UN watchdog warns of ‘grave’ crisis amid violence near Ukraine nuclear plant

Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom said later there had been fresh Russian shelling near one of the plant’s six reactors that had caused “extensive smoke” and “several radiation sensors are damaged”.

Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Moscow-installed regional administration, said Ukrainian forces had “once again struck” the plant.

The Ukrainian plant is under the control of Russian troops, and Ukraine has accused Moscow of basing hundreds of soldiers and storing arms there.

“CANNOT WAIT ANY LONGER”

In New York, Security Council members all supported calls for an urgent IAEA mission to Ukraine – but there was no consensus over who was to blame for the attacks and who should be responsible for facilitating the mission.

Bonnie Jenkins, the US State Department’s undersecretary for arms control and international security, said the visit “cannot wait any longer” but added that only a full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine would keep the nuclear plant safe.

“This would allow for Ukraine to restore the impeccable safety, security, and safeguards performance it upheld for decades at the facility.”

But Russia’s UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya put the blame for the attacks around Zaporizhzhia squarely on Ukrainian forces.

“We call on states that support the Kyiv regime to bring their proxies into check to compel them to immediately and once and for all stop attacks on Zaporizhzhia nuclear power to ensure the safe conditions for the conduct of the IAEA mission,” Nebenzya told the Council.

Earlier Thursday, Washington also backed calls to establish a demilitarised zone around the plant.

“STATE SPONSOR OF TERRORISM”

The Soviet-era plant in southern Ukraine was captured by Russian troops at the beginning of March – shortly after Moscow launched its invasion of its neighbor – and has remained on the frontline since then.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned Russia could cause an incident “even more catastrophic than Chernobyl” – a reference to the nuclear disaster in then-Soviet Ukraine in 1986.

“Russia has turned the nuclear station into a battlefield,” he said earlier on Thursday, addressing a Ukraine donors conference in Copenhagen by video link.

He called for stronger sanctions against Russia, saying it was a “terrorist state” – on the same day that Latvian MPs adopted a resolution calling Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism”.