The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, on Monday condemned the fighting around the vast Zaporizhzhia nuclear power complex in southern Ukraine, saying that any attack on a nuclear facility is “suicidal.”
Russian forces have occupied the nuclear complex, Europe’s largest, since March, and have for the past month been using it as a base to launch artillery barrages at the Ukrainian-controlled town of Nikopol, across the Dnipro River.
In recent days, blasts have occurred and rockets have struck on the complex’s grounds. Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the attacks, which have raised fears of a major nuclear accident.
Mr. Guterres said on Monday that he hoped the attacks would end and that the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, would be given access to the plant as Ukraine has requested.
The I.A.E.A.’s director, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said last week that he was ready to lead a mission of experts to the plant to stabilize the situation there and carry out inspections.
Mr. Guterres’s remarks came at a news conference in Tokyo two days after he called for global nuclear disarmament at a commemoration of the 77th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. Mr. Guterres did not assign blame for the attacks in his comments.
But Russia and Ukraine continued to accuse each other of endangering nuclear security. While Russian forces control the plant, Ukrainian staff have continued working there. They are under enormous strain, according to Ukrainian officials, who say the workers have been subjected to harsh interrogations including torture with electrical shocks, and, as the risk of combat grows, have been prevented from retreating to underground shelters.
On Monday, the company that oversees the Zaporizhzhia plant said shrapnel from Russian shelling a day earlier had injured a worker. The woman is “in a condition of moderate severity” at the intensive care unit of the Energodar city hospital, the company said in a Telegram post.
“The Ukrainian staff of the station continues to work, in inhumane conditions, performing all measures to ensure nuclear and radiation safety not only of our country, but also of the whole world,” Energoatom said.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Monday accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the plant again on Sunday in what it called an “act of nuclear terrorism.” It said the shelling damaged a high-voltage line that supplies electricity to the regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.