Russia and Ukraine exchanged blame for the shelling around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant Saturday amid growing fears of a nuclear catastrophe.
Ukrainian officials have repeatedly blamed the Russians, who seized the nuclear compound at Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine in March. They accuse Russian forces of storing heavy weaponry inside the plant and using it as cover to launch attacks, calculating that Ukrainian troops would not risk firing at the plant’s six reactors, according to CNN.
Moscow, meanwhile, has said that Ukrainian forces are targeting the site.
Amid widening reports Saturday that Russia was planning a “false flag” operation intended to make an attack appear to come from Ukrainian forces, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for Russians to be held to account for the unprecedented actions around the nuclear plant.
“Every day the stay of the Russian contingent in the territory of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant and in the nearby areas increases the radiation threat to Europe, so much that even in the peak moments of confrontation during the Cold War there was no such thing,” Zelensky posted on Facebook.
He called for Russian officials to be “held accountable in an international court,” adding: “Every Russian military who either shoots at the station or shoots at the station undercover should understand what is becoming a special target for our intelligence and intelligence services, for our army.”
The United Nations secretary general on Thursday called on both sides to end military activities near the power station. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said that parts of the plant had been damaged in the fighting and called for an immediate inspection by international observers.
Video posted to Twitter Saturday showed vehicles lined up for miles as thousands of residents near the plant attempted to flee the fighting and a potential nuclear accident.