Fire breaks out at major nuclear plant in Ukraine amid fighting

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was on fire early Friday local time following a Russian attack, according to Ukrainian officials.

“Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia NPP, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a post on Twitter. “Fire has already broke out. If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chornobyl! Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!”

Mayor Dmytro Orlov of the nearby town of Energodar said that Russian and local Ukrainian forces have engaged in fierce fighting, resulting in casualties, according to Reuters.

“As a result of continuous enemy shelling of buildings and units of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is on fire,” Orlov said, according to Reuters. He added that the situation poses a threat to world security.

President Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for an update on the fire at the plant Thursday evening local time in D.C. The White House said that “President Biden joined President Zelenskyy in urging Russia to cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site.”

Ukrainian officials said that “essential” equipment and radiation levels at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant remained unaffected, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in statements posted on Twitter.

Ukrainian authorities wrote a letter hours before the fire broke out to Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director general of the IAEA, sounding the alarm that Russian tanks had broken through “the block-post” into Enerhodar.

“The battle is going on in the town of Enerhodar and on the road to the ZNPP (Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant) site,” the letter read, describing the situation as “critical,” according to the agency.

This comes after Ukrainian officials warned days earlier that Russian troops had increased their military presence near the plant and pointed a multiple rocket launcher at it. Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs said the country’s military was headed to the region to defend the plant.

“The armed forces, national guard and civilian militia will do anything to prevent a catastrophe, we are ready to destroy the enemy. But we have to be ready for anything,” Vadim Denisenko, advisor to the minister of internal affairs, said at the time.

Russian forces previously took control of the Chernobyl nuclear site last Thursday, less than 24 hours after the invasion of Ukraine began.

— Updated at 10:10 p.m.

Tags International Atomic Energy Agency Joe Biden Marco Rubio Russia Russia-Ukraine conflict Ukraine Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

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