UN Secretary General António Guterres has called for international inspectors to be given access to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after Ukraine and Russia traded accusations over the shelling of Europe’s largest atomic plant at the weekend.
“Any attack to a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing,” Guterres told a news conference in Japan on Monday, two days after attending the Hiroshima peace memorial ceremony to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing.
Guterres said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) needed access to the plant. “We fully support the IAEA in all their efforts in relation to creating the conditions of stabilization of the plant,” Guterres said.
Ukraine said renewed Russian shelling on Saturday had damaged three radiation sensors and hurt a worker at the Zaporizhzhia power plant, the second hit in consecutive days on the site.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of waging “nuclear terror” sanctions that warranted more international, this time on Moscow’s nuclear sector. “There is no such nation in the world that could feel safe when a terrorist state fires at a nuclear plant,” Zelenskiy said in a televised address on Sunday.
Russian forces captured the plant in south-eastern Ukraine in early March but it is still run by Ukrainian technicians.
Russian-installed authorities in the area said Ukrainian forces hit the site with a multiple rocket launcher, damaging administrative buildings and an area near a storage facility. The Russian embassy in Washington also released a statement itemizing the damage.
“Ukrainian nationalists launched an artillery strike on the territory of the specified object on Aug. 5. Two high-voltage power lines and a water pipeline were damaged as a result of the shelling. Only thanks to the effective and timely actions of the Russian military in covering the nuclear power facility, its critical infrastructure was not affected,” the embassy said.
The head of Zaporizhzhia’s occupying authorities, Evgeniy Balitskyi, said that Ukrainian forces were to blame and had “decided to put the whole of Europe on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe” by shelling the plant.
Ukraine says Russia has turned the plant into a military base, making it extremely hard to target the Russian troops and equipment inside. According to the New York Times, Russia has been using the plant as cover from which to fire on Ukrainian forces since mid-July.
The Washington-based thinktank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) assessed on 3 August that Russian forces were likely to be using the power plant to “play on western fears of a nuclear disaster in Ukraine in an effort to degrade western will to provide military support to a Ukrainian counteroffensive”. The ISW further said that Russia was “effectively using the plant as a nuclear shield to prevent Ukrainian strikes on Russian forces and equipment”.
It has not been possible to independently determine which side was responsible for the attack on the power station.
IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi warned on Saturday that the latest attack “underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster.”
Elsewhere, Russia is strengthening its positions and numbers on Ukraine’s southern front to ready itself for a Ukrainian counteroffensive and is likely to be preparing the ground to attack, according to British and Ukrainian military authorities.
“Russian troops are almost certainly amassing in the south, either waiting for a Ukrainian counteroffensive or preparing to attack. Long convoys of Russian military trucks, tanks, artillery and other things continue to move from the Donbas to the south-west,” said the UK’s defense ministry, confirming early assertions by Ukraine’s deputy military intelligence chief.
According to a separate source with Ukraine’s military intelligence, Russian forces are creating fire damage along the frontlines in the occupied Kherson region to stop Ukrainian forces from pushing out of their positions, and adding more units to attack Mykolaiv and south Dnipropetrovsk region, as well as conducting aerial reconnaissance of the area with drones. In occupied Zaporizhzhia region, the Russians are actively attacking Ukrainian troops while bringing in new units to strengthen their numbers, according to the same source.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism