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16 Aug, 2022 18:41

Macron calls for IAEA mission to Zaporozhye nuclear plant

During a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart, the French president also called on Russian troops to leave the facility
Macron calls for IAEA mission to Zaporozhye nuclear plant

French President Emmanuel Macron said he supports experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) being sent to Ukraine's Zaporozhye nuclear power plant. Moscow, which accuses Kiev of repeatedly shelling the Russia-controlled facility, has stated it would welcome such a mission.

Speaking by phone with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky on Tuesday, Macron expressed concern over the presence of Russian troops at the nuclear plant, citing the “threat” posed by their “presence and actions” there. The French leader called for the withdrawal of Moscow’s military personnel from the facility.

Macron also gave his backing to a proposal made earlier by IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi to send the watchdog’s experts to the site “as soon as possible.

According to a transcript published by the French president’s office, Macron discussed the terms of such a mission with his Ukrainian counterpart.

Russian forces seized the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in early March, soon after Moscow launched the military campaign against its neighbor.

In recent weeks, Russian forces have accused Ukraine of deliberately shelling the facility on several occasions. According to Moscow, Kiev is risking a major nuclear disaster on the scale of the 1986 Chernobyl accident or even worse.

Ukraine vehemently denies these allegations, insisting that it is Russian forces that are shelling the power plant to frame the Ukrainian military – a narrative supported by the US and EU.

On Monday, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu spoke by phone with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. The Russian official conveyed Moscow’s concern about the alleged Ukrainian shelling of the facility. The two discussed “conditions for the safe functioning of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant,” according to a Russian Defense Ministry statement.

Guterres had previously called for the establishment of a demilitarized zone around the plant.

On Sunday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Ukraine and its Western allies of trying to prevent an IAEA mission from accessing the site. She claimed that Moscow, by contrast, is eager for the international experts to arrive.

Zakharova said it was the Ukrainian military that was “undeniably” responsible for the shelling of the nuclear plant. In an interview with RT on Monday, Vladimir Rogov, a member of the pro-Russian Zaporozhye military-civil administration echoed Zakharova’s assessment.

The official claimed that Ukrainian and UN officials want to keep the IAEA team away from the nuclear facility because if the experts were given access to the site they would arrive at the same conclusion as Moscow – that Ukrainian forces have been shelling it.

Russia has previously reached out to the UN and IAEA with requests for them to intervene and compel Ukraine to cease targeting the plant.