The continued presence of Russian forces at and near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is a "constant trigger of a possible nuclear disaster," Ukraine’s energy minister said Thursday.
"Today's events are yet another vivid confirmation of that. Who is ready to take responsibility for tomorrow's security?" Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said.
All six reactors at the plant in southeastern Ukraine remain disconnected from the electricity grid, nuclear operator Energoatom said Friday after the facility — which has been occupied by Russian forces since March — was disconnected for the first time in its history on Thursday.
Ukraine has accused Russian troops of using the plant as a shield, risking a potential disaster. The Kremlin has in turn repeatedly accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the plant.
Negotiations areunder way for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit the plant and Halushchenko said the United Nations nuclear watchdog should be permitted to study the impact of Russian troops' presence there.
"I would like to appeal to the world community once again: the joint mission of the IAEA and the UN at the [Zaporizhzhia plant] should have a mandate to study not only the norms for ensuring nuclear safety, but also external security components, primarily those related to weapons and their use by the Russian military on the territory of the plant and near her," Halushchenko said.
He also stressed the need for "urgent de-occupation and demilitarization" of the plant.
It is "the only way for Europe to sleep peacefully and not be afraid of nuclear clouds in its sky," Halushchenko said.