U.N. secretary general 'gravely concerned' about shelling near Ukrainian nuclear plant

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “gravely concerned” Thursday about military attacks near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex in Ukraine. Photo by Russian Emergencies Ministry/EPA-EFE/

Aug. 11 (UPI) — United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday said he was “gravely concerned” about shelling near the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex in Ukraine.

Guterres in a statement Thursday warned of the threat of nuclear disaster as both Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the attacks near the nuclear plant, one of the largest in Europe.

“Over the past several days there have been reports of further deeply worrying incidents that could, if they continue, lead to disaster,” Guterres said. “I am calling on the military forces of the Russian Federation and Ukraine to immediately cease all military activities in the immediate vicinity of the plant and not to target its facilities or surroundings.”

Rafael Mariano Grossi, director of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, described the situation as “a grave hour” as he told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council that parts of the plant had been knocked out due to the shelling.

Grossi said the situation at Zaporizhzhia had been “deteriorating rapidly to the point of being very alarming” while adding that IAEA experts believe there is “no immediate threat to nuclear safety.”

He warned, however, that “that could change at any moment” and urged the two sides to stop fighting near the plant.

“Any military action jeopardizing nuclear security, must stop immediately,” Grossi said. “These military actions near such a large nuclear facility could lead to very serious consequences.”

Russians took control of the nuclear plant in March, shortly after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine but it is still operated by Ukrainians.

On Thursday, Energoatom, the Ukrainian state nuclear Company, said Russian forces targeted the welding area and storage area for “radio sources” with attacks and that an area around a fire department near the power plant was also subject to shelling, causing a grass fire but no injuries.

Yevgeny Balitsky, a local official in the Russian occupation’s administration, accused Ukrainian forces of conducting strikes using drones, heavy artillery and multiple rocket launchers, to target the facility’s nuclear waste storage in an effort to “create a kind of a ‘dirty bomb’ on our territory,” state-run Russian news agency TASS reported.

On Wednesday, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations demanded that Russia return control of Zaporizhzhia and all other nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s borders to Kyiv to ensure their safe operation.

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