UN warns of "grave" crisis near Ukraine nuclear plant

UN warns of "grave" crisis near Ukraine nuclear plant
Update: 12 August 2022 21:30
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The UN International Atomic Energy Agency Director said the agency must be allowed to conduct its mission at Zaporizhzhia, after Moscow and Kyiv accused each other of shelling near the area.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog warned the international community of the "grave" crisis at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, where renewed shelling alarmed the world powers over a possible leakage that would result with a catastrophe even bigger than Chernobyl.

“This is a serious hour, a grave hour and the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] must be allowed to conduct its mission to Zaporizhzhia as soon as possible,” the agency’s director, Rafael Grossi told an emergency meeting of the UN security council on Thursday night.

Moscow and Kyiv accused each other of new shelling near the nuclear power plant, Europe's biggest nuclear facility which has been a focus of renewed fighting in recent days. 

Both sides said five rockets hit a radioactive material storage area at the plant that occupies an extensive site on the Dnipro river near the Russian-occupied city of Enerhodar. 

It has continued operating at reduced capacity since Russian forces captured it early in March, with Ukrainian technicians remaining at work.

Ukraine on Wednesday accused Russia of firing rockets from the captured nuclear power plant, killing at least 13 people and wounding 10, calculating it would be risky for Ukraine to return fire.

UN Secretary General António Guterres called for “all military activities in the immediate vicinity of the plant to cease immediately and not to target its facilities or surroundings,” in a statement ahead of the meeting. 

Both warring countries have so far rejected an IAEA inspection of the plant.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia on Thursday blamed Ukraine for the shelling and urged Kyiv's supporters to stop attacks and prevent a disastrous radiation leak.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pointed the finger at Moscow, which he said was putting all of Europe in danger.

"Only the complete withdrawal of Russians from the territory of the Zaporizhzhia NPP and the restoration of Ukraine's full control over the situation around the plant will guarantee the restoration of nuclear safety for all of Europe," Zelensky said.