Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned Sunday that those attending the upcoming NATO summit in Lithuania this week should discuss the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, given “the vast majority of the alliance members will be in the direct impact zone” should any impending disaster occur at the facility.
In a Telegram message, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Ukraine of plotting a “systematic infliction of damage” to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant – Europe’s largest – which is located in southeastern Ukraine and occupied by Russian troops.
“The NATO summit’s key attention should be devoted to it,” Zakharova wrote, according to Reuters. “After all, the vast majority of the alliance members will be in the direct impact zone.”
Last week, Ukraine and Russia accused each other of planning an imminent attack against the plant.
Ukrainian intelligence noted that Russian forces were pulling out of the territory around the plant.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during an interview on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that he believes “Russia is planning a local explosion” and anticipates “additional steps in order to make the entire world to be afraid of the global nuclear disaster and halt all military action on the battlefield.”
In a July 7 statement, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said “experts have received additional access at the site of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, without – so far – observing any visible indications of mines or explosives.”
President Biden will be among the NATO leaders planning to meet in Vilnius, Lithuania, located some 620 miles from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, from July 11-12. The world’s biggest security alliance is expected to iron out agreements on admitting Sweden as its 32nd member as well as continued support for Ukraine.
Biden – who despite unease from several U.S. allies agreed to send cluster munitions to Ukraine – has spoken out against granting Ukraine NATO membership in the immediate future as the war against Russia continues, raising the concern that doing so would spark a wider scale conflict.
Zelenskyy alleged Tuesday, citing intelligence reports, that Russian troops placed “objects resembling explosives” atop several power units to “simulate” an attack as part of a false flag operation. The “foreign objects” were placed on the roof of the plant’s third and fourth power units, the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said.
In Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, meanwhile, called the situation at the nuclear plant “quite tense,” and accused Kyiv of planning an attack.
The U.N. atomic watchdog has repeatedly warned of the possibility of a radiation catastrophe like the one at Chernobyl, about 300 miles to the northwest, where a reactor exploded in 1986. The Zaporizhzhia plant has been shelled numerous times since the war began.
Regular power outages have made it impossible to operate the plant safely, and its six reactors have been shut down to minimize the threat of a disaster.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
POST AUTHOR: Danielle Wallace