Ukraine Envoy to U.N. Security Council: 'Act Now or It Might Be Too Late'

In a speech to the United Nations Security Council that saw him echo Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's claims that Russia's Thursday night attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was an act of "nuclear terrorism," Ukraine's U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya pleaded with the Security Council and international community to do more or else "it might be too late."

"The people of Ukraine do more than they can do, including by paying the ultimate price, paying with their lives, and still, shamefully, there is a handful of those among us who do nothing," Kyslytsya said at the end of his speech. "Act now, or it might be too late. Not only for Ukraine, but for all of you."

The attack by Russian forces on the nuclear plant caused international concern as images and videos spread of the shelling of the facilities and fires that had started on the grounds.

Kyslytsya also gave the Security Council an update on the six power units at the Zaporizhzhia facility, saying that one was still operating with "690 megawatts of power," and the others were either damaged, already shut down or were in the process of being cooled down.

However, if the cooldown process is disturbed, Kyslytsya said it could "cause radioactive damage across large territories and have irreparable consequences for the environment of the entire continent."

"Thousands of people, including civilians, who are currently unable to evacuate the area near the plant due to ongoing shelling and fighting would be affected," he said, claiming a nuclear disaster at the facility could be the most catastrophic in history, surpassing the meltdowns in Chernobyl and Fukushima in 1986 and 2011, respectively.

Zelensky made a similar claim Thursday, stating that since Chernobyl saw one nuclear plant explode and Zaporizhzhia has six, a meltdown at the facility could have drastic effects.

Kyslytsya criticized Russia's attack on the facility as a violation of several international charters and safety agreements regarding nuclear facilities, and also criticized the International Atomic Energy Agency for not releasing a stronger condemnation of Russia's actions at the plant.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield also told the U.N. Friday that based on U.S. intelligence, the world "narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe last night."

"We've just witnessed a dangerous new escalation that represents a dire threat to all of Europe and the world," she said.

Several of the other members of the Security Council echoed Kyslytsya's concerns, condemning Russia's attack on the nuclear facility and expressing concern for the environmental impact it could have on the region if things continue to escalate, Reuters reported.

However, Russian diplomats have said that the rest of the world is exaggerating the reports of attacks and fire within the power plant to create "artificial hysteria," and said Russian forces are simply guarding the plant, Reuters added.

Kyslytsya called that argument from Russian envoy Vassily Nebenzia lies and said he is likely not being informed of the Russian government's true intentions.

Follow along with the latest updates on the conflict in Ukraine with Newsweek's live blog.

Update 3/4/22 3:35 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and context.

United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya Russia Ukraine
Sergiy Kyslytsya, permanent representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, warned the U.N. Security Council Friday that if they did not act against Russia, it may be "too late," not only for Ukraine but for other countries as well. Above, Kyslytsya holds up a copy of the Charter of the United Nations handbook as he speaks during a special session of the General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters Wednesday in New York City. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images