Russia must be stopped from using nuclear power to blackmail the world, says Zelensky on Chernobyl anniversary

Radina Gigova in London

The Chernobyl disaster has left a “huge scar” and Russia must be prevented from using nuclear power to blackmail the world, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday on the 37th anniversary of the worst nuclear disaster in history.

“We must do everything to prevent the terrorist state from using nuclear power facilities to blackmail Ukraine and the world,” Zelensky tweeted.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said “the silence and lies of the Soviet totalitarian regime about the tragedy led to terrible consequences that went far beyond the borders of modern Ukraine.”

“Today, Russia’s barbaric attacks near Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, the occupation of the Zaporizhzhia NPP [Nuclear Power Plant] and its transformation into a military base put the world at risk of a new disaster, the scale of which may exceed the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant,” he added.

Russian forces continue to control the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which is the largest nuclear power station in Europe. The plant has frequently been disconnected from Ukraine’s power grid due to intense Russian shelling in the area, raising fears across Europe of a nuclear accident.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], said Wednesday he spoke with Zelensky to mark the anniversary, adding the organization continues its efforts to protect the Zaporizhzhia NPP.

What happened at Chernobyl? When an explosion tore through Chernobyl’s No. 4 reactor on April 26, 1986, more than 30 people were killed near Pripyat, Ukraine. Countless others have died from radiation symptoms since, according to the IAEA and the World Health Organization.

The disaster sent a cloud of radioactive fallout over hundreds of thousands of square miles of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. The radioactive effects of the explosion were about 400 times more potent than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.

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