Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Russia is using a “nuclear weapon” by occupying Europe’s largest power plant, where ongoing conflict has heightened international concern about potential nuclear accident.
Russia’s military presence at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, Zelensky said, is tantamount to Russia occupying “six Chernobyls,” referring to the site of a 1986 nuclear meltdown in Ukraine under the former Soviet Union.
“You see, they occupied our nuclear station, six blocks. The biggest in Europe,” Zelensky told ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir in an interview excerpt shared Sunday.
“It means the biggest danger in Europe. So, they occupied it. So that is — means that they use nuclear weapon. That is [a] nuclear weapon.”
Russia has controlled the area where the Zaporizhzhya is located since early in the war, though Ukrainian workers still operate the plant.
“There shouldn’t be any military personnel. There shouldn’t be any military equipment on the territory. And there shouldn’t be the workers of nuclear power plant who are surrounded by people with firearms,” Zelensky said in the interview.
The two countries have blamed each other for recent shelling around the plant. Ukraine says the strikes have damaged the facilities, and Zelensky last month called the strikes “Russian nuclear terror.”
Amid growing fears of potential disaster, a mission from the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency traveled to Zaporizhzhya last week and learned that the plant was disconnected from its last operational external power line.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told reporters at the plant Thursday that it is “obvious that the plant, and the physical integrity of the plant has been violated, several times,” per a U.N. update.