UN Secretary-General António Guterres has condemned the recent attack on a nuclear power station in southern Ukraine, noting that any attack on nuclear plants is suicidal.
Both Moscow and Kyiv have denied responsibility for the strike on the Zaporizhzhia plant over the weekend.
Guterres condemned the attack on the plants on Monday at a meeting in Tokyo with Japan National Press Club.
The UN chief expressed hoped that the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be able to access the plant for inspection.
While Europe’s largest nuclear power site has been under Russian control since the early days of the war, Ukrainian technicians are still running it.
Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear power plant operator, said that Russian shelling damaged three radiation monitors around the storage facility for spent nuclear fuels, in which one worker was injured.
The shelling prompted IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi to warn that the way in which Zaporizhzhia was being run coupled with the fighting around it posed the very real risk of a nuclear disaster.
Since then, a preliminary assessment by UN atomic overseer experts found that the safety and security situation seemed stable with no immediate threat, despite that several pillars were breached.
“We support the IAEA on their efforts in relation to create the conditions of stabilisation of that plant,” Guterres said, adding that his hope that the IAEA would be able to access the plant.
When asked why a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine had not yet been realised, the UN chief said they had been working very closely with Türkiye, which had launched a new initiative in relation to a possible start of peace negotiations.
But he explained that Ukraine cannot accept that its territory is taken by another country and that Russia does not seem ready to accept that areas it had taken will not be annexed by the Russian Federation or give way to new independent States.
Guterres’ comments followed a visit to Hiroshima over the weekend, where he marked the 77th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear attack on August 6, 1945, destroying the city and killing 140,000 people.
Amidst Russian threats of a nuclear attack since it invaded Ukraine in February, fears of a third atomic bombing have grown.
The UN chief reiterated his warning over the use of nuclear weapons, saying if used, the UN would probably be unable respond.
“We might all not be here anymore,” he said.
Against the backdrop that the world currently has 13,000 nuclear bombs while continuing to make huge investments into modernising atomic arsenals, Guterres warned that after decades of nuclear disarmament efforts, we are moving backwards.
“Stop it,” he appealed, underscoring that the billions of dollars being leveraged into the arms race need to be used in fighting climate change, fighting poverty, and addressing the needs of the international community.
Meanwhile, the secretary-general has travelled to Mongolia and South Korea from Japan to discuss ways to address North Korea’s nuclear development. (NAN)