After Ukraine and Russia swapped accusations over the weekend shelling of Europe’s largest atomic complex, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed on Monday for foreign inspectors to be allowed access to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.
“Any attack (on) a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing,” Guterres said during a news conference in Japan on Saturday, where he was attending the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony commemorating the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic explosion.
Despite the bombardment, the nuclear reactor complex was running in “normal mode” the Russian-installed head of the local government, Yevgeniy Balitsky, told Interfax on Monday.
The plant in Ukraine’s southeast was captured by Russian military in early March, shortly after Moscow invaded its neighbor on February 24, although it is still run by Ukrainian professionals.
Ukraine blamed Russia for further shelling in the plant’s vicinity on Saturday, which destroyed three radiation sensors and injured a worker. It was the plant’s second reported hit in as many days, following damage to a power line.
In a televised address on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of conducting “nuclear terror” calling for further international penalties, this time against Moscow’s massive nuclear power sector.
According to the Russian-installed government in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukrainian forces attacked the facility with a multiple rocket launcher, damaging administrative buildings and a storage area.
According to Russia’s embassy in Washington, Ukrainian artillery damaged two high-voltage power lines and a water pipeline, but crucial infrastructure was unharmed.
Reuters was unable to confirm either side’s account of events.
Ukraine has stated that it intends to launch a strong counter-offensive in the Russian-occupied south, focusing on Kherson, west of Zaporizhzhia, and that it has already retaken dozens of villages.
The world has been terrified by armed warfare near a Soviet-era nuclear power plant.
According to Guterres, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) need access to the plant. “We fully support the IAEA in all their efforts in relation to creat(ing) the conditions for stabilisation of the plant,” he said.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, cautioned on Saturday that the latest attack “underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster”