Russia's Shoigu says Ukraine committing 'nuclear terrorism' over Zaporizhzhia

Ceremony to declare Russia's annexation of four Ukrainian territories held in Moscow
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(Reuters) - Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that Ukraine was continuing to shell the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, deliberately creating the threat of a possible nuclear catastrophe.

Shoigu said Russian forces were taking "all measures" to ensure the safety of the power plant, Europe's largest, in the face of what he called "nuclear terrorism" from Kyiv.

Ukraine denies shelling the facility, which has been under the control of Russian forces since the first days of the war, and has accused Russia of firing on it.

"Our units are taking all measures to ensure the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant," Shoigu told his military chiefs in a conference call, an abridged transcript of which was published by the defence ministry.

"In turn, the Kyiv regime seeks to create the appearance of a threat of a nuclear catastrophe by continuing to deliberately shell the site," he added.

Shoigu said Ukraine had fired 33 large-caliber shells at the plant in the last two weeks. Most had been intercepted by Russian air defences, he said, though "some still hit objects that affect the safe operation of the nuclear power plant".

"We classify these attacks by Ukrainian troops as nuclear terrorism," he added.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the claims.

Both Moscow and Kyiv blame each other for attacks on the facility. Kyiv has also accused Moscow of using the plant as a de facto weapons depot.

The United Nations' nuclear watchdog - the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - is pushing for the creation of a security zone around the plant, fearful of a potential Chornobyl-like disaster.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday there were "positive dynamics" in discussions with the IAEA on the idea, the TASS news agency reported.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Gareth Jones)