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Accusations fly between Ukraine and Russia over Europe's largest nuclear power plant. And the world frets.

Growing threat of catastrophe at Ukraine nuclear plant
Growing threat of catastrophe at Ukraine nuclear plant 03:10

Kyiv and Moscow continued to accuse each other on Friday of shelling Europe's largest nuclear power plant, stoking international fears of a catastrophe on the continent as Russian President Vladimir Putin said independent inspectors should visit the Zaporizhzhia plant "as soon as possible."

"The Russian side confirmed its readiness to provide the (International Atomic Energy) Agency inspectors with the necessary assistance," the Kremlin said in a statement after a call between Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron — their first call in nearly three months, the AFP news agency reported.

"The two presidents will speak about this subject again in the next few days following discussions between the technical teams and before the deployment of the mission," a French readout of the call said.

Earlier, Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia's Security Council, accused the United States of encouraging Ukrainian attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. The facility has been controlled by Russian forces since shortly after the invasion began on Feb. 24.

"In case of a technological disaster, its consequences will be felt in every corner of the world," Patrushev said. "Washington, London and their accomplices will bear full responsibility for that."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Friday that Russian troops' presence at the plant actually assured that a "Chernobyl scenario" would not unfold there, the Reuters news agency reported.

Ukraine has accused Russia of storing troops and weapons at the Zaporizhzhia plant and using its grounds to launch strikes against Ukrainian-controlled territory. Ukrainian officials and military analysts say Moscow's forces have cynically employed the plant as a shield, knowing that the Ukrainians would be hesitant to fire back.

Russia has denied the accusations and, in turn, accused Ukrainian forces of repeatedly shelling the plant.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's Energoatom state nuclear company said Friday that Russian troops planned to disconnect the plant from the Ukrainian power grid, according to Reuters. In a statement, Energoatom said it thinks Moscow was preparing to carry out a "large-scale provocation" there.

An overview of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, outside the city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region,
An overview of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, in picture released on August 18, 2022.  Russian Defense Ministry / Handout via REUTERS

Moscow had asserted on Thursday that Kyiv was setting up a "provocation" at the plant.

Following a visit to Ukraine on Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Zelenskyy had asked him to ensure that Russia remove weapons stored at the plant as an "important step for world peace."

"Zelenskyy asked this of us especially: that Russia remove all mines and similar (weapons) there and for the issue to rapidly cease to be frightening. Because it is a threat," Erdogan said.

Erdogan, whose country has maintained close relations with both Ukraine and Russia, said he would discuss the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that "Russia must do its part in this regard."

The Turkish president made the comments to a group of Turkish journalists on his return from a visit with Zelenskyy and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in Ukraine late on Thursday. His comments were reported by Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency and other media on Friday.

Elsewhere, at least five people were killed and 10 others wounded by Russian shelling of towns and villages in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region, according to regional authorities. The shelling damaged residential buildings and civilian infrastructure in the embattled region where Russian forces are pushing to overtake areas still held by Ukraine.

And at least one civilian died early Friday in Russian shelling of the city of Kharkiv, to the northwest of the Donetsk region, while Russian missiles in the southern port city of Mykolaiv again struck port facilities and a university building that was previously hit by shelling earlier this week. One person was wounded in the attacks, authorities said.

Pamela Falk contributed to this report.

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