Russia accused of targeting Ukraine nuclear power plant to cause widespread blackouts

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  • Ukraine has called for a demilitarised zone around a nuclear plant in eastern Ukraine.
  • This as Kyiv fears a possible nuclear accident amid ongoing skirmishes with Russia.
  • Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Russian forces want to cause electricity blackouts in southern Ukraine by shelling its Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex, Ukraine's ambassador to the IAEA nuclear watchdog said on Monday, calling for an international mission to the plant this month.

The Kremlin then said Ukrainian forces were firing at the power plant, saying this could have "catastrophic consequences".

Meanwhile, Kyiv on Monday called for the establishment of a demilitarised zone around the nuclear power station in east Ukraine where recent fighting with Russian forces has raised fears of a nuclear accident.

Zaporizhzhia is Europe's largest atomic power complex, and has been occupied by Russia early in its invasion.

In recent days, it has been the scene of strikes that have damaged several structures, forcing the shutdown of a reactor.

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"What needs to be done is to remove occupying forces from the station and to create a de-militarised zone on the territory of the station," said Petro Kotin, president of Ukraine's nuclear energy company, Energoatom.

"The fact that they are there is the greatest danger going forwards, towards an accident with radiation or even to a nuclear catastrophe," he added in a statement distributed by the agency.

Recent fighting at the plant has prompted the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to warn of "the very real risk of a nuclear disaster".

READ | Ukraine and Russia talk grain export impasse in first talks since March

Potin said in the statement that Russia had deployed some 500 Russian troops and 50 pieces of military hardware at Zaporizhzhia and that the situation at the plant marked a "deterioration" over recent days.

"That there should be a peacekeeping mission including experts from the IAEA and other security organisations. Their presence and initially giving control to them and then to the Ukrainian side would have solved this problem," he added.

The Kremlin on Monday accused Ukrainian forces of firing on the Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant, warning of potential "catastrophic consequences" for Europe.

Ukraine earlier accused Russian forces of firing rockets at the facility. Kyiv last month said Russian forces were storing heavy weapons at the plant.

- Additional reporting by Reuters

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