Ukraine's Zelensky accuses Russia of 'nuclear terror' after plant attack

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also begged world leaders to wake up and prevent Europe from "dying from a nuclear disaster". PHOTO: AFP

KYIV (AFP) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow on Friday (March 4) of resorting to "nuclear terror" and wanting to "repeat" the Chernobyl disaster after he said invading Russian forces attacked a nuclear power plant.

He begged world leaders to wake up and prevent Europe from "dying from a nuclear disaster" after the continent's largest plant caught fire after it was shelled.

"No country other than Russia has ever fired on nuclear power units," he said in a video message released by his office. "This is the first time in our history. In the history of mankind. The terrorist state now resorted to nuclear terror."

The station at Zaporizhzhia, an industrial city in the southeast, supplies an estimated 40 per cent of the country's nuclear power and, according to Zelensky, houses six of Ukraine's 15 reactors.

According to Kyiv, the blaze started after Russian troops fired on the facility.

"These are tanks equipped with thermal imagers, so they know where they are shooting," said Zelensky.

But "essential" equipment at the station was unaffected and radiation levels were normal, local officials told the UN's atomic watchdog.

Remote video URL

Ukraine's nuclear facilities have been a main point of concern after Russia's military invaded the country last week and began bombarding cities with shells and missiles.

"If there is an explosion, it is the end of everything. The end of Europe," Zelensky said. "Only immediate European action can stop Russian troops."

During a call with Zelensky, US President Joe Biden urged Russia to cease firing on the power plant and to allow in emergency services, as a senior US official said there was no sign of "elevated levels of radiation".

"President Biden joined President Zelensky in urging Russia to cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site," a White House readout of a call between the two leaders said.

A senior US official added that "our latest information shows no indications of elevated levels of radiation, and we're monitoring closely".

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meanwhile accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of endangering all of Europe following the attack on the nuclear power plant.

"The Prime Minister said the reckless actions of President Putin could now directly threaten the safety of all of Europe," according to a Downing Street statement.

Follow The Straits Times' live coverage on the Ukraine crisis here.

Remote video URL

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.