Russian capture of Chernobyl put world on 'brink of disaster', says Ukraine's Zelensky

The protective shelter over the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine on April 26, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KYIV (AFP) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday (April 26) that Russia's capture of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the initial phase of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine had pushed the world towards the "brink of disaster".

"The world was once again on the brink of disaster" because Russia treated the Chernobyl zone "like a normal battleground, territory where they didn't even try to care about nuclear safety", Mr Zelensky said during a press conference with UN atomic watchdog chief Rafael Grossi.

"No country in the world since 1986 has posed such a large-scale threat to nuclear security in Europe and the world than Russia has since February 24," he added, referring to the date Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his military to attack Ukraine.

Mr Grossi meanwhile told reporters his job was to ensure that "the tragedy of war will not be increased by a nuclear accident".

He said there would be "special work dedicated to the restoration, recuperation of all the capacities there and the infrastructure that was damaged in the past few weeks".

In an evening statement later on Tuesday Mr Zelensky said that Russia had fired missiles at Ukraine directly over Ukrainian nuclear power plants.

"Are they threatening us?" he said.

He added that after seeing how Russian troops had operated within the Chernobyl zone and around the southern Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, "no one in the world can feel safe".

Russian troops took over the site on Feb 24, the first day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, taking Ukrainian soldiers prisoner and detaining civilian staff.

The occupation lasted until the end of March and raised global fears of nuclear leaks.

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