• Ukraine and Russia traded blame for recent strikes around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station.
  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned on Monday that attacks around the plant — Europe's largest — are "suicidal."
  • Russian forces who occupy the plant appear to be using its protected status as a shield, UK intelligence says. 

The United Nations chief warned Ukraine and Russia on Monday that attacks on nuclear power stations are "suicidal" as Kyiv and Moscow traded blame for recent artillery strikes that landed near the Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine.   

"Any attack to a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing and I hope that those attacks will end," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said during a news conference in Japan.

"At the same time, I hope that the [International Atomic Energy Agency] will be able to have access to the plant and to exercise its mandated competencies," Guterres continued. 

Over the last few days, Ukrainian and Russian forces have blamed each other for recent artillery strikes near southern Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia plant — which has been occupied by Russian troops since early March and is the largest nuclear plant in Europe.

UK intelligence said last week that Russian forces now appear to be using the plant as a shield — taking advantage of its "protected status" to shelter troops and equipment from Ukrainian attacks and deploying artillery units in areas adjacent to the facility. 

Russia's actions have put the facility's safety and security in jeopardy, UK intelligence said. Ukrainian forces, meanwhile, have been reluctant to attack the plant out of fears that an accident could spark a major disaster. 

"They are hiding there so they cannot be hit," Oleksandr Sayuk, the mayor of nearby Nikopol, told the New York Times in a recent interview

The recent fighting at and around the plant has drawn condemnation from nuclear watchdogs, including the International Atomic Energy Agency.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on Saturday that he's "extremely concerned" by recent shelling around the plant, "which underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond."

"Military action jeopardizing the safety and security of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is completely unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs," Grossi said."

He continued: "Any military firepower directed at or from the facility would amount to playing with fire, with potentially catastrophic consequences."

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