Ukraine wants other countries to heed its warning that Russia may be planning to attack an occupied nuclear power plant to cause a radiation disaster, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
On Thursday, he said Ukraine’s intelligence agencies had received information that Russia was considering what they cast as a “terror” attack involving a release of radiation.
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“Unfortunately, I had to be reminded more than once that radiation knows no national borders, and who it hits is determined only by the direction of the wind,” he said.
Members of his government briefed have international representatives on the possible threat to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which has been controlled by Russia since March 2022, and is run by Ukrainian technicians.
In his nightly address, Zelenskyy said he expected other nations to “give appropriate signals and exert pressure” on Moscow.
“Our principle is simple: The world must know what the occupier is preparing. Everyone who knows must act,” Zelenskyy said. “The world has enough power to prevent any radiation incidents, let alone a radiation catastrophe.”
The potential for a life-threatening release of radiation has been a concern since Russian troops invaded Ukraine last year and seized the plant, which is Europe’s largest nuclear power station.
The head of the UN’s atomic energy agency spent months unsuccessfully trying to negotiate for a safety perimeter to protect the facility as nearby areas came under repeated shelling.
The Ukrainian leader’s nighttime remarks Thursday carried a tone of frustration with “countries that are pretending to be neutral even now” in the war.
He accused “anyone who turns a blind eye to Russia’s occupation of such a facility” of enabling Moscow to commit an act of evil and terror.
“Obviously, radiation does not ask who is neutral and can reach anyone in the world. Accordingly, anyone in the world can help now, and it is quite clear what to do,” Zelenskyy said.
Russia has denied the accusations.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the claim as “another lie”.
On Friday, Russia claimed it was the target of “an information and propaganda campaign to discredit the country in the international arena”.
Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, said five people were arrested for trying to smuggle a kilogram of the radioactive isotope Cesium-137 out of the country under the direction of a Ukrainian citizen.
The FSB said the material was to be used for “organising staged scenes of the use of weapons of mass destruction.” Cesium-137 is often mentioned as of potential use in making a “dirty bomb” that could contaminate a wide area.
The International Atomic Energy Agency noted Thursday that “the military situation has become increasingly tense” while a Ukrainian counteroffensive that got under way this month unfolds in Zaporizhia province, where the namesake plant is located, and in an adjacent part of Donetsk province.
On Friday, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi met with the director of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom to discuss the conditions at the plant.
Rosatom director Alexey Likachev and other officials at the meeting in the Kaliningrad exclave “emphasised that they now expect specific steps” from the UN agency to prevent Ukrainian attacks on the plant and its adjacent territory, said a statement from the Russian corporation, whose divisions build and operate nuclear power plants.
The governor of Zaporizhia, Yuriy Malashko, reported on Friday that Russian shelling in the southern province killed two people in the past day. An attack that hit a transportation company in Kherson, the capital of Kherson province, killed two others on Friday, governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.