Zelenskyy demands Europe ‘wake up’ as shelling sparks nuclear plant fire
(Update 2: Adds statement from State Emergency Services, Orlov, IAEA, minor edits)
Kyiv, Mar 4 (EFE).- Ukraine’s leader demanded Europe “wake up” and help his country avert a nuclear catastrophe after a fire broke out at the continent’s largest power plant in southeastern Ukraine on Friday as it came under attack by Russian forces.
The fire at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was announced early in the morning by Dmitry Orlov, the mayor of nearby town Energodar, who wrote on Telegram that it was “a result of continuous enemy shelling of buildings.”
After it had been burning for hours, local broadcaster Nexta reported Orlov as saying the shelling had stopped.
The State Emergency Services then said the fire had been put out.
“At 06:20 the fire in the training building of Zaporizhzhya NPP in Energodar was extinguished. There are no victims,” the SES said on Telegram.
The SES had earlier said that “radiation and fire safety conditions at nuclear power plants are within normal limits,” while the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said there has been no change reported in radiation levels at the site and that the fire has not affected essential equipment.
However, the threat of disaster led Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to post a video message to social media demanding that “Europe must wake up now.”
“The largest nuclear station in Europe is on fire. Right now Russian tanks are shelling nuclear units. Those are the tank that have thermal vision, so they know where they are shelling,” he said.
“There are six energy units. Six. One unit exploded in Chernobyl,” he added, in reference to the biggest nuclear disaster in history that occurred on Apr. 26, 1986.
“Not a single nation ever shelled nuclear power stations. For the first time in the history of humankind, the terrorist state commits nuclear terrorism.”
“If there will be an explosion, it will the end to all of us, the end of Europe, the evacuation of Europe. Only immediate action of Europe can stop Russian troops and prevent the death of Europe from the disaster at a nuclear station,” Zelenskyy said.
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter that if the power plant “blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chornobyl! Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!” he said.
Mayor Orlov had earlier reported heavy fighting at the entrances to the plant, and that there are victims, but that they cannot yet be quantified.
IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi said he was “deeply concerned” about the situation and appealed “to parties to refrain from actions that can put NPPs in danger.”
IAEA said it had put its Incident and Emergency Centre in full 24/7 response mode.
United States President Joe Biden said he spoke with Zelenskyy about the power plant, and urged “Russia to cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site.”
On Wednesday, hundreds of employees of the power plant tried to prevent the Russian army from entering the plant. EFE