Russia is “technically ready” to blow up what is Europe’s largest nuclear power station, Volodymyr Zelensky has warned.
The Ukrainian president told European leaders that the Zaporizhzhia plant was facing a “serious threat”. He cited Ukrainian intelligence as the source of his information.
Zelensky called for greater international attention to the situation at the facility, which was seized by Russia last year. It has since been used as a military base, from which Russia has bombarded Ukrainian towns across the Dnipro reservoir.
Zelensky made the claim during a meeting with Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez in Kyiv. He told a joint news conference: “There is a serious threat because Russia is technically ready to provoke a local explosion at the station that could cause an emission of dangerous substances in the air,” Mr. Zelensky said.
“We are clearly communicating, we discussed the need with our partners so everyone understands why Russia is doing this.”
Zelensky also expressed frustration about the lack of clarity over Western training for Ukrainian fighter pilots. He said Western allies have not yet set a timetable to train pilots on US-made F-16s despite their expressions of readiness.
“I think that some partners are delaying this process – why they do this I have no idea,” he said.
Prime Minister Sanchez vowed a show of continuing support from Madrid and the European Union for Ukraine’s fight to dislodge invading Russian forces from its territory. In an address to Ukraine’s parliament that received several standing ovations, Mr. Sanchez said: “We’ll be with you as long as it takes.”
On the day Spain took over the six-month rotating presidency of the 27-nation EU on Saturday, he added: “I am here to express the firm determination of the European (Union) and Europe against the illegal and unjustified Russian aggression towards Ukraine. .”
Referring to possible peace talks, the Spanish leader said: “Only Ukraine can set the terms and times for peace negotiations. Other countries and regions are proposing peace plans. Their involvement is much appreciated, but, at the same time, we cannot accept them entirely.
“This is a war of aggression, with an aggressor and a victim. They cannot be treated equally and ignoring the rules should in no way be rewarded. That is why we support President Zelensky’s peace formula.”
Regional officials said at least three civilians were killed and at least 17 more hurt by Russian shelling on Friday and overnight. Three people died and 10 more suffered wounds on Friday in the frontline eastern Donetsk region, where fierce battles are raging, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Saturday.
The Ukrainian General Staff said fierce clashes continued in three areas in Donetsk where it said Russia has massed troops and tried to advance. In the latest regular social media update, the General Staff named the outskirts of three cities — Bakhmut, Lyman and Marinka — as frontline hot spots and said Russia over the previous day staged unsuccessful assault attempts there.
Five people including a child were hurt on Friday and overnight in the Kherson region in the south, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said. Mr Prokudin said Russian forces launched 82 artillery, drone, mortar shell and rocket attacks on the province, which is cut in two by a stretch of the 930-mile frontline and still reeling from flooding unleashed by the collapse earlier this month of a major Dnipro river dam.
In the north-eastern Kharkiv region, Russian shelling over the previous day hurt a 57-year-old civilian man, local governor Oleh Syniehubov said the same morning. In the Sumy region further west, a teenage boy was hurt in a strike from across the Russian border, the local military administration reported.