(KYIV, Ukraine) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in an exclusive interview with ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir in Kyiv, accused the Russian military of using the massive Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant as a “weapon” in Moscow’s invasion.
“You see, they occupied our nuclear station, six blocks. The biggest in Europe. It means six Chernobyls; it means the biggest danger in Europe. So, they occupied it. So that is — means that they use nuclear weapon. That is [a] nuclear weapon,” Zelenskyy told Muir from the presidential office.
“There shouldn’t be any military personnel. There shouldn’t be any military equipment on the territory. And there shouldn’t be the workers of nuclear power plant who are– surrounded by people with firearms,” Zelenskyy added.
The nuclear plant in southeastern Ukraine — the largest in all of Europe — has seen intense shelling in recent weeks as Russia’s invasion morphs into a grinding artillery battle with neither side winning much new territory.
The attacks around the site have sparked international concerns over a nuclear incident, with inspectors from the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency on the scene to assess any damage, its security systems and working conditions.
Moscow and Kyiv have traded accusations over who is responsible for the shelling at and around the plant. Russian forces are currently occupying the site, though Ukrainian workers are still operating it.
Power to the plant has at times gone out due to the shelling, and two of its six reactors are operating from just one remaining power line. Power outages threaten the plant’s cooling systems, which are key to preventing a meltdown.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi said in a statement Saturday the plant was cut off from its last external power line, but is still able to lean on a reserve line to receive electricity during the ongoing shelling.
“We already have a better understanding of the functionality of the reserve power line in connecting the facility to the grid,” Grossi said. “This is crucial information in assessing the overall situation there.”
Zelenskyy told Muir he would not consider a controlled shutdown of the plant to prevent any radiation leaks given that the site provides energy to two regions of Ukraine as winter approaches.
“I know that the Russians would like — the reactors to — to be disconnected from Ukrainian grid and — connected to the Russian grid. No, we — we do not agree to those messages,” Zelenskyy said.
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