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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres calls shelling of Ukraine nuclear plant ‘suicidal’

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres calls shelling of Ukraine nuclear plant ‘suicidal’

T

he head of the UN has called shelling attacks on a nuclear complex in Ukraine “suicidal” amid calls for the area to be demilitarised.

Alarm has grown over the attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex with Kyiv warning of the risk of a Chernobyl-style catastrophe.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for UN nuclear inspectors to be given access to the plant as Kyiv and Moscow blamed each other for the shelling.

The plant is in a southern region seized by Russian invaders in March and now targeted by Kyiv for a counter-offensive.

“Any attack (on) a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing,” Mr Guterres told a news conference on Monday in Japan, after attending the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on Saturday to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing.

Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company, called for a team of peacekeepers to be deployed at the site, which is still run by Ukrainian technicians.

“The decision that we demand from the world community and all our partners … is to withdraw the invaders from the territory of the station and create a demilitarised zone on the territory of the station,” Kotin said on television.

“The presence of peacekeepers in this zone and the transfer of control of it to them, and then also control of the station to the Ukrainian side would resolve this problem.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog agency, Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, has accused Russia of trying to cause blackouts along Ukraine’s electricity grid in the south by targeting the plant.

He called for a UN-led international mission to the plant by the end of this month.

But Russia’s defence ministry claimed Ukrainian attacks had damaged high-voltage power lines servicing the Soviet-era plant and forced it to reduce output by two of its six reactors to “prevent disruption”.

A Russian-installed official in the region said earlier that the facility was operating normally.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the shelling was “extremely dangerous” and added: “We expect the countries that have absolute influence on the Ukrainian leadership to use this influence in order to rule out the continuation of such shelling.”

Ukraine’s Petro Kotin warned of the danger of shells hitting spent containers of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel as especially dire.

If two or more containers were broken, “it is impossible to assess the scale of this catastrophe”, he said.

The world’s worst civil nuclear disaster occurred in 1986 when a reactor at the Chernobyl complex in northwest Ukraine exploded.

The plant was occupied by Russian forces soon after the February 24 invasion before they withdrew in late March.

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