World

In Ukraine, UN chief voices concerns about Russian-held nuclear plant

The United Nations chief and the presidents of Turkey and Ukraine discussed ways on Thursday to end Kyiv's conflict with Russia and secure Europe's largest nuclear power station, which has come under shelling at the front lines.

Antonio Guterres says military equipment, personnel should be withdrawn from plant

A view from Kharkhiv, Ukraine, shows a glimpse of rockets being launched from Russia's Belogrod region, at dawn on Thursday. (Vadim Belikov/The Associated Press)

The United Nations secretary general and the presidents of Turkey and Ukraine met on Thursday to discuss ways to end Kyiv's conflict with Russia and secure Europe's largest nuclear power station, which has come under shelling at the front lines.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters after talks in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday he was gravely concerned by circumstances at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, and called for military equipment and personnel to be withdrawn.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he, Guterres and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed building upon recent positive events to revive peace negotiations with Russia that took place in Istanbul in March.

The two sides recently reached an agreement, brokered by the UN and Turkey, for Russia to lift a blockade of Ukrainian grain shipments. Exports have started to resume.

WATCH l Potential for disaster great at Zaporizhzhia: UN envoy: 

Shelling at Ukraine nuclear plant raises fears over health, environmental threats

2 months ago
Duration 1:56
The UN is urging inspectors with the International Atomic Agency to be allowed access to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant to check for radiation leaks after the site came under fire again over the weekend.

NATO member Turkey has maintained good relations with Russia, an important trade partner, and sought to mediate in the nearly six-month-old conflict.

"Personally, I maintain my belief that the war will ultimately end at the negotiating table. Mr. Zelenskyy and Mr. Guterres have the same opinion in this regard," Erdogan said.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow.

One man speaks to another as they walk in a city.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, left, speaks with Lyiv University rector Volodymyr Melnyk in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Thursday. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine says Russia using nuclear plant as shield

Secretary General Guterres reiterated calls for demilitarization around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

"The facility must not be used as part of any military operation. Instead, agreement is urgently needed to re-establish Zaporizhzhia's purely civilian infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area," Guterres said.

A man looks out from a portion of a building in Kharkiv on Thursday, in the aftermath of a missile strike. (Andrii Marienko/The Associated Press)

Russia, which captured Zaporizhzhia soon after its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, said it could shut down the facility — a move Kyiv said would increase the risk of a nuclear catastrophe.

Moscow had earlier rejected as "unacceptable" international calls for a demilitarized zone around the nuclear plant, which is still operated by Ukrainian engineers under Russian occupation.

The power station sits on the Russian-controlled south bank of a huge reservoir; Ukrainian forces hold the north bank. Recent days have seen several incidents of shelling at the plant, which both sides blame on each other.

Ukraine also accuses Russia of using the Zaporizhzhia plant as a shield for its forces to launch strikes across the reservoir on Ukrainian-held cities, which Moscow denies.

Debris is seen in a residential block of a tram depot hit by a Russian missile strike in Kharkiv, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine. (Vitalii Hnidyi/Reuters)

Reuters cannot independently confirm the military situation there or who is responsible for shelling.

Zelenskyy, after meeting Guterres on Thursday, said that they had agreed on parameters for a possible mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the plant.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy poses for a selfie with an injured soldier at a hospital in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters)

"Russia should immediately and unconditionally withdraw its forces from the territory of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as well as stopping any provocations and shelling," he said.

Explosions on Thursday in Kharkiv and Crimea

Meanwhile, 17 people were killed and 42 injured in two separate Russian attacks on the major northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, the regional governor said on Thursday.

Three civilians were killed and 17 wounded in a pre-dawn rocket strike on Thursday, the local emergency service said. That followed a Russian attack on Kharkiv on Wednesday, in which the emergency service initially said 12 people were killed.

WATCH | U.N. calls for demilitarized zone around nuclear plant: 

UN, Ukraine push for demilitarized zone around Europe’s largest nuclear plant

1 month ago
Duration 2:04
The United Nations and Ukraine want to reach an agreement to end fighting around Europe's largest nuclear plant, but Russia has called the idea of a demilitarized zone unacceptable.

Also on Thursday, at least four explosions were reported were reported by three local sources near a major Russian military airport on the Moscow-controlled Crimean peninsula. Ukraine has hinted it orchestrated other blasts over the last 10 days at other Russian installations in Crimea.

The sources said Thursday's explosions were near Russia's Belbek military airport, north of the Black Sea fleet's headquarters in Sevastopol.

Sevastopol governor Mikhail Razvozhayev, writing on Telegram, said Russian anti-aircraft forces downed a Ukrainian drone and no damage occurred.

The general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said in a statement on Friday that Russian forces had launched attacks and tried to make advances on three or more fronts in the course of the day and that Ukrainian forces had repelled them.

In the south, 73 Russian soldiers were killed and 13 pieces of equipment and ammunition depots were destroyed as Ukrainian forces sought to take control of new territory, the regional command said on Facebook.

"In the course of the ensuing battle, [our] units fired on the enemy, which, as a result, was obliged to return to its original position with losses of tanks, armoured vehicles and personnel."

Reuters could not immediately versify the battlefield accounts.

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