The UN nuclear agency and Western powers expressed alarm on Wednesday over the safety of Ukraine’s Zaporozhye nuclear power plant as Kiev accused Russia of fresh shelling.
A strike by Russian “terrorists” damaged a power line at the facility, forcing the emergency generator to run briefly, Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom said on Telegram.
However, the radiation level is reported to have remained normal.
Rafael Grossi, director of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), renewed his warning about “playing with fire” at the plant.
“The situation continues to deteriorate and we can’t wait for something regrettable to happen,” Grossi said at United Nations headquarters in New York.
“I have proposed technical parameters to provide the necessary protection to this installation,” he told reporters after a meeting chaired by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Grossi said he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in New York on Wednesday, and later spoke with Ukraine’s top diplomat Dmytro Kuleb.
But he acknowledged the lack of progress on his recommendation for a safety zone around the plant.
“Demilitarization is the goal, but for now it’s about protecting the facilities,” Grossi said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a video address to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin had turned the factory in Zaporozhye “into a target”, which he said should cause deep alarm around the world.
“Russian blackmail with radiation is something that should concern every one of you, because none of you will find a vaccine against radiation sickness,” he said.
In a joint statement, top diplomats from powers including the United States, France, Britain and Germany said they had “serious concerns” about Ukraine’s nuclear facilities.
They set out seven “necessary pillars” for nuclear safety, including that safety and security systems “remain fully functional at all times”.
Energoatom called for “more decisive action” against Russia, saying that even “the presence of IAEA inspectors is not stopping them.”
The largest nuclear facility in Europe was seized by Russian troops in March, and shelling around it has prompted calls from Kiev and its Western allies to demilitarize the areas around Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.
At the beginning of the war, there was fighting around Chernobyl in the north, where the explosion in 1986 left parts of the surrounding territory contaminated.
Putin has warned of “catastrophic” consequences of the fighting there, prompting Ukraine to accuse Moscow of using Zaporozhye’s security as blackmail.
On Monday, Russia was accused of bombing a third nuclear power plant, Pivdennoukrainsk, in the southern Mykolaiv region.