Sep 4, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Zelensky says Russian forces using Zaporizhzhia plant as "nuclear weapon"

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference on August 24, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during an Augus press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo: Alexey Furman/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during an ABC News interview shared Sunday that Russia's occupying forces were using Europe's largest nuclear power plant as a "weapon."

What he's saying: Zelensky said in the interview airing Monday that the threat of Russian forces occupying the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in southeastern Ukraine and its six reactors was akin to "six Chernobyls" — a reference to the 1986 nuclear disaster in the northern region of Soviet Ukraine.

  • "It means the biggest danger in Europe," he told ABC's David Muir in the interview from Ukraine's presidential office. "So, they occupied it. So that ... means that they use [it as a] nuclear weapon."
  • Zelensky added 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."

The big picture: Russian forces have maintained military activity at or near the plant that's staffed by Ukrainian workers since seizing it in March.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, established a presence at the plant last Thursday amid concerns that nearby shelling could cause a potential disaster.

State of play: The IAEA said in a statement Saturday the plant's "connection to its last remaining main external power line, but the facility is continuing to supply electricity to the grid through a reserve line" following renewed shelling in the area.

  • IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told reporters when he visited the site Thursday it's "obvious" that the power station "and the physical integrity of the plant has been violated, several times. However, he couldn't say whether or not this was deliberate.
Go deeper