US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called Russia's actions around Ukraine's largest nuclear power plant "the height of irresponsibility", accusing Moscow of using it as a "nuclear shield" in attacks on Ukrainian forces.
Russia was previously accused of firing shells dangerously close to the Zaporizhzhia plant in March as its forces took it over in the first weeks of the invasion of Ukraine.
Washington was "deeply concerned" that Moscow was using the plant as a military base and firing on Ukrainian forces from around it, Blinken told reporters after nuclear non-proliferation talks at the United Nations in New York.
"Of course the Ukrainians cannot fire back lest there be a terrible accident involving the nuclear plant," he said.
Russia's actions went beyond using a "human shield", Blinken said, calling it a "nuclear shield".
The Russian mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ukrainian officials have previously accused Moscow of basing troops and storing military equipment on the grounds of the power station.
At the talks on Monday, Ukraine's deputy foreign affairs minister Mykola Tochytskyi said "robust joint actions are needed to prevent nuclear disaster" and called for the international community to "close the sky" over Ukraine's nuclear power plants with air defence systems.
On July 20 Russia accused Ukraine of firing two drones at Zaporizhzhia, which is also the largest nuclear plant in Europe, but said the reactor was undamaged.
At a UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine on Friday, Russia's deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy accused his Western counterparts of "deliberately" ignoring the July 20 attack and use of "explosive-laden drones of foreign manufacture to attack the plant".
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's atomic watchdog, should be given access to the plant, Blinken said.
Australian Associated Press
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