Volodymyr Zelenskiy, president of Ukraine, has urged the world to act swiftly to compel Russian forces to leave Europe’s largest nuclear power station after the facility went without electricity for many hours in a situation that he claims puts the globe at risk of a radioactive disaster.
According to Reuters, Zelensky claimed that on Thursday, Russian shelling caused fires to break out in the ash pits of a nearby coal power plant, cutting off the Zaporozhzhia facility from the grid. According to a Russian official, Ukraine is at fault.
Zelenskiy praised the Ukrainian experts who run the plant under the watchful eye of the Russian military, stating that backup diesel generators provided the power supply necessary for the cooling and safety systems at the plant.
“The key thing is…international pressure is needed that will force the occupiers to immediately withdraw from the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” he said in a video address on Thursday evening.
“The IAEA and other international organisations must act much faster than they’re acting now. Because every minute the Russian troops stay at the nuclear power plant is a risk of a global radiation disaster,” he said, referring to the United Nations nuclear watchdog.
The foreign ministry of Russia stated that country was making every effort to make sure an IAEA visit to the plant could happen without incident. By assaulting the plant, Ukraine was attempting to thwart such a visit, according to ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
The scenario alarmed locals in Zaporozhzhia city, 50 kilometers northeast of the facility.
“Of course I am scared. Everyone is scared, we don’t know what will happen next, what is waiting for us every next minute, second,” said social media manager, Maria Varakina, 25.
Hanna Kuz, a 46-year-old teacher, said people were concerned that the Ukrainian government might not be able to alert them in time in the event of radiation contamination.
One of the plant’s two operational reactors has been reconnected to the grid and is once more supplying electricity, according to Energoatom, the state nuclear company of Ukraine. It was completely disconnected on Thursday.
The event on Thursday was attributed to Ukrainian armed forces, according to Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official in the occupied town of Enerhodar close to the facility, who said they started a fire in a nearby forest.
“This was caused by the disconnection of power lines from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station as a result of provocations by Zelenskiy’s fighters,” Rogov wrote on Telegram. “The disconnection itself was triggered by a fire and short circuit on the power lines.”
The M777 howitzer, which Ukraine allegedly used to shell the Zaporizhzhia factory, was destroyed, according to the Russian Defense Ministry on Friday.
A fire was visible on satellite photographs close to the plant, but Reuters was unable to confirm its origin.