Russia Claims Ukrainians Set Fire Near Zaporizhzhia Power Plant Themselves

Vasily Nebenzya, the Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, on Friday accused "Ukrainian saboteurs" of setting fire to a building near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as the Russian invasion into Ukraine continues.

The ambassador said that a Russian mobile patrol was present at a territory that is adjacent to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is Europe's largest one, and claimed that they were attacked by a Ukrainian "sabotage group in order to provoke return fire on the building."

"There was a heavy small fire that was opened on Russian troops from the windows of several floors of the training complex that is located just outside the territory of the nuclear power plant," he said during a U.N. Security Council meeting on Friday. "The Russian patrol returned fire on the firing points of the Ukrainian saboteurs in the building of the training complex. As they were leaving, the Ukrainian sabotage group set fire to the training facility," adding, "Let me emphasize once again that this building is not located on the territory of this Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant."

The attack was reported Thursday night when Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba claimed on Twitter that Russian troops were attacking the nuclear power plant, which is located around 400 miles from Kyiv.

"Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia NPP, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. Fire has already broke out. If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chernobyl! Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!" he tweeted.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) director-general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said on Friday that a "projectile" hit a training facility at the plant that is not part of the reactor.

"It's important to say that all the safety systems of the six reactors at the plant were not affected at all, and that there has been no release of radioactive material," he said. "[There is] no release of radioactive material."

Still, the attack on the plant sparked global concerns, with officials saying that Ukrainian firefighters were unable to access the fire at first, but eventually were able to put out the flames. However, Russian troops now have control over the plant.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv called the attack a "war crime" and said Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to shell the plant "takes his reign of terror one step further."

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the attack "nuclear terrorism" committed by Russia.

He added that if an explosion had happened as a result of the attack, it could have caused a critical situation that would have been equal to "six Chernobyls." The Chernobyl power plant had four nuclear plants, but only one exploded in 1986.

Over half of Ukraine's nuclear reactors were offline as of Friday after Russian forces took control over the nuclear power plant. Eight of the 15 reactors located in Ukraine were disconnected from the power grid as of March 4, according to the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine.

Newsweek contacted the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine for comment and will update the story once a response is received.

Nebenzya Claims Ukrainians damaged their power plant
Vasily Nebenzya, Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations accused Ukrainians of setting fire to their own nuclear power plant. Above, Nebenzya speaks during a special session of the General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters on March 2 in New York City. Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images