MOSCOW - Russia on Monday accused Kyiv of trying to "take Europe hostage" by shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

In a statement, Russia's foreign ministry said it wanted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit the plant, Europe's largest nuclear facility, but that Kyiv was blocking a potential visit.

"They are taking the whole of Europe hostage and are not against setting fire to it for the sake of their Nazi idols," Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Russia has said for months its military campaign in Ukraine is aimed to "de-nazify" Ukraine - claims rejected by Kyiv and Western leaders who see Moscow's actions as an attempt to topple Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and seize swathes of Ukraine's eastern and southern territory.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has become the latest flashpoint in the months-long conflict, with Russia and Ukraine accusing each other of shelling the power station in recent days.

The plant is in Russian-controlled territory but is manned by Ukrainian staff.

Moscow says it had done everything it could to facilitate a visit by the IAEA to the nuclear power station, but that Kyiv saw it as "beneficial to keep the IAEA away".

Zakharova, Moscow's combative official foreign policy spokesperson, also attacked the international community for refusing to criticise Kyiv over the attacks.

"The leaders of the United Nations and the IAEA, over and over again, do not dare to directly name the source of the threat. They are demonstrating their unwillingness to point the finger at Kyiv," she said.

Ukraine has called for a demilitarised area to be set up around the nuclear plant, while U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said attacks against nuclear facilities were a "suicidal thing".

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Nick Macfie)