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Ukraine says Russia firing on Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, largest in Europe

Russian forces are “firing from all sides” at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine’s southeast, officials said in the early hours of Friday, with fire having broken out at the site.

Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of the nearby town of Energodar, posted a desperate plea on social media, saying the attack was “a threat to world security,” and adding that “as a result of continuous enemy shelling of buildings and units … the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is on fire!” In a follow-up video, Orlov warned “firefighters cannot get to the scene.” Earlier, the mayor had posted a video of what appeared to be heavy shelling in the area.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Twitter that it was “aware of reports of shelling” at the Zaporizhzhia plant, which is the largest of its kind in Europe and supplies around a quarter of Ukraine’s energy.

The IAEA said its Director General Rafael Grossi had spoken with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and with the Ukrainian nuclear regulator and operator about the “serious situation,” and warned of “severe danger if reactors hit.” But the agency said Ukraine’s nuclear regulator had thus far said “there has been no change reported in radiation levels” at the site.

Fire and shelling was visible in a livestream from the power plant on YouTube.

“Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia NPP,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. He added: “Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!”

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy to get an update on the fires at the nuclear power plant. “Biden joined President Zelenskyy in urging Russia to cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site,” according to a White House readout. Biden will continue to be briefed regularly, the White House added.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also spoke with Zelenskiy about the “gravely concerning” situation. Johnson is seeking an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting and warned “the reckless actions” of Russian President Vladimir Putin “could now directly threaten the safety of all of Europe.”

This story has been updated.

Eleni Courea contributed reporting.

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