Kiev: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned of a potential disaster at the besieged Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, after a power outage forced an emergency shutdown of two of the plant’s reactors.
“I want to stress that the situation remains very risky and dangerous,” Zelensky said in his Friday night video address. “Any repetition … will once again bring the power plant to the brink of disaster.”
Zelensky also reiterated his call for a team of international experts to inspect the plant and for the Russian troops occupying the facility to withdraw, dpa news agency reported.
On Thursday, a local blackout knocked out the power supply to the plant, increasing the risk of a nuclear disaster. While the Ukrainian authorities blamed the outage on Russian shelling, the Russians have said that the Ukrainian military was to blame. Neither claim could be independently verified.
Following the power cut, the plant only avoided a serious accident due to its emergency power supply. Both reactor blocks were shut down in an emergency procedure shortly afterwards.
The power supply was restored to both of the reactors on Friday, Ukrainian officials confirmed.
“Today at 9.15 p.m. the second of the units that stopped yesterday has been connected to the power grid,” Enerhoatom said on Telegram late on Friday.
Russia presented a rather different version of events, however, claiming that the power supply had been restored earlier in the day.
Russian troops have occupied the plant since shortly after the start of the war in February, but fears of a nuclear catastrophe have risen since renewed fighting broke out around the plant earlier this month.
Enerhoatom officials have routinely accused the Russian side of planning an attack in the area and have warned Moscow it is playing with fire as it downs power lines to facilitate fresh offensives in the area.
International Atomic Energy Agency director Rafael Grossi has indicated that he is prepared to visit the Zaporizhzhya plant with a team of experts. However, no agreement has yet been reached on how to get the team to the plant.
In the wider conflict on Friday, Donetsk region Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said that Kiev remained in control of some 45% of the eastern Ukrainian region, despite it being on the front lines of the war.
Before the Russian invasion on February 24, about two-thirds of the area, was under Ukrainian control, with the remainder in the hands of pro-Russia separatists.
On the global stage, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill is no longer expected to attend an inter-religious congress in Kazakhstan next month, according to a statement made to Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency.
The announcement is significant as some had hoped that Pope Francis would be able to hold talks during the event with Kirill, who is known to have close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an attempt to restart negotiations on ending to the war.