Ukraine has called for people living near Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant to evacuate their homes as fears intensify that a disaster could be imminent.
Concerns have been simmering that a Chernobyl-style catastrophe could befall the Zaporizhzhia power plant amid ongoing fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces.
Kyiv again called for an international mission to be set up in the area today, following a similar call by the UN yesterday.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk again pleaded with Russia to allow ‘a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of the civilian population from the temporarily occupied territory adjacent to the nuclear power plant’.
But she went further on Telegram, telling people living in the vicinity: ‘I appeal to the residents of the districts adjacent to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant… Evacuate! Find a way to get to territories controlled (by Kyiv).’
The plant was initially occupied by Russian troops shortly after Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
But in recent weeks it has been repeatedly shelled with Ukraine and Russia blaming each other for the attacks, which have caused power issues and various safety concerns.
Urging a new initiative to ease the concerns, Ukraine’s prime minister Denys Shmygal said at a government meeting earlier: ‘We propose to create an international mission with the participation of the EU, the UN, and other organisations.
‘This would facilitate the withdrawal of Russian troops from the plant and the thirty-kilometres around it.’
The latest intervention comes a day after the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report following a mission at the plant.
Mr Shmygal claimed the investigation ‘did not bring tangible results.’
In the report, the IAEA called for ‘the immediate establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone’ around the plant and branded the current situation ‘untenable’.
The Ukrainian nuclear agency warned that an accident at the Russian-occupied site would impact not only Ukraine, but also its neighbours.
Ukraine is bordered by Russia, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Belarus.
Earlier today, the plant was still using internal power supplies after being disconnected from the grid on Monday.
Now the head of the Ukrainian nuclear security agency, Oleg Korikov, has said the plant may have to use ‘diesel power plants to provide electricity to its security systems’.
He also warned that ‘it is very difficult to replenish diesel fuel in wartime conditions.’
The main risk then would then lie in ‘running out of diesel, and this can lead to an accident damaging the active zone of the reactor and to the release of radioactive elements in the environment’, Mr Korikov added.
The exiled Ukrainian mayor of Enerhodar, the main town serving the plant, said in a separate Telegram post that it was under fire from Russian forces and that the town had no electrical supply.
Russia denies targeting civilians and accuses Kyiv of shelling the nuclear plant.
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