US addresses attacks on Russian-held nuclear power plant
The White House on Monday called on Russia to “return full control” of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant near Energodar to the Kiev authorities. Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukrainian forces of “nuclear terrorism” for bombarding the Russian-held facility twice since Friday.
“Fighting near a nuclear plant is dangerous,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One on Monday, flying with President Joe Biden to Kentucky to tour areas damaged by flooding.
“We continue to call on Russia to cease all military operations at or near Ukrainian nuclear facilities and return full control to Ukraine,” Jean-Pierre added. “We are also aware of the reports of mistreatment of the staff and we applaud the Ukrainian authorities and operators for their commitment to nuclear safety and security under trying circumstances.”
On Monday, the government in Kiev called for a demilitarized zone to be established around Europe’s largest power plant. The Zaporozhye facility has been in Russian hands since February, with its Ukrainian staff continuing to operate and supply Ukraine with electricity.
Russia has accused Ukraine of “nuclear terrorism” over the repeated attacks on the facility. Ukraine’s 44th Artillery Brigade fired at the plant on Sunday from the village of Marganets, on the opposite side of the large Kakhovka water reservoir, General Igor Konashenkov said in a briefing on Monday. It was the second time Ukrainian shelling has caused a fire and a partial power outage at the plant since Friday, he added. Ukrainian troops targeted the Zaporozhye plant with several suicide drones in late July.
Kiev has claimed that Russian troops were using the facility as a staging area – but also that the Russians were shelling themselves. Moscow has rejected both of those accusations. The Kremlin has called on “countries which have an absolute influence on the Ukrainian leadership” to command Kiev to end the shelling.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned the “suicidal” attacks on the plant, expressing hope that international inspectors will be able to access the facility soon.