Kiev: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday urged European leaders to “wake up” as the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in the continent, is on fire, while also appealing for “immediate action” against Russia.
In a video posted on Twitter, the President said that “the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe is on fire right now” and accused Russian troops of deliberately shooting at the plant’s six reactors using tanks equipped with thermal imaging, reports the BBC.
Invoking the “global catastrophe” at Chernobyl in 1986, he warned the consequences of a meltdown at Zaporizhzhia would be far worse.
“Europeans, wake up please. Tell your politicians that Russian forces are shooting at the nuclear plant in Ukraine,” he said.
Zelensky further said he had been in touch with leaders from the US, UK, European Union, Germany and Poland, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but called on ordinary citizens to raise alarms with their own politicians too.
“Russian propaganda has warned in the past that it would cover the world in nuclear ash. Now this isn’t just a warning, this is real.”
Earlier on Friday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned that if the nuclear plant blew up as a result of the fire then the catastrophe would be “10 times larger” than the Chernobyl disaster.
Citing Ukrainian officials, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that there has not been any change in the radiation levels at plant site in the wake of the fire.
The IAEA also said that the fire has not affected “essential” equipment and personnel at the nuclear power plane were “taking mitigatory actions”.
The global nuclear organisation further said that it is consulting with Ukraine “and others with a view to provide maximum possible assistance to the country as it seeks to maintain nuclear safety and security in the current difficult circumstances”.
But in the wake of the “serious situation” at the plant, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi has warned Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal and the country’s nuclear regulator and operator of the severe danger if the reactors were hit by the ongoing Russian firing.
Ukraine currently has four active nuclear plants, including Zaporizhzhia which reportedly accounts for some 25 per cent of the country’s power, the BC reported.
It also deals with nuclear waste at sites like Chernobyl, which is now under Russian control.
The latest developments come on the ninth day of Russia’s continuous military assault on Ukraine.