Accusations fly between Ukraine and Russia over Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. And the world is restless.

Kyiv and Moscow continued to accuse each other of shelling on Friday. Europe’s largest nuclear power plantstoking international fears of a catastrophe on the mainland, as Russian President Vladimir Putin said independent inspectors should visit the Zaporizhzhia plant “as soon as possible”.

“The Russian side confirmed its readiness to provide the (International Atomic Energy) Agency inspectors with the necessary assistance,” the Kremlin said in a statement after a call between Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron, their first call in almost three months, AFP said. the news agency reported.

“The two presidents will speak again on this issue in the coming days after the discussions between the technical teams and before the deployment of the mission,” said a French readout of the call.

Previously, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, accused the United States of encouraging Ukrainian attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. The facility has been controlled by Russian forces since shortly after the invasion began on February 24.

“In the event of a technological disaster, its consequences will be felt in all corners of the world,” Patrushev said. “Washington, London and their cronies will take full responsibility for that.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday that the presence of Russian troops at the plant actually ensured that a “Chernobyl scenario” would not develop, the Reuters news agency reported.

Ukraine accused Russia of storing troops and weapons at the Zaporizhzhia plant and using its land to launch attacks against Ukrainian-controlled territory. Ukrainian officials and military analysts say Moscow forces have cynically used the plant as a shield, knowing the Ukrainians would hesitate to return fire.

Russia has denied the accusations and, in turn, accused Ukrainian forces of repeatedly bombing the plant.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom said on Friday that Russian troops planned to disconnect the plant from the Ukrainian power grid, according to Reuters. In a statement, Energoatom said it believed Moscow was preparing to carry out a “large-scale provocation” there.

An overview of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, on the outskirts of the city of Enerhodar, in the Zaporizhzhia region,
An overview of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar, in the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, in a picture released on August 18, 2022.

Russian Defense Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

Moscow had claimed on Thursday that Kyiv was staging a “provocation” at the plant.

Following a visit to Ukraine on Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Zelenskyy had asked him to ensure that Russia removed the weapons stored at the plant as an “important step for world peace”.

“Zelenskyy especially asked us for this: for Russia to remove all mines and similar (weapons) there and for the problem to stop being scary quickly. Because he is a threat,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan, whose country has maintained close relations with both Ukraine and Russia, said he would discuss the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying “Russia must do its part in this regard.”

The Turkish president made the remarks to a group of Turkish journalists upon his return from a visit with Zelenskyy and UN Secretary-General António Guterres in Ukraine on Thursday night. His comments were reported by Turkey’s state Anadolu Agency and other media on Friday.

Elsewhere, at least five people were killed and 10 others wounded in Russian shelling of towns and villages in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, according to regional authorities. The shelling damaged residential buildings and civilian infrastructure in the beleaguered region where Russian forces are pushing to seize areas still held by Ukraine.

And at least one civilian was killed early Friday in Russian shelling of the northwestern city of Kharkiv in the Donetsk region, while Russian missiles in the southern port city of Mykolaiv struck facilities again. ports and a university building that had previously been hit by a previous bombardment. this week. One person was injured in the attacks, authorities said.

Pamela Falk contributed to this report.

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