The United States supports calls for a “demilitarized zone” around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, a US State Department spokesperson said Thursday.
“Fighting near a nuclear plant is dangerous and irresponsible – and we continue to call on Russia to cease all military operations at or near Ukrainian nuclear facilities and return full control to Ukraine, and support Ukrainian calls for a demilitarized zone around the nuclear power plant,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Russia is accused of using the nuclear power plant as a military base. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week cited reports “that Russia is using this plant as the equivalent of a human shield, but a nuclear shield in the sense that it’s firing on Ukrainian from around the plant.”
“And of course, the Ukrainians cannot and will not fire back, lest there be a terrible accident involving a nuclear plant. So this is the height of irresponsibility,” he said.
Both Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for attacks.
On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia was maximizing the risk of a nuclear disaster at the facility, and the UN secretary general said he was “gravely concerned about the situation.”
“We must be clear that any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia or any other nuclear facilities in Ukraine, or anywhere else, could lead to catastrophic consequences not only for the immediate vicinity, but for the region and beyond,” Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
On Wednesday, the G7 Foreign Ministers in a joint statement demanded “that Russia immediately hand back full control to its rightful sovereign owner, Ukraine, of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant as well as of all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders to ensure their safe and secure operations.”
“We remain profoundly concerned by the serious threat that the seizure of Ukrainian nuclear facilities and other actions by Russian armed forces pose to the safety and security of these facilities, significantly raising the risk of a nuclear accident or incident and endangering the population of Ukraine, neighboring states and the international community,” they said.
Radiation levels at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant are within the normal range despite renewed shelling on the site, Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom said on Thursday.