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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky marked the 36th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster with a speech condemning Russia’s ‘completely irresponsible actions’ around nuclear power plants during its invasion and calling for ‘global control’ of the Kremlin’s nuclear capabilities .
“Every year on April 26, the world remembers the Chernobyl disaster, the worst nuclear disaster in the history of mankind,” Zelenskyy began. “But this year it is not enough to remember Chernobyl…because this year Russia has created new threats that could surpass even the worst of accidents.”
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The president recalled the night of March 4, when a fire broke out at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after Russian forces began shelling the plant amid the invasion. “They knew exactly what object they were shooting at,” he said. “But they had orders to seize the object at all costs. They didn’t care about anything. They didn’t care that the Zaporizhzhia station was the largest in Europe. They didn’t think about the number of ‘units of power and how the bombing could stop.’
Zelenskyy remembers speaking with world leaders that night, including US President Joe Biden.
“It is even surprising how quickly and completely Russia, the whole country, can forget the worst disaster that its people have also experienced,” the president added, noting that Russians suffered as a result of the disaster of Chernobyl on April 26, 1986. .
Rather than commemorate the anniversary of the disaster – which directly killed less than 100 people but increased mortality in subsequent decades in the surrounding region – Russia escalated the situation, Zelenskyy charged.
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“Instead, today they launched three missiles at Ukraine so that they would fly directly over the blocks of our nuclear power plants – over three nuclear power plants at once, over the nuclear power plants in Zaporizhzhia , Khmelnytskyi and southern Ukraine,” the president said. “What is it? Are they threatening? There are no words.”
“It turns out they don’t realize what Chernobyl is. At all,” Zelenskyy said. “Russian troops attempting to attack kyiv via the Chernobyl zone used the restricted area as a military base. They established positions on land where it is even forbidden to stand.” He also noted that Russian forces looted Cernobyl’s radiation monitoring system – “they looted a nuclear analysis laboratory”.
“It is only thanks to the professionalism and conscientiousness of our specialists working at the Chernobyl station (…) that we managed to save Ukraine, to save Europe from another catastrophe,” said he declared.
Zelenskyy noted that International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi met him in Kyiv to commemorate the Chernobyl disaster and pledge his support.
“We discussed all the dangers created by Russia and ways to possibly influence the situation to protect Europe and the world from the totally irresponsible actions of the Russian Federation,” the president said. He then called for a comprehensive takeover of Russia’s nuclear capabilities.
“I believe that after all that the Russian army has done in the Chernobyl zone and at the Zaporizhzhia power plant, no one in the world can feel safe knowing how many nuclear facilities, nuclear weapons and of related technologies the Russian state has,” Zelenskyy said. . “If Russia has forgotten what Chernobyl is, that means global control over Russian nuclear facilities and nuclear technology is needed.”
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Grossi also visited Chernobyl and delivered IAEA resources to the plant, which Russian forces held for five weeks until their March 31 withdrawal. He thanked the staff for their resilience and courage in the midst of the conflict.
“We don’t just have respect for you, we have admiration for you because you did exactly what was expected of you,” Grossi told workers. “You showed professionalism, courage and of course patriotism. But you did the right thing so don’t worry, we are here, the IAEA will stay.”
Also on Tuesday, Russia intensified the threat of nuclear war in the midst of his war in Ukraine by alleging that kyiv is developing nuclear weapons with the support of the United States.
“The need for demilitarization is due to the fact that an arms-saturated Ukraine poses a threat to Russia, especially from the point of view of the development and use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons,” he said. said Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, said according to state news agencies.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who met Zelenskyy in kyiv over the weekend, called the remarks “very dangerous”.
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“I think any bluster about the use of the nuclear possibility, the use of nuclear weapons, is very dangerous and unnecessary,” Austin told reporters on Tuesday. “Nobody wants to see a nuclear war, nobody can win it.”
Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons – which the Soviet Union had left in the country – in December 1994 in exchange for security guarantees from Russia, Britain and the United States.