KYIV/LVIV: UN 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 at the front lines in Ukraine. Russia, which captured the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant soon after its February 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 Ukraine‘s President Volodymyr Zelensky in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, said military equipment and personnel should be withdrawn from the plant.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.
Moscow had earlier rejected international calls for a demilitarised 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. Ukraine also accuses Russia of using the plant as a shield for its forces to launch strikes across the reservoir on Ukrainian-held cities, which Moscow denies.
Zelensky said after meeting Guterres on Thursday that they had agreed parameters of a possible mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the plant. Earlier, he had accused Russia of “nuclear blackmail”. “This deliberate terror on the part of the aggressor can have global catastrophic consequences for the whole world,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram messaging app.
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. Ukrainian state nuclear energy company Energoatom said shutting down the plant would increase the risk of “a radiation disaster at the nuclear power plant”. Disconnecting the complex’s generators from Ukraine’s power system would prevent them being used to keep nuclear fuel cool in the event of a power outage at the plant, it said. reuters

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