Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Thursday for the United Nations to ensure the security of Europe's biggest nuclear power plant, the Zaporizhzhia facility, controlled by Russian forces and operated by Ukrainian technicians.
Zelenskyy, writing on the Telegram messaging app, said that "the deliberate terror" by Russia in attacking the power plant "can have global catastrophic consequences for the whole world.
'Therefore, the U.N. must ensure the security of this strategic object, its demilitarization and complete liberation from Russian troops,' Zelenskyy said after meeting in the western Ukraine city of Lviv with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
For his part, Guterres called for the site to be "demilitarized," with the withdrawal of military equipment and personnel.
"Common sense must prevail to avoid any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear plant," Guterres said. "The facility must not be used as part of any military operation. Instead, agreement is urgently needed to reestablish Zaporizhhia as purely civilian infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area.
"We must tell it like it is - any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide," he said.
Guterres said the U.N. has the logistics and security capacity to support any mission the International Atomic Energy Agency undertakes to secure the plant, provided both Russia and Ukraine agree.
Lt. Gen. Igor Kirillov, commander of the Russian military's radiological, chemical and biological protection forces, claimed that Ukrainian troops are planning to strike the plant Friday during Guterres' visit to a port in Odesa in order to accuse Russia of nuclear terrorism. Both Ukraine and Russia have denied targeting the facility.
Kirillov said an emergency at the plant could see 'a discharge of radioactive substances into the atmosphere and spread them hundreds of kilometers away.'
Zelenskyy, Guterres and Erdogan also discussed efforts to end the war and ongoing shipments of Ukrainian grains brokered by the U.N. and Turkey that Russia for months had blocked from being shipped across the Black Sea to other countries, including African nations facing famine. About 560,000 tons of grain have been shipped so far, the U.N. says.
Police officers block off a street ahead of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meeting with visiting United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in downtown Lviv, Ukraine, Aug, 18, 2022. Guterres is visiting Istanbul on Saturday to see the Joint Coordination Center that is monitoring the export system, including inspections of inbound and outbound ships demanded by Russia.
The center said it expects inspections teams to conduct checks Thursday on four ships that departed Ukraine earlier this week.
Those include the Osprey S, which is carrying corn to Turkey, the Ramus and its cargo of wheat bound for Turkey, the Brave Commander carrying wheat to Djibouti and the Bonita carrying corn to South Korea.
Four other ships are set to be inspected on their way to Ukraine. Russia has sought to ensure that inbound vessels are not bringing weapons for Ukrainian forces.
Three more ships departed Ukraine's Black Sea ports on Wednesday. The coordination center said the Sara, carrying 8,000 metric tons of corn, and the Efe, carrying 7,250 tons of sunflower oil, left the Odesa port and were bound for Turkey.
The Petrel S, loaded with 18,500 metric tons of sunflower meal, left the Chornomorsk port and was headed to Amsterdam, the coordination center said.
Since exports began August 1, 24 vessels have left Ukraine.
Meanwhile, fighting raged on, with Ukrainian officials saying that at least 11 people were killed and 40 wounded in Russian barrage of missile strikes on Ukraine's Kharkiv region on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Russia claimed that it struck a base for foreign mercenaries there, killing 90.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.