World leaders expressed concern and condemnation over Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, Europe’s largest in terms of generation capacity, with calls for an end to military operations around the plant.
Ukraine’s nuclear inspectorate said Friday that Russian forces had captured the plant.
President Biden expressed support for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s stance that Russia should let firefighters and emergency responders into the plant, according to a White House readout of their phone call Thursday. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would call an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting, while Canada’s Justin Trudeau “called on Russia to immediately end all military activities in the area,” according to a statement. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne tweeted that the attack demonstrated the “recklessness & dangers of Putin’s war.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency likewise criticized the attack but said radiation levels have not increased in the area.
“Europe must wake up,” Zelensky said in a video message denouncing Russia’s attack on the Zaporizhzhia plant. “If there is an explosion, it is the end of everything.”
On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow was “taking every measure” to maintain the safety of the plant, as well as the abandoned site in Chernobyl, where a nuclear disaster in 1986 forced residents to evacuate and which fell under Russian control last week.
After Russian forces captured the Zaporizhzhia plant, the mayor of the nearby city issued an awkward video statement assuring that the situation was under control, an address Ukraine’s national atomic energy company said may have been made under duress.
Even China, which has been at pains not to criticize Russia’s actions in Ukraine, expressed concern over the fighting around the plant.
“China attaches great importance to the issue of nuclear security, and is therefore seriously concerned about the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a routine briefing Friday.
He added that China would keep a close watch on developments and called on all parties to exercise restraint.
Concerns about a potential nuclear disaster at the plant roiled Asian markets Friday, as Japan’s Nikkei index hit its lowest level since late 2020. Japan’s Topix fell by about 2 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped by 2.5 percent and China’s CSI 300 by 1.2 percent.
Lyric Li in Taipei contributed to this report.