Kiev and Moscow continued to accuse each other of shelling on Fridayfueling international fears of catastrophe on the continent as Russian President Vladimir Putin said independent inspectors should visit the Zaporizhzhya plant as soon as possible.
“The Russian side reaffirmed its willingness to provide necessary assistance to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency,” the Kremlin said in a statement following a phone call between Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron – their first call in nearly three months, the AFP said. the news agency reported.
“The two presidents will speak again on the subject in the coming days after discussions between the technical teams and before the deployment of the mission,” a French readout of the call said.
Previously, Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, accused the United States of encouragingattacks on the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. The facility has been controlled by Russian forces since shortly after the invasion began on February 24.
“In the event of a technological disaster, its effects will be felt in every corner of the world,” Patrushev said. “Washington, London and their accomplices will bear full responsibility for this.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday that the presence of Russian troops at the plant effectively prevented a “Chernobyl scenario” from unfolding there, the Reuters news agency reported.
Ukraine has accused Russia of stocking troops and weapons at the Zaporizhzhya factory and using the site to launch attacks on Ukraine-controlled territory. Ukrainian officials and military analysts say Moscow’s troops have cynically used the factory as a shield, knowing the Ukrainians are hesitant to return fire.
Russia has denied the charges, in turn accusing Ukrainian troops of repeatedly shelling the factory.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear company Energoatom said on Friday that Russian forces planned to disconnect the plant from Ukraine’s power grid, Reuters said. In a statement, Energoatom said it believes Moscow was preparing to carry out a “large-scale provocation” there.
Moscow had claimed on Thursday that Kiev was mounting a “provocation” at the factory.
After a visit to Ukraine on Thursday,Zelenskyy had asked him to ensure that Russia removes the factory-stored weapons as an “important step for world peace.”
“Zelenskyy mainly asked this of us: that Russia remove all mines and similar (weapons) there and that the issue soon ceases to be scary. Because it is a threat,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan, whose country has maintained close relations with both Ukraine and Russia, said he would discuss the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin and said “Russia must do its part in this regard”.
The Turkish president made the comments to a group of Turkish journalists on his return from a visit to Zelenskyy and UN Secretary-General António Guterres in Ukraine late Thursday. His comments were reported Friday by the Turkish state agency Anadolu and other media.
Elsewhere, at least five people were killed and ten others injured by Russian shelling of towns and villages in the eastern Donetsk region, according to regional authorities. The shelling damaged residential buildings and civilian infrastructure in the disputed region where Russian forces are trying to overtake areas still under Ukrainian control.
And at least one civilian was killed early Friday in Russian shelling of the city of Kharkiv, in northwestern Donetsk region, while Russian missiles in the southern port city of Mykolaiv again hit port facilities and a university building hit by shelling earlier this week. One person was injured in the attacks, authorities said.
Pamela Falk contributed to this report.