Damage to nuclear plant would be suicide

August 19, 2022 10:00 am

Mr Erdogan echoed the UN chief's concerns, telling reporters that he was worried about the danger of "another Chernobyl" disaster erupting at the plant. [Source: BBC News]

UN Secretary General António Guterres has said he is “gravely concerned” about fighting near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine.

He made the comments during a summit with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Lviv.

“Any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide,” Mr Guterres warned.

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The meeting was the first between the UN chief and Mr Zelensky since Russia launched its invasion in February.

Mr Erdogan echoed the UN chief’s concerns, telling reporters that he was worried about the danger of “another Chernobyl” disaster erupting at the plant.

In recent weeks the area around the facility, which Russia seized in March, has come under heavy artillery fire, with both Kyiv and Moscow blaming each other for the attacks.

The appeals come as Ukrainian staff, who are working at the plant under Russian direction, warned of a potential nuclear catastrophe at the facility, saying in the past two weeks it has become “the target of continuous military attacks”.

“What is happening is horrific and beyond common sense and morality,” staff wrote in a Telegram post (in Ukrainian).

Later on Thursday, an official Twitter channel used by the Ukrainian government said that members of Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, had “urgently” left the facility, and an “unexpected day off” had been announced.

“Ukrainian intelligence officers believe that the Russians are preparing a provocation at the [facility],” Ukraine’s Centre for Information security tweeted.

“Following their extensive shelling… [Russian forces] could ‘raise the stakes’ and stage a real terrorist attack on Europe’s largest nuclear facility,” it said.

The BBC has been unable to verify the claims.

Shortly before these tweets, Mr Zelensky warned that “the world is on a verge of nuclear disaster” and condemned what he called “Russia’s irresponsible actions and nuclear blackmailing”.

Despite the concern, the site is said to be far more secure than the Chornobyl plant – the site of the worst nuclear incident in history.

The reactor is in a steel-reinforced concrete building that can “withstand extreme external events, both natural and man-made, such as an aircraft crash or explosions,” experts told the BBC in March.