Russian troops attack the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe

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Archive image of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. / WIKIPEDIA

It has been hit by missile fire and tank shells. Zelensky has asked Joe Biden and Boris Johnson for help by phone

The UN Security Council is preparing to meet urgently due to what happened this morning at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia, the largest in Europe, which has been hit, according to the Kiev authorities, by missile fire and projectiles from Russian Army tanks. In order to analyze the situation and ask for help, the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelensky, has spoken by telephone with his American counterpart, Joe Biden, and with the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

According to the recordings of the security cameras of the atomic plant, a missile has hit one of the administrative buildings of the complex while the facilities are being subjected to continuous firing of projectiles. A fire has broken out and one of the reactors has had to be shut down. Due to the shelling, firefighters were slow to gain access to the plant to extinguish the fire.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba has warned that “if the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant explodes, it will be a catastrophe ten times bigger than that of Chernobyl” in 1986, he wrote on his Twitter account. In his words, “the Russian Army is bombing the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, from all sides (…) the attack must immediately cease.”

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “the fire in the area of ​​the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant did not affect the main equipment of the plant”. However, the fire is not completely extinguished. In the affected building, which consists of five floors, the flames completely engulfed floors three, four and five.

The first to give the alert was the plant’s spokesman, Andréi Tuz. He warned through Telegram that “after a bombardment by Russian forces at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, a fire has broken out (…) the firefighters cannot reach the place of the fire and put it out. The bombs fall very close. The first electrical unit of the plant has already been affected. Stop this!

The plant is located in the town of Energodar and its mayor, Dmitro Orlov, said that Ukrainian units are trying to defend the reactors from Russian attacks. “They are taking casualties although we don’t know the exact number yet,” he stated. The Ukrainian state company Energoatom warns that “the wind blows from the plant to the southeast, in the direction of the Russian cities of Rostov-on-Don and Krasnodar.

In a video released by the Ukrainian Presidency, Zelenski denounces the Russian bombing and accuses Moscow of wanting to repeat a catastrophe like that of Chernobyl. “We alert the whole world that no other country except Russia has ever fired on nuclear power plants. It is the first time in our history, the first time in the history of mankind. This terrorist state is now resorting to nuclear terror,” says the Ukrainian president. On the part of Moscow there has not yet been any comment on what happened.

The Zaporizhia plant has six of the fifteen operational reactors in the whole of Ukraine, making it the main supplier of energy to the country. It is also the largest in Europe. It entered service in 1985 when the USSR still existed, a year before the Chernobyl nuclear accident, a plant now under the control of Russian troops after heavy fighting in its vicinity when the Russian offensive began on February 24.

Before the incident this morning, the IAEA had approved a resolution condemning Russia for occupying the Chernobyl power plant and trying to also take the Zaporizhia plant during the current military intervention. In the opinion of the IAEA Board of Governors, the actions of the Russian forces pose “a serious and direct threat” to the safety of nuclear facilities, their personnel and the environment.

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