Ukraine on Wednesday called for the residents of Russian-occupied areas around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to evacuate for their own safety.
Moscow and Kyiv accuse each other of shelling the nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, risking a nuclear disaster.
“I appeal to the residents of the districts adjacent to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant .... evacuate! Find a way to get to (Ukrainian) controlled territory,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a post on the Telegram messaging service.
The exiled Ukrainian mayor of Enerhodar, the main town serving the plant, said in a separate Telegram post that it was under fire from Russian forces and that it had no electrical supply.
“The intervals between provocations are becoming shorter and shorter,” Dmytro Orlov, the mayor, wrote.
He said the plant’s employees did not have time to repair the installation “as another shelling nullifies their work and they have to start all over again.”
Orlov added that residents should stockpile drinking water and food that did not require cooking.
It is now impossible to predict the timing of the restoration of electricity supply.
Russia denies targeting civilians and accuses Kyiv of shelling the nuclear plant.
The call to evacuate followed a warning from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which said on Tuesday that there was an “urgent” need to establish a “security protection zone” at the Russian-held power plant in order to prevent a nuclear catastrophe.
“The situation in Ukraine is unprecedented,” the United Nations nuclear watchdog warned. “It is the first time a military conflict has occurred amid the facilities of a large, established nuclear power” program, it said in a report.
A nuclear accident would be a disaster not just for Ukraine, but also for the countries “beyond its borders,” it said.
“We in this case have the historical, ethical imperative to prevent something from happening,” Rafael Grossi, head of the IAEA, later told the U.N. Security Council.
“We can agree on a very simple but incredibly necessary protective mechanism to avoid what is happening now, as we speak, which is the shelling of a nuclear power plant,” he added.