Russia has rejected appeals for a complete demilitarization of the area around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine.
The move would make the plant more vulnerable, BBC quoted an unnamed Russian official as saying.
The calls come amid growing concern over safety at the site — Europe’s largest nuclear plant — as both Russia and Ukraine accused each other of shelling the area.
Ukrainian workers operate the plant, which has been under Russian control since March, BBC said.
It was one of the first sites seized by Russian troops following the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
UN Secretary General António Guterres sounded the alarm after meeting Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Lviv on Thursday.
“Any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide,” Guterres warned.
The Ukrainian President urged the UN to ensure demilitarization of the nuclear plant — Europe’s biggest. Guterres added that “the facility must not be used as part of any military operation”.
Erdogan echoed the UN chief’s concerns, telling reporters that he was worried about the danger of “another Chernobyl” disaster erupting at the plant.
Zelensky has criticised “deliberate” Russian attacks on the power plant.
Moscow is accused of turning the facility into an army base, with all three leaders urging the Russians to demilitarize the zone as soon as possible.
But Ivan Nechayev, deputy director of the Russian foreign ministry’s Information and Press Department, rejected the call. “Their implementation will make the plant even more vulnerable,” he told reporters.