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Dozens of countries, including the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom and Turkey, called on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and the surrounding area in a joint statement on Sunday.
“We urge the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw its military forces and all other [unauthorized] personnel from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, its immediate surroundings, and all of Ukraine so that the operator and the Ukrainian authorities can resume their sovereign responsibilities,” the countries said.
Ukraine and Russia have pointed the blame at each for shelling at the facility, which is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
Communication lines, radiation monitoring sensors, a nitrogen-oxygen station and other parts of the plant have been damaged by explosions in recent days.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of “trying to intimidate people in an extremely cynical way.”
“Every Russian soldier who either shoots at the plant, or shoots using the plant as cover, must understand that he becomes a special target for our intelligence agents, for our special services, for our army,” he said on Saturday evening. He called the tactic “nuclear blackmail.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, said that Russian forces are targeting the part of the plant “where energy supplying [the] south of Ukraine is stored.”
Ukraine’s state-run nuclear company, Energoatom, said on Sunday that an employee of the plant was killed by Russian shelling near his home in Enerhodar.
Russian forces have controlled the plant since early March, but Ukrainian staff have continued operations, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“Any military action jeopardizing nuclear safety, nuclear security, must stop immediately,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said this week. “These military actions near to such a large nuclear facility could lead to very serious consequences.”