Zelenskyy accuses Russia of 'nuclear blackmail' after shelling at Europe's largest power plant

Fears have been raised that fighting near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant could cause a catastrophe. Credit: Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of "nuclear blackmail" warning its troops are continuing to shell a nuclear power plant as a cover for their attacks on nearby towns.

In an evening video address, the Ukrainian president called on the international community to impose new sanctions on Moscow in response to its troops' actions on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, in the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar, in southern Ukraine.

Both Russian and Ukrainian officials traded accusations about renewed shelling of the plant, with each side alleging the other was responsible for the attacks that have raised fears of a potential radiation leak due to the fighting.

Mr Zelenskyy warned that the presence of Russian forces around Europe's largest nuclear power plant threatened a catastrophe for the entire continent and beyond.

Residents, many of whom fled the war, hand out donated medicines, clothes, and belongings to relatives in Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia.

"All Russian forces must immediately withdraw from the station and neighbouring areas without any conditions," Mr Zelenskyy said in his address.

"Any radiation incident at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant could be a blow to the countries of the European Union, and to Turkey, and to Georgia, and countries from more distant regions," he added.

"Everything depends only on the direction and strength of the wind. If Russia's actions lead to a catastrophe, the consequences may hit those who remain silent so far."

The president called on the international community to protect the plant and if it lacks the "strength and determination" to do so, the "world will lose".

"It loses to terrorists, yielding to nuclear blackmail. And this may be a precedent that other terrorists will see. There is still a chance to prevent this loss," he said.

A Russian military convoy on the road towards the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station, in Russian-controlled Enerhodar. Credit: AP

The press office of the Kremlin-backed administration in Enerhodar told Russian Interfax news agency that Ukrainian forces were carrying out “massive shelling” on the facility, as well as on Enerhodar’s residential and industrial areas.

It claimed the shelling came from nearby Nikopol, a Ukrainian-held city which faces the plant across the Dnieper River.

But the mayor of Nikopol later said the Russians themselves were the ones shelling Enerhodar.

Mayor Yevhen Yevtushenko and other municipal authorities in Nikopol have repeatedly accused Russian troops stationed at the plant of shelling the city, knowing that Ukrainian forces there were unlikely to fire back.

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