A NUCLEAR catastrophe worse than Chernobyl is facing Europe as fighting rages around the Zaporizhzhia plant, Ukraine has warned.
The plant – which is Europe’s largest – was seized by Russia in the early days of the war and it claims Ukrainian shells have landed just 10 metre from buildings at the facility.
It comes as new video footage shows smoke rising from around Zaporizhzhia.
Both Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the fighting amid fears of a new nuclear horror.
A Russian appointed local officials claimed Ukrainian shells fell 10 metres from the plant, the Russia-24 TV channel reports.
Ukraine claims Vladimir Putin’s forces have turned the site into a military base in the expectation Kyiv’s military will not retaliate.
Oleksandr Starukh, head of the military administration of the Zaporizhzhia region, warned of catastrophic consequences if the rockets do hit the plant.
“It won’t be another Chernobyl because this station is even bigger. It will be even worse,” he told the Telegraph.
The 1986 accident at Chernobyl is the world’s worst nuclear disaster and left 31 people dead after an explosion at the site, also in Ukraine.
It left more than 77,000 square miles of land contaminated – and the fallout cloud was even detected in the UK.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said the “Russian occupying army is using Zaporizhzhia” for “terror and provocations” and turned it into a “battlefield”.
“The Russian military cannot be aware that they are putting all of Europe under the threat of a nuclear catastrophe,” he said.
“And of course, Russian authorities understand what the aftermath will be when its army will fire on the nuclear power station.”
In response to the worsening situation at the site, the United Nations chief has called for an immediate end to all military activity the plant.
Antonio Guterres warned damage could lead to “catastrophic consequences” in the region and beyond adding: “The facility must not be used as part of any military operation.”
Meanwhile, workers in the plant have said they are being held at gunpoint by Russian forces.
“My working day is a constant stress,” worker known only as Svitlana told the BBC.
“On Saturday, there was shelling of the nitrogen-oxygen station, which caused a fire. By some miracle, the people working there survived.
“The psychological situation is difficult. Soldiers are walking everywhere with weapons and everyone is actually kept at gunpoint.”
Back in March, dramatic security footage from the plant showed the moment Russian forces arrived and began shelling buildings.
Ukraine’s state-run nuclear agency Energoatom recently accused Russia of “declaring their readiness to blow up” Zaporizhzhia though the claim hasn’t been independently verified.