The chilling warning came as United Nations chief Antonio Guterres held crisis talks with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky amid growing alarm over safety at the vast power complex. Zaporizhzhia, the biggest nuclear plant in Europe, has been attacked in recent weeks and the UN has said it fears fighting could spark a catastrophe not seen since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.
The site is under Russian control, but with Ukrainian staff still operating it. Kyiv and Moscow accused each other of planning to stage a “provocation” at the plant.
Russia’s defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said it may be shut down if Ukrainians continue shelling it.
And its radioactive, chemical and biological defence forces chief, Igor Kirillov, said an accident could see Germany, Poland and Slovakia covered in radioactive material.
Rafael Grossi, head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), warned that Zaporizhzhia needs urgent inspection and repairs after the attacks.
He said: “Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated one way or the other and we cannot allow that to continue.”
He is still hopeful of putting together a team to visit the plant, but they would need protection to reach it – which means the co-operation of both Russia and Ukraine.
Mr Grossi said: “I’m pleading to both sides to let this mission proceed….Inaction is unconscionable.
“If an accident occurs at Zaporizhzhia…we will have only ourselves to answer to.”
Yevgeny Balitsky, a Russian- installed official in the Zaporizhzhia region, said the Russians were ready to show the IAEA how they were guarding the nuclear facility from alleged Ukrainian attacks.
But US Secretary of StateAntony Blinken has accused Russia of using it as a military base.
And the Ukrainian officials say Russia is stationing troops and storing military hardware in the grounds of the plant in Southern Ukraine.
Ukrainian Emergency Ministry rescuers in hazmat suits and heavy duty gas masks yesterday took part in a series of drills in Zaporizhzhia city to try to prepare for a nuclear incident.