Ukraine Demands World Take Heed Of Attack On Nuclear Plant As Russia Continues Assault
By RFE/RL March 04, 2022
The United States and its allies have heavily criticized Russia at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council over its shelling and seizure overnight of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant in southeastern Ukraine.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the world "narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe" when Russian forces fired on the plant, causing a fire that burned overnight.
"Russia's attack last night put Europe's largest nuclear power plant at grave risk. It was incredibly reckless and dangerous. And it threatened the safety of civilians across Russia, Ukraine, and Europe," Thomas-Greenfield told the council on March 4.
British UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward said: "It must not happen again. Even in the midst of an illegal invasion of Ukraine, Russia must keep fighting away from and protect the safety and security of nuclear sites."
Russia's UN envoy, Vasily Nebenzya, dismissed their statements and called the Security Council meeting another attempt by Ukrainian authorities to create "artificial hysteria." "At present, the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and adjacent territory are being guarded by Russian troops," he said.
Ukraine earlier called the seizure of the power plant "nuclear terrorism" and warned that the danger at the plant was not over.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on March 4 described the attack on the plant the day before as "a terrorist act of an unbelievable level."
The attack, which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said caused the fire, occurred as Russian forces pressed their military campaign across Ukraine. Kyiv was shelled again overnight and Russian troops were reportedly in the center of Kherson on the Black Sea coast.
Heavy fighting continued on the outskirts of another strategic port, Mariupol, knocking out electricity, heat, and water along with most phone service.
Zelenskiy and other Ukrainian officials blasted Russia for the attack on the Zaporizhzhya power plant.
"This station alone could be like six Chernobyl [tragedies]," Zelenskiy warned, saying Russian tanks "knew what they were shelling" and accusing them of erasing the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 from their memories.
Zelenskiy said it had been a very dangerous night for all of humanity after a fire burned out of control at Zaporizhzhya. The fire started after a projectile hit a nuclear training center inside the perimeter of the plant, according to Ukrainian government officials.
Firefighters put out the fire by morning, and nuclear officials from around the world said no leak had been detected.
The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine called the Russian assault on the plant a "war crime," and Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said it showed how reckless the Russian invasion had been.
"It just raises the level of potential catastrophe to a level that nobody wants to see," he told CNN.
Russian units caused alarm last week when they captured the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant within days of Russian President Vladimir Putin ordering the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Yuriy Kostenko, Ukraine's former minister of nuclear security, said what Russian forces were doing at Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhya is "nuclear terrorism," and international law requires all countries to stand against it, he added in an apparent reference to a protocol to the Geneva Convention that restricts military attacks on nuclear facilities.
"That is why Ukraine must not ask for no-fly zone from NATO, but to demand it. That would be a defense of Ukraine and Europe as a whole from the international nuclear terrorism," he said.
The UN Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting for March 4, according to diplomats.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a telephone call that Russia was ready for dialogue if all its demands are met, the Kremlin said. These include for Ukraine to demilitarize, accept Moscow's sovereignty over Crimea, and surrender territory to Russian-backed separatists in the east, the Kremlin said in its readout of the call.
Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met on March 3 for a second round of talks, reaching a tentative agreement on setting up safe corridors to allow civilians to leave besieged Ukrainian cities and the delivery of humanitarian supplies. They also agreed to keep talking on ways to negotiate a settlement.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on March 4 accused Russian soldiers of targeting civilians with bombs and committing rape in Ukrainian cities, without giving evidence for the claim.
RFE/RL and international agencies were unable to independently verify Kuleba's accusation of rape.
"When bombs fall on your cities, when soldiers rape women in the occupied cities -- and we have numerous cases of, unfortunately, when Russian soldiers rape women in Ukrainian cities -- it's difficult, of course, to speak about the efficiency of international law," Kuleba, speaking in English, told an event at Chatham House in London.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels that the alliance has seen the use of cluster bombs in Ukraine.
In Kherson, where Russian troops had reached the city center and were said to be seeking to establish local control on March 3, the regional administration said Russian actions had shut down several telephone networks.
The port city of Mariupol remained "under siege" with Ukrainian forces battling to avoid allowing Russian forces to surround the city, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said.
The cities of Kharkiv and Okhtyrka were under fire but defenses were holding, he said.
Arestovich credited defense of those cities with "gaining time" and diverting Russian forces from other goals, including Kyiv.
The head of the region, Dmytro Zhyvytskiy, warned that water and electricity had been lost since an air strike destroyed Okhtyrka's power plant. He also said Russian troops were capturing ground in Enerhodar near the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant in southeastern Ukraine.
The regional branch of Ukraine's state administration on March 4 raised the death toll to at least 47 following a Russian air strike in the city of Chernihiv, a city of around 300,000 near the northeastern border with Russia.
Images circulated of heavily damaged residential buildings and a burning oil depot in Chernihiv.
Protests against Russian occupation meanwhile continued early on March 4 in the Zaporizhzhya region, a RFE/RL Ukrainian Service correspondent said, including in Primorsk and Melitopol, where a local organizer said thousands turned up at a central square.
Regional authorities said the Russian military had surrounded a local TV tower in Melitopol and began broadcasting Russian programs.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech in which he claimed to have no "bad intentions" toward Russia's neighbors.
"I would like to stress once again: We do not have any, as we have said earlier, bad intentions toward our neighbors," Putin said. "I would advise them not to intensify tension as well, not to introduce any restrictions. We are fulfilling all our commitments and will follow to stick to them further."
Putin declared his unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, saying Moscow's aim was the "demilitarization" of Ukraine and accusing Kyiv of extremism with labels that he has routinely used in the eight years since he occupied Ukraine's Crimea and began support for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
As international financial and other sanctions increased and the United Nation's top human rights body voted 32-2 on a resolution to form a panel to monitor human rights in Ukraine, Putin placed the blame for Russian's isolation on other countries.
"If some [countries] do not want to cooperate with us on the international level, they will inflict damages both to themselves and to us, but we will solve all the issues ourselves," Putin said.
He called on other countries to "normalize relations" with Russia, whose invasion was overwhelmingly condemned this week by the UN membership.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov urged Russians, thousands of whom have been detained for anti-war protests as media and other measures are tightened against dissent, to "rally around" Putin.
Thousands of people are thought to have been killed and more than 1 million Ukrainians have fled west amid a burgeoning refugee crisis since Putin launched his invasion.
Ukraine's commissioner for children's rights, Darya Herasymchuk, said on March 4 that at least 28 children had been killed and 64 injured so far in the conflict.
She said around 1.5 million children reside in the most affected areas and cited "destroyed maternity hospitals, kindergartens, and schools."
With reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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