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U.N. chief, in Ukraine, worried about nuclear plant


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U.N. chief, in Ukraine, worried about nuclear plant
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy pose for a picture before a meeting in Lviv on Thursday - Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters

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Kyiv – United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres said on Thursday he was gravely concerned by the situation at Europe’s largest nuclear power station after it came under shelling at the front lines in Ukraine.

Russia, which captured the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant soon after its February 24 invasion of Ukraine, said it could shut down the facility – a move Kyiv said would increase the risk of a nuclear catastrophe.

Speaking to reporters after talks with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, Guterres said military equipment and personnel should be withdrawn from the plant.

“The facility must not be used as part of any military operation,” he said. “Instead, agreement is urgently needed to re-establish Zaporizhzhia’s purely civilian infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area.”

Moscow earlier rejected international appeals for a demilitarised zone around the plant, which is still operated by Ukrainian engineers under Russian occupation, as “unacceptable”.

The power station sits on the Russia-controlled south bank of a huge reservoir; Ukrainian forces hold the north bank.

There have been several incidents of shelling in recent days at the plant, which both sides blame on each other.

Ukraine also accuses Russia of using the plant as a shield for its forces to launch strikes across the reservoir on Ukraine-held cities, which Moscow denies.

Reuters cannot independently confirm the military situation there or responsibility for shelling.

Zelenskiy said after meeting Guterres on Thursday that they had agreed parameters of a possible mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the plant.

Earlier, he had accused Russia of “nuclear blackmail”.

“This deliberate terror on the part of the aggressor can have global catastrophic consequences for the whole world,” Zelenskiy wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

(Reuters)