Russia on Friday attacked Zaporizhzhia, a nuclear power plant in Ukraine and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
A fire was caused by the attack, but the blaze was extinguished.
“Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia NPP, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. 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,” said Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba tweeted earlier Friday morning.
The fire raised concerns from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The organization called for a cease to the conflict around the facility, although the IAEI said that Ukraine authorities had reported that background radiation levels were normal, according to CNN.
Ukraine nuclear officials said that managers at the event were “working at gunpoint,” reported CNN. The U.S. embassy in Ukraine warned that the attack on a nuclear plant was a “war crime.” Also, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting. During the meeting Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, described the attack as “an act of nuclear terrorism.”
“In a statement Friday morning local time, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate (SNRI) confirmed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine was occupied by Russian military forces, but said officials remained in contact with plant management,” reported CNN.
The plant’s six nuclear reactors remain intact although the compartment auxiliary buildings for reactor unit one were damaged, according to the SNRI statement. One reactor powered the plant, while the remaining four were being cooled down.
Russian forces “entered the territory of the nuclear power plant, took control of the personnel and management of the nuclear power plant,” Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s nuclear power operator Energoatom, said on Telegram.
“As for the staff, they were admitted in the morning to perform their duties. We do not currently have a direct connection to the station. We get information from the sources at the station,” Mr. Kotin said.
Ukraine’s State Emergency Services confirmed that several firefighters had extinguished a blaze that started in a training building outside the main reactor complex and was followed by shelling from Russia’s military forces.
The Russians captured the plant with the intent toward controlling the Ukraine population, a senior U.S. Defense Department official told USA today. “Operating the plant would allow them to deliver power, or to withhold it to punish Ukrainians,” reported USA Today.
The Russian advance on Kyiv has remained in a holding position about 15 miles from the center of the capital. Ukraine forces had blocked the advance of Russian forces further into the city by blowing up a crucial bridge, as well as attacking vehicles in a 40-mile convoy.
Despite the resistance from Ukrainian forces, the Russians continue to shell Ukrainian cities targeting residential areas and civilian infrastructure, according to USA Today.