Rescuers work at the site of a residential building destroyed by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine August 17, 2022. REUTERS/Vitalii Hnidyi

Summary

  • U.N. chief to meet Zelenskiy, Turkey’s Erdogan in Lviv
  • Russian ‘nuclear blackmail’ could cause disaster -Zelenskiy
  • Moscow rejects calls for demilitarised zone around plant

KYIV/LVIV, Ukraine, Aug 18 (Reuters) – Russia said on Thursday it could shut down Europe’s largest nuclear power station after it came under shelling at the front lines in Ukraine, a move Kyiv said would increase the risk of a nuclear catastrophe there.

Moscow also rejected international calls for a demilitarised zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which it seized early in the war and which is still operated by Ukrainian engineers under Russian occupation.

Rescuers work at the site of a residential building destroyed by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine August 17, 2022. REUTERS/Vitalii Hnidyi
Rescuers work at the site of a residential building destroyed by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine August 17, 2022. REUTERS/Vitalii Hnidyi

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy, who discussed the situation at the plant with visiting U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Lviv, called on the United Nations to ensure that it was demilitarised and protected.

“This deliberate terror on the part of the aggressor can have global catastrophic consequences for the whole world,” Zelenskiy wrote on the Telegram messaging app, accusing Russia of “nuclear blackmail” at the plant.

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 side 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.

Foreign countries and the United Nations have called on Moscow to allow in international inspectors. Reuters cannot independently confirm the military situation there or responsibility for shelling of the plant.

Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson said on Thursday calls for a demilitarised zone around the plant were “unacceptable”. The defence ministry said Moscow 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 largest nuclear power plant in Europe”.

A view shows smoke rising above the area following an alleged explosion in the village of Mayskoye in the Dzhankoi district, Crimea, August 16, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer

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.

Russia’s defence ministry accused Kyiv of planning some form of incident at the nuclear plant as a “provocation” to take place during Guterres’ visit. A Ukrainian official dismissed what he depicted as a cynical assertion by Moscow. read more

The last time Guterres visited Ukraine, in April, Russia fired missiles into a residential building in Kyiv, wounding at least 10 people just as Guterres wrapped up talks with Zelenskiy nearby. At the time, Guterres called the incident “shocking” and Ukraine accused Moscow of seeking to humiliate the United Nations. Russia denied targeting civilians or timing its attack intentionally to coincide with the visit.

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