International concern over weekend artillery attacks on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex intensified on Monday, with Kiev warning of a Chornobyl-style disaster and calling for the area to be demilitarized.
The UN Secretary-General demanded access to the facility as Kiev and Moscow traded blame for shelling in a southern territory taken by Russian invaders in March and now targeted by Kiev for a counter-offensive.
“Any attack (on) a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing,” United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said at a news conference on Monday in Japan, where he had attended the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on Saturday to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic explosion.
The chairman of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom, Petro Kotin, has advocated for the deployment of a team of peacekeepers to the Zaporizhzhia site, which is still controlled by Ukrainian specialists. more info
“The decision that we demand from the world community and all our partners … is to withdraw the invaders from the territory of the station and create a demilitarised zone on the territory of the station,” Kotin said on television.
“The presence of peacekeepers in this zone and the transfer of control of it to them, and then also control of the station to the Ukrainian side would resolve this problem.”
According to Russia’s defense ministry, Ukrainian shelling damaged high-voltage power cables to the Soviet-era plant, forcing it to limit output by two of its six reactors to “prevent disruption”
Earlier, a Russian-installed official in the Zaporizhzhia area stated that the plant was operational.
Ukraine condemned Russia for continuing bombardment in the plant’s vicinity, which it claimed destroyed three radiation sensors and sent two workers to the hospital with shrapnel injuries.
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.
Reuters was unable to confirm either side’s account of events.
In a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the shelling “extremely dangerous” adding, “We expect the countries that have absolute influence on the Ukrainian leadership to use this influence in order to rule out the continuation of such shelling.”
The possibility of shells hitting spent containers of extremely radioactive spent nuclear fuel, according to Ukraine’s Kotin, is particularly grave. “it is impossible to assess the scale of this catastrophe” if two or more containers were damaged.
In 1986, a reactor at the Chornobyl complex in northwest Ukraine exploded, causing the world’s worst civil nuclear disaster. Russian forces took the factory shortly after the February 24 assault and retreated in late March.
According to Guterres, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) need access to the Zaporizhzhia plant. “We fully support the IAEA in all their efforts in relation to creat(ing) the conditions for stabilisation of the plant,” he said.
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.