Ukraine nuclear plant: UN calls for demilitarized zone
The United Nations has called for demilitarised zone around Ukraine’s nuclear power plant, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in southeastern Ukraine.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made the call at the U.N. Security Council on Thursday following missile strikes at the plant. Guterres called on both sides to stop all fighting near the plant.
“The facility must not be used as part of any military operation. Instead, an urgent agreement is needed at a technical level on a safe perimeter of demilitarisation to ensure the safety of the area,” Guterres said in a statement.
At the Security Council meeting, the United States backed the call for a demilitarised zone and urged the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit the site.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the world was being pushed “to the brink of nuclear catastrophe, comparable in scale with Chornobyl”.
He said IAEA officials could visit the site as soon as this month.
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant, compounding fears of a disaster.
Ukraine’s Energoatom agency said the Zaporizhzhia complex in south-central Ukraine was struck five times on Thursday, including near where radioactive materials are stored.
Reports say Russian-appointed officials accused Ukraine of shelling the plant twice, disrupting a shift changeover.
Russia seized Zaporizhzhia in March after invading Ukraine on February 24.
The plant, near the front line of the fighting, is held by Russian troops and operated by Ukrainian workers.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy demanded Russia return the plant to Ukraine’s control.
Also read: UN demands access to Ukraine nuclear plant
“Only a full withdrawal of the Russians … and the restoration of full Ukrainian control of the situation around the station can guarantee a resumption of nuclear security for all of Europe,” Zelenskiy said in a video address.
France echoed Zelenskiy’s demand and said Russia’s occupation of the site endangered the world.
“The presence and actions of the Russian armed forces near the plant significantly increase the risk of an accident with potentially devastating consequences,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.