United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday said electricity generated at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant belongs to Ukraine, following reports that the Kremlin could divert electricity produced at the plant to Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.
“Obviously, the electricity from Zaporizhzhia is Ukrainian electricity and it’s necessary – especially during the winter – for Ukrainian people. And this principle must be fully respected,” Guterres said during his visit to the Ukrainian port of Odesa.
Guterres also reiterated his calls to create a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.
His comments come after Energoatom, Ukraine's state-run nuclear power operator, claimed earlier on Friday that Russian forces at the plant are "planning to stop the working power units in the near future and disconnect them from the communication lines supplying power to the Ukrainian power system."
Energoatom's claim is the latest in a barrage of accusations made by each side about security and military action at and around the plant, the largest nuclear complex in Europe. The lack of independent access to the plant makes it impossible to verify what is happening there.
While pro-Russian officials are on record as saying their intention is to divert electricity produced at Zaporizhzhia to Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, no timeline for such action has been announced.
Energoatom also said that the Russians had told the management of the plant "to limit the admission of personnel to the plant today, August 19. Only operative personnel who ensure the operation of the power units are allowed on the site."
An administrative worker at the plant told CNN Friday that "we planned to be at work today, but on Thursday evening the manager announced that we are [staying] at home." The worker has spoken with CNN on previous occasions; their identity is not being disclosed for their security.
Energoatom blamed Russian forces for several artillery strikes that occurred in the area late Thursday. It said the strikes were at short range.
CNN is unable to verify what strikes occurred and who was responsible. Over the past month, a number of rockets and shells have landed on the territory of the plant, according to satellite imagery analyzed by CNN.
CNN's Tim Lister and Oleksandra Ochman contributed reporting to this post.