The chairman of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom called for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station to be declared a military-free zone on Monday, warning of the potential of a Chernobyl-style nuclear accident after shelling hit the site.
In statements on television, Putin urged for a team of peacekeepers to be sent to the facility, after Ukraine and Russia accused each other of shelling the nuclear power station, Europe’s largest, which is located in Russian-controlled southern Ukraine.
“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 demilitarized zone on the territory of the station,” Petro Kotin stated 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,” he stated.
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.
Kotin specifically mentioned the potential of shelling hitting spent nuclear fuel containers.
“If one container of spent nuclear fuel is broken, it will be a local accident in the plant and the surrounding area,” stated the top nuclear official.
“If there are two or three containers, it will be much larger. It is impossible to assess the scale of this catastrophe.”
He called the International Atomic Energy Agency’s response to the situation at the site “sluggish” over the last five months, but said there were signs that this was changing.
“Now there is movement in their position, and we hope that the situation will be taken under the control of international organisations,” he said.
According to Kotin, 500 Russian soldiers and 50 heavy machinery pieces, including tanks, trucks, and armoured infantry vehicles, were present at the site.
He said that the Ukrainian workers at the plant had nowhere to stay. During the shelling, two persons were injured by shrapnel and were taken to the hospital.