The Ukrainian president lashed
out at Moscow over its ‘nuclear blackmail’ at the Zaporizhzhia station, the
largest in Europe.
Both sides have traded
allegations, blaming the other for shelling the plant throughout the six-month
Russia seized the site in
early March and has turned it into a base from where it can hit nearby towns,
meaning Ukrainian forces cannot fight back without the risk of causing a
widespread disaster in which deadly radioactive fallout is released.
Ukrainian Emergency Ministry
rescuers in Zaporizhzhia during a simulation of a nuclear incident on Wednesday
‘This deliberate terror on the
part of the aggressor can have globally catastrophic consequences,’ Mr. Zelensky
‘The UN must ensure the
security of this strategic object, its demilitarisation and complete liberation
from Russian troops.’
His comments came after talks
with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip
Erdogan in Lviv that included boosting Ukrainian grain exports and ways to end
Tensions around the plant have
led to fears of another Ukrainian nuclear disaster similar to the one in
Chernobyl in 1986.
Shortly after the talks,
Ukrainian officials warned Russia was preparing to stage a ‘provocation’ at the
site on Friday.
The country’s defence
intelligence agency said staff with Russia’s Rosatom nuclear power company had
left the site but gave no further details about what a possible incident would
Mr. Guterres said: ‘Agreement
is urgently needed to re-establish Zaporizhzhia’s purely civilian
infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area.’ Russia rejected calls for
a demilitarised zone but claimed UN inspectors would be able to visit it ‘in
the near future’.
Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s
state nuclear energy agency Energoatom, claimed around 500 Russian troops and
50 armoured vehicles were at the plant, which is still being operated by
Moscow dismisses those
allegations as completely fabricated.
Russian foreign ministry
spokesman Ivan Nechaev insisted yesterday that ‘the Ukrainian military must be
forced to cease shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to prevent a
Russia’s defence ministry also
claimed Ukraine was planning a ‘false flag provocation’ today.
Workers in gas masks and
hazmat suits practiced evacuating an injured man and scanning him for radiation
during the drills this week
In a sign of how seriously
Ukrainian officials were taking the threat, a simulation of a nuclear incident
was held on Wednesday.
‘Nobody could have predicted
that Russian troops would be firing on nuclear reactors with tanks. It is
incredible,’ said Ukrainian interior minister Denys Monastyrsky.
After watching a drill, he
said Ukraine should be prepared because ‘as long as the Zaporizhzhia nuclear
plant is controlled by Russia, there are major risks’.
Emergency workers in gas masks
and hazmat suits took part in exercises, practicing evacuating an injured man,
scanning him for radiation and washing contaminated vehicles.
Responders were checked for
radiation before being washed and disposing of their gear.
It comes as a report by the
Kiel Institute for the World Economy think-tank showed no major European power
made new pledges for military aid to Ukraine in July.