Risks of catastrophe erupting at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine ”are increasing every day”, says Dmytro Orlov, major of city Energodar in southeastern Ukraine where the plant is located, as cited by AFP.
”What is happening there is outright nuclear terrorism,” Orlov tells the French news agency by telephone from Zaporizhzhia, now controlled by Ukrainian forces. ”It can end unpredictably at any moment”.
The mayor adds that ”mortar shelling of the nuclear power plant is carried out every day and night from the occupied villages,” and ”fire safety rules are repeatedly violated. The situation is heating up, and the escalation continues.”
Zaporizhzhia is Europe’s largest atomic energy station and among the world’s top ten.
Since March this year, the facility has been under Russian control. Ukraine says Russia is using the plant as a base for hundreds of soldiers, also using the site to store weapons.
Zaporizhzhia has been under shelling fire several times in recent weeks, prompting Ukrainian authorities to repeat warnings about the risk of a nuclear catastrophe.
In the village of Vyshchetarasivka, located across the Dnipro river near the power plant, local Viktor Shabanin says residents are nervous:
“Often the wind blows in our direction. So the radiation will go immediately to us, and the radiation will go into the water,” AFP cites Shabanin saying.
The situation stokes memories of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, when a nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine suffered a fissile meltdown.
63-year-old local Anastasiya Rudenko tells reporters that she believes her late husband, who carried out decontamination efforts at the Chernobyl disaster area, died of radiation-induced bladder cancer in 2014:
”We could have the same fate as the people of Chernobyl,” the tells the news agency. ”There’s nothing good in what’s going on, and we don’t know how it will end.”
UN Security Council warns of serious crisis
At a crisis meeting Thursday last week, the UN Security Council issued a warning about the ”serious” crisis unfolding at Zaporizhzhia.
The EU along with 42 nations released a joint statement on Sunday demanding the Russian forces immediately withdraw from the Ukrainian nuclear plant.
”Deployment of Russian military personnel and weaponry at the nuclear facility is unacceptable and disregards the safety, security, and safeguards principles that all members of the International Atomic Energy Agency have committed to respect,” the joint statement reads.
In a televised speech Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of committing ”nuclear blackmail” and using the nuclear plant to ”intimidate people in an extremely cynical way.”
Zelenskyy continued to say the Russian troops are tactically exploiting the site to fire shells at Ukrainian cities Nikopol and Marganets, both under the control of the invaded nation’s forces.
Pro-Kremlin authorities in Russian-controlled areas surrounding Zaporizhzhia reject such accusations, making the counterclaim that Kyiv’s forces are shelling the power plant.
On Sunday, Ukraine and Russia continued to accuse each other for attacking the nuclear plant.