Ukraine’s president has warned it will be the “end for Europe” if an explosion occurs due to Russian forces shelling the continent’s largest nuclear power plant.
In an emotional speech in the middle of the night, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he feared an explosion at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant that would be “the end for everyone. The end for Europe. The evacuation of Europe”.
Zaporizhzhia is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and one of the world’s ten largest.
“Only urgent action by Europe can stop the Russian troops,” he said. “Do not allow the death of Europe from a catastrophe at a nuclear power station.”
A fire at the plant, ignited by Russian shelling, has been extinguished, Ukrainian authorities said.
However, Russian forces have now taken control of the plant in the city of Enerhodar.
Regional military officials said there had been some damage to the compartment of reactor number one in the shelling, but it does not affect the overall safety of the power unit.
Ukrainian officials said radiation levels in the area were not at dangerous levels, and most experts saw nothing to indicate an impending disaster.
Local officials added that operational personnel are ensuring the site’s safety.
Here are some other recent developments:
- Thousands of people are believed to have been killed or wounded and more than 1 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began nine days ago. – READ MORE
- Following a meeting between Ukrainian and Russian negotiators on Thursday, both delegations said another round of talks would be held shortly. – READ MORE
- Present Zelenskyy himself issued a direct appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to ‘sit down with me an negotiate. – READ MORE
Ukraine brings fire at plant under control
The Ukrainian emergency service said the fire at the Zaporizhzhia plant was extinguished just before 7.30am local time and leading nuclear authorities were concerned — but not panicked — about damage to the facility.
The assault triggered phone calls between Mr Zelenskyy and US President Joe Biden and other world leaders. The US Department of Energy activated its nuclear incident response team as a precaution.
US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said there was no indication of elevated radiation levels at the Zaporizhzhia plant, which provides more than a fifth of total electricity generated in Ukraine.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the fire had not affected essential equipment and that Ukraine’s nuclear regulator reported no change in radiation levels.
“The real threat to Ukrainian lives continues to be the violent invasion and bombing of their country,” the group said in a statement.
The group also confirmed that no leaks have been detected at the plant.
Jon Wolfsthal, who served during the Obama administration as the senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council, said the plant’s reactors have thick concrete containment domes that should protect them from tank and artillery fire.
But he too was concerned about a potential loss of power at the plant, which could imperil its ability to keep the nuclear fuel cool.
Earlier, a video feed from the plant showed shelling and smoke rising near a five-storey building at the plant compound.
This is how Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was bombed by Russian troops. pic.twitter.com/U0ZrnKya0W
— UkraineWorld (@ukraine_world) March 4, 2022
The footage shot at night showed one building aflame, and a volley of incoming shells, before a large candescent ball lit up the sky, exploding beside a car park and sending smoke billowing across the compound. It was not immediately clear who was in control of the plant.
Russia has already captured the defunct Chernobyl plant[/urk], about 100 km north of Kyiv, which spewed radioactive waste over much of Europe when it melted down in 1986. But the Zaporizhzhia plant is a different and safer type, some analysts said.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal called on the West to close the skies over the country’s nuclear plants. “It is a question of the security of the whole world!” he said in a statement.
Further calls for no-fly zone
The US and Nato allies have ruled out creating a no-fly zone since the move would pit Russian and Western military forces against each other.
Vladimir Putin’s forces have brought their superior firepower to bear over the past few days, launching hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks on cities and other sites around the country and making significant gains in the south.
The Russians announced the capture of the southern city of Kherson, a vital Black Sea port of 280,000, and local Ukrainian officials confirmed the takeover of the government headquarters there, making it the first major city to fall since the invasion began.
Fighting continues in urban areas across Ukraine
Heavy fighting continued on the outskirts of another strategic port, Mariupol, on the Azov Sea.
The battles have knocked out the city’s electricity, heat and water systems, as well as most phone service, officials said. Food deliveries to the city were also cut.
Associated Press video from the port city showed the assault lighting up the darkening sky above deserted streets and medical teams treating civilians, including a 16-year-old boy inside a clinic who could not be saved.
The child was playing soccer when he was wounded in the shelling, according to his father, who cradled the boy’s head on the gurney and cried.
Severing Ukraine’s access to the Black and Azov seas would deal a crippling blow to its economy and allow Russia to build a land corridor to Crimea, seized by Moscow in 2014.
A video posted on Twitter from Mariupol showed parked vehicles burning while non-stop firing reverberated around surrounding apartment blocks.
In Washington, a US defense official said Russian troops were still 25km from Kyiv city centre.
Earlier on Thursday, the British Ministry of Defence said a huge Russian convoy rumbling southwards toward Kyiv, was advancing slowly, partly due to resistance, but also due to logistical issues.
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, has been under attack since the start of the invasion, but defenders are holding out in the heavily shelled city.
Kharkiv has been under attack since the start of the invasion, but defenders are holding out in the heavily shelled city.
The United States and the UK announced sanctions on more Russian oligarchs on Thursday, following on from EU measures, as they ratcheted up the pressure on the Kremlin.
More companies including Alphabet Inc’s Google, footwear giant Nike and Swedish home furnishing firm IKEA shut down or reduced operations in Rus