Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Russia has hit a new low and is trying to “threate the whole world” by shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling the facility after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres proposed a demilitarized zone at the Zaporizhzhya plant in the city of Enerhodar in southeastern Ukraine.
Mr Guterres also appealed to both sides to halt military action around the facility to avoid “disastrous consequences”.
The United States supported the United Nations’ call for a demilitarized zone and urged the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit the site.
Ukraine’s state atomic energy agency Energoatm said the Zaporizhzhya complex, which stores radioactive material, was hit five times on Thursday.
According to Russia’s TASS news agency, Moscow-appointed officials said Ukraine fired on the plant twice, disrupting the shift change.
Reports on the condition of the plant have not been independently confirmed by either side.
Vladimir Putin’s troops captured the city of Enerhodar in early March, and while the Zaporizhzhya plant is controlled by Russia, its Ukrainian personnel continue to carry out nuclear operations.
In his nightly address on Thursday, Mr Zelensky called on Russia to return the plant to Ukraine’s control and said “the world must react immediately to evacuate the occupants” from the facility’s vicinity.
He said: “Russia has once again broken the fold in the world history of terrorism.
“No one else used a nuclear power plant, so obviously to threaten the whole world and to put forward certain conditions and everyone in the world to immediately expel the occupants from the territory of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.” should respond.
“This is a global interest, not just a Ukrainian necessity.”
Read more: What are the risks of a nuclear accident in Ukraine?
Meanwhile, UN nuclear chief Rafael Grossi warned that “very dangerous” military activity at the plant could have dangerous consequences for the region and called for an end to the attacks.
IAEA director Mr Grossi said agency experts have assessed there is no immediate threat to nuclear security, but the situation could change “at any time”.
He also urged Russia and Ukraine to immediately allow nuclear experts access to the plant to assess the damage and assess safety.
Mr Grossi made the remarks when the UN Security Council met on Thursday to discuss the situation.
Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia told the UN Security Council that allegations of Moscow bombing the plant were “cynical and absurd”.
He said the world was “being pushed to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe on a scale comparable to that of Chernobyl”.
However, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United Nations, Sergei Kislitsa, urged the Russians to change course and leave the plant.
“If there is radiation in the air none of us can stop the wind. But together, we are able to stop a terrorist state,” he said.
separately, Satellite photos released on Thursday Devastated at an airbase in Russian-occupied Crimea.
Western military experts said the images suggest Ukraine may have new long-range strike capability with the potential to change the course of the war.
Images from independent satellite firm Planet Labs showed three similar craters where buildings at Russia’s Saki Airbase were struck with apparent accuracy.
The base on Crimea’s south-west coast has suffered extensive fire damage, with at least eight destroyed warplanes clearly visible.
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Russia denied that the planes were damaged and said Tuesday’s explosions at the base were accidental.
Ukraine has not publicly claimed responsibility for the attack.
It comes as Mr Zelensky has asked Ukrainian officials to stop talking to reporters about Kyiv’s military strategy against Russia, saying such remarks were “clearly irresponsible”.