Kremlin says West should pressure Ukraine to stop shelling nuclear station
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, hit by shelling over the weekend, is operating as normal, the Interfax news agency quoted the Russian-installed head of the local administration as saying on Monday.
Earlier, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for international inspectors to be given access to the nuclear plant after Ukraine and Russia traded accusations over the shelling of Europe's largest atomic plant.
Guterres said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) needed access to the plant.
Russian forces captured the Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor complex located near the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in southeastern Ukraine in early March, shortly after Moscow's invasion of its neighbour, but it is still run by Ukrainian technicians.
Ukraine accused Russia of responsibility for renewed shelling on Saturday that had damaged three radiation sensors and injured a worker at the plant in what was the second hit in consecutive days on the site.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a televised address on Sunday, said Russia was waging "nuclear terror" that warranted more international sanctions, this time on Moscow's nuclear sector.
The region's Russian-installed authority said Ukrainian forces hit the site with multiple rocket launchers, damaging administrative buildings and an area near a storage facility.
The Russian Embassy in Washington also itemised the damage, saying artillery fire from "Ukrainian nationalists" damaged two high-voltage power lines and a water pipeline, but the critical infrastructure was not affected.
The Kremlin said on Monday that Western countries with influence over Ukraine should push Kyiv to stop shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
The events at the Zaporizhzhia site have alarmed the world. Residents living near the vast nuclear power plant say they fear fighting between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces in the region could lead to a disaster comparable to the 1986 Chornobyl disaster.
Locals in Enerhodar told Reuters on Thursday that they thought Russia and Ukraine should agree to a wide perimeter around the plant where fighting could not take place.
"The city of Enerhodar, as well as the nuclear power plant, is built on sand. Even any small explosions could lead to sand moving," humanitarian aid point volunteer Volodymyr Martynyuk said.
"We're talking about the safety of the entire planet, not just about the safety of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia and nearby foreign countries," Martynyuk added.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) raised grave concerns on Saturday about the shelling the previous day at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, saying the action showed the risk of a nuclear disaster.
Both sides accused each other on Saturday of engaging in "nuclear terrorism". Ukraine's state nuclear power company Energoatom blamed Russia for the damage while Russia's defence ministry accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the plant.
"I'm extremely concerned by the shelling yesterday at Europe's largest nuclear power plant, which underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster," IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.
Grossi, who leads the United Nation's nuclear watchdog, urged all sides in the Ukraine conflict to exercise the "utmost restraint" around the plant.
The Kremlin said on Monday there was no basis for a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents at the moment.
In response to a question about Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's offers to broker peace talks, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskiy could meet only after negotiators from both sides had "done their homework."
Negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv have been stalled for months, with each side blaming the other for a lack of progress.
"The Ukrainian delegation has gone off the radar, there is no negotiation process now," Peskov said on Monday.
"As for a meeting between Presidents Putin and Zelenskiy, it is possible only after all the homework has been done by the delegations. This is missing, so there are no necessary prerequisites for the meeting," he added.