There have been reports of renewed shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, with both Ukraine and Russia placing blame on the other.
On Thursday, both sides claimed that they had launched 10 attacks on the plant’s administration building and fire station, making it Europe’s largest power plant.
The head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, warned that the situation was dire at a meeting of the Security Council called to discuss the crisis.
It could “lead to disaster,” as UN Secretary General António Guterres put it.
Both the Chinese and American governments have asked that UN experts be given immediate access to the plant, but previous requests for the same have gone unheeded.
“Fighting near a nuclear plant is dangerous and irresponsible,” a state department spokesperson said when the United States first called for a demilitarized zone to be established around the plant.
While the Russian UN ambassador insisted that demilitarization was off the table, claiming that it would leave the plant vulnerable to “provocations” and “terror attacks,” the latter was never officially acknowledged by Moscow.
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Last week, shelling hit the facility and the surrounding area in central-eastern Ukraine, with Russia and Ukraine both laying blame for the attack on the other.
Ukraine claims Russia is using the location as a military stronghold, launching attacks from there because they know their forces won’t be able to effectively defend themselves.
Moscow strongly refutes the allegations.
Russian “invaders” “again shelled the Zaporizhzhia plant and territories near the nuclear facility,” the Ukrainian nuclear agency Enerhoatom said in a statement on Thursday.
Some radiation detectors were reportedly destroyed, and an administrative office close to the welding area was hit. There was a minor grass fire, but no one was hurt.
According to Enerhoatom, the nearby fire station was also attacked.
Their shift ended but they had to stay and work overtime because of the shelling.
But Enerhoatom claimed that things were under control at the moment.
The Crisis in Zaporizhzhia and Its Development
- March 2022: Russian troops invade Ukraine in and seize the plant shortly after. Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear power company, has acquired the complex, according to its management. Ukrainian workers are still keeping the plant running despite Russian oversight.
- July: According to reports, Russian forces set up rocket launchers in the complex transforming it into a military outpost.
- August 3: International Atomic Energy Agency has declared that the plant is “completely out of control” and calls for an inspection and repairs.
- 5 August: Enerhoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear agency, reported that a reactor’s operators disconnected it from the grid after receiving two rounds of Russian rocket fire.
- 8 August: Three radiation sensors were reportedly damaged, and one Ukrainian worker was injured, due to renewed Russian shelling. Ukrainian forces allegedly used multiple rocket launchers to attack the site, according to local Russian-backed authorities.
- 10 August: Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven states (G7) issued a statement demanding that Russia return control of the nuclear plant to Ukraine.
- 11 August: reports surfaced of further shelling at the plant, with Ukraine and Russia once again placing the blame on the other country.
Officials installed by Russia issued a statement that was virtually identical, blaming Ukraine for the shelling.
Reports surfaced that Ukrainian forces were employing MIRVs and other forms of heavy artillery. There has been no third-party confirmation of the contending parties’ claims.
Mr. Grossi reiterated his request for access to the plant for his International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at Thursday’s meeting of the UN Security Council in New York City.
“This is a serious hour, a grave hour, and the IAEA must be allowed to conduct its mission to Zaporizhzhia as soon as possible,” he said.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had previously issued a stern warning, saying, “Urgent agreement is needed at a technical level on a safe perimeter of demilitarisation to ensure the safety of the area.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated in his nightly address that “only the complete withdrawal of Russians from Zaporizhzhia guarantees the restoration of nuclear safety for the whole of Europe.”
The Zaporizhzhia plant is located in Enerhodar, Ukraine, on the left bank of the Dnieper River in the country’s southeastern corner (Dnipro in Ukrainian).
It contains radioactive waste and is comprised of six pressurized water reactors.
Russia retained the Ukrainian staff after seizing the complex.
Officials from the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog have been unable to visit the facility thus far.