KYIV    -   Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered on Saturday to me­diate in the standoff over a Russian-occupied nuclear power station in war-torn Ukraine that has raised fears of an atomic disaster.

Alarm has grown in recent weeks over shelling hitting the area of Eu­rope’s largest nuclear plant, Zapor­izhzhia. Ukraine on Friday said it bombed a Russian base in the nearby town of Energodar, destroying three artillery systems as well as an ammu­nition depot. Erdogan on Saturday told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin “that Turkey can play a facilita­tor role in the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as they did in the grain deal,” the Turkish presidency said. 

Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, was forced to halt almost all deliveries after Russia in­vaded in late February, raising fears of a global food crisis.

Exports of grain across Black Sea ports resumed after Kyiv and Mos­cow in July inked a deal with the United Nations and Turkey acting as guarantors. There was no immediate mention of Erdogan having also spo­ken to Ukraine’s President Volody­myr Zelensky on Saturday to offer his mediation. Last month, Erdogan warned of the danger of a nuclear di­saster when he visited Lviv for talks with the Ukrainian leader. The Turk­ish leader said he wanted to avoid “another Chernobyl”, referring to the world’s worst nuclear accident in an­other part of Ukraine in 1986, when it was still part of the Soviet Union.

This week, a 14-strong team from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited Zaporizhzhia, with the UN nuclear watchdog’s chief Rafael Grossi saying the site had been dam­aged in fighting. Russia’s envoy to Vi­enna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said six IAEA inspectors would stay behind for sev­eral days and that two more would remain there “on a permanent basis”.