Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of using the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, Zaporizhzhia, as “nuclear blackmail.” The plant was taken over by Russia in March, and it has been claimed that they are using it as a base from which to attack nearby towns.
The UN has issued nuclear disaster warnings as a result of both countries trading accusations of recent shellings. Any Russian soldier, according to Mr. Zelensky, who fires at or into the plant will be a “special target.”
The southern Ukrainian city of Enerhodar is home to the six-nuclear reactor Zaporizhzhia station, which is situated on the Dnieper River’s (or Dnipro as it is known in Ukrainian) eastern bank.
On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, and the plant was taken over shortly after. Moscow has maintained Ukrainian staff to run the facility. The UN has cautioned that escalating provocations near the station could trigger a nuclear catastrophe that would affect a major fraction of Europe.
Russia has consistently denied that anything improper occurred at the plant. According to the report, it took control of the plant to stop radioactive material leaks during local fighting.
Late on Saturday, Mr. Zelensky spoke via video, accusing Russia of “constant provocations” by firing on the plant. He also claimed that forces stationed there had used the plant as a base to shell the cities of Nikopol and Marhanets, which are located on the opposite bank of the river.
The president claimed that this was done to “blackmail our state and the entire free world.” However, he emphasised that “Russian blackmail only mobilises even more global efforts to confront terror.”
“Every Russian soldier who either shoots at the plant, or shoots under the cover of the plant, must understand that he is becoming a special target for our intelligence, for our special services, for our army,” the president said.
He went on to say that “every day” Russia occupies the plant “increases the radiation threat to Europe.”
Ukraine’s defence intelligence service accused Russia of inciting the situation by stationing a Pion self-propelled heavy artillery piece outside a nearby town and spray-painting a Ukrainian flag on it in an attempt to destabilise Kyiv.
This week, a BBC news investigation in the UK found that numerous Ukrainian workers at the site are being kept under armed guard in spite of difficult working conditions.
Foreign ministers from the G7 group of industrial democracies demanded that Russia leave the site immediately on Thursday. Their warning echoed the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) call for an end to “all military activities that endanger nuclear security.”
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