President Joe Biden responded to the Russian attack on Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, which Ukrainian officials claim could have led to a disaster “10 times larger than Chernobyl.”
According to a statement from the White House, President Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday evening to receive an update on the fire at the facility. Biden joined Zelensky in “urging Russia to cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site.”
The fire has since been put out successfully as Russian forces took over the power plant.
It was later reported that a U.N. official noted that none of the plant’s nuclear reactors were hit.
“In the atttack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar, the chief of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said a Russian ‘projectile’ hit a training center, not any of its six reactors,” the AP reported.
Biden also “spoke this evening with Under Secretary for Nuclear Security of the U.S. Department of Energy and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Jill Hruby to receive an update on the situation at the plant,” according to the statement. The president will continue to be briefed regularly.
On Thursday, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba announced that the “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 Chornobyl! Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!”
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 Chornobyl! Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) March 4, 2022
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also said on social media that they are “aware of reports of shelling” at Zaporizhzhia and are “in contact with Ukrainian authorities” about the situation.
— IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency (@iaeaorg) March 4, 2022
The shelling of the nuclear plant follows failed talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials, according to The Wall Street Journal:
The fire at the nuclear power plant comes after Moscow deepened its military offensive in southern Ukraine, penetrating the city of Kherson as Russian and Ukrainian negotiators agreed to establish “humanitarian corridors” to allow civilians to leave besieged cities. Negotiators, however, failed to reach any agreement on an overall cease-fire, and Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled that he is determined to continue the war.
Russian forces Thursday continued pounding residential districts in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and Chernihiv in the north. Moscow also conducted airstrikes on the capital, Kyiv, and several Russian warships appeared near the southern port city of Odessa in what Ukrainian officials said could be the opening stages of an amphibious assault.
During Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Biden condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin and vowed that the United States is supportive of Ukraine.
“Six days ago, Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to shake the very foundations of the free world, thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways,” Biden said. “But he badly miscalculated. He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead, he met with a wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined. He met the Ukrainian people.”
“From President Zelensky to every Ukrainian, their fearlessness, their courage, their determination literally inspires the world,” he continued. “Groups of citizens blocking tanks with their bodies. Everyone from students to retirees, to teachers turned soldiers defending their homeland. And in this struggle — President Zelensky said in his speech to the European Parliament, ‘Light will win over darkness.’”
This story has been updated with additional information.