side of planning some form of incident at the nuclear plant as a “provocation” to take place during Guterres’ visit.
Turkish president, UN chief talk paths to end conflict
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also took part in talks with Guterres and Zelenskyy in Lviv, saying afterwards they had discussed ways to end the conflict.
A firefighter stands in front of a destroyed hostel as a result of the missile strike in Kharkiv late Wednesday night. (Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images)
Erdogan said they had talked about using the positive atmosphere created by a deal brokered by the UN and Turkey that lifted the Russian blockade of Ukrainian grain exports to revive peace negotiations that took place in Istanbul in March.
NATO member Turkey has maintained good relations with Russia, an important trade partner, and sought to mediate in the six-month-old conflict.
“Personally, I maintain my belief that the war will ultimately end at the negotiating table. Mr Zelenskyy and Mr Guterres have the same opinion in this regard,” Erdogan said.
He also said they discussed the exchange of prisoners of war between Ukraine and Russia, and that he would later raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Relatives of Ukrainian troops who surrendered at the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol under a UN-backed deal staged a demonstration during Guterres’s visit calling for more efforts to protect them.
Demonstrators hold placards in support of Ukrainian troops who were captured by Russian forces, during a Thursday visit to Lviv by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary General António Guterres. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images)
Dozens of the Azovstal prisoners died in custody of Russian-backed separatists last month in a fiery blast at a prison. Kyiv called it a massacre and a war crime; Moscow accused Ukraine of having struck the prison with rockets, though it provided no explanation for why no guards were hurt.
After months in which Russian forces made modest territorial gains in heavy fighting in the east, front lines in Ukraine have been comparatively static in recent weeks.
Kyiv says it is preparing for a counterattack to recapture a swathe of southern territory, including Kherson province and neighbouring Zaporizhzhia, where the nuclear plant is located.
Jasaseosmm.com Smm Panel is the best and cheapest smm reseller panel Buy Twitter Verification for instant Instagram likes and followers, Buy Verification Badge, Youtube views and subscribers, TikTok followers, telegram services, and many other smm services. telegram, and many other smm services.