On Saturday, the chief of the United Nations’ nuclear power watchdog warned that the situation near the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant had become “increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous,” and he asked for measures to assure its safe functioning.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director general, Rafael Grossi, issued the warning in response to evacuations ordered by the local Russian-installed governor in the adjacent town of Enerhodar.
“The general situation in the area near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous,” Grossi said on the agency’s website.
“I’m extremely concerned about the very real nuclear safety and security risks facing the plant. We must act now to prevent the threat of a severe nuclear accident and its associated consequences for the population and the environment.”
Russian forces seized the Zaporizhzhia plant days after President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of his neighbor in February 2022. Exchanges of fire have frequently occurred near the facility, with each side blaming the other.
Grossi last visited the Zaporizhzhia station, Europe’s largest nuclear power installation, in March, as part of efforts to speak to both sides to secure an agreement on safeguards to ensure the plant’s safe operation.
He has repeatedly warned of the dangers of military operations around the plant.
Russia last September proclaimed the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, including Zaporizhzhia region.
The plant is located in the part of that region under Russian control, with many of the staff operating it living in Enerhodar on the south bank of the Dnipro River.
Yevgeny Balitsky, Russian-installed governor of the Russia-controlled part of Zaporizhzhia region, said on Friday he had ordered the evacuation of villages close to the front line with Ukrainian forces there. He said Ukrainian shelling had intensified in the area in recent days.
A widely expected Ukrainian spring counter-offensive against Russian forces viewed as likely to take in the Zaporizhzhia region, around 80% of which is held by Moscow.