UN issues nuclear appeal to Russia and Ukraine
Risking damage to Ukraine’s Zaporozhye nuclear power plant is “unacceptable,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated on Thursday. Kiev and Moscow must negotiate on making it off-limits for any military action, he emphasized.
“I urge the parties to withdraw any military personnel and equipment from the plant and refrain from any further deployment of forces or equipment to the site,” the senior official insisted. “Instead, urgent agreement is needed at a technical level on a safe perimeter of demilitarization to ensure the safety of the area.”
The Zaporozhye plant, which is located in the Russia-controlled Ukrainian city of Energodar, has been subjected to a series of attacks over the past few weeks. Moscow has accused Kiev of launching artillery and drone strikes on the facility, branding these moves as “nuclear terorism.”
Kiev has claimed that Russia was the one targeting the plant in an alleged plot to discredit Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russia is using it as a military base, staging troops and heavy weapons there, Ukrainian officials said.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has not had access to the Zaporozhye plant since before Russia attacked Ukraine in late February. The reactors and other equipment are operated by Ukrainian staff, despite being under Russian control since the early weeks of the conflict. Attempts to organize an on-site international inspection to verify the site’s safety and security have been futile so far.
Moscow blamed the UN for the delay and said the organization’s department, which is responsible for security during official visits, was catering to Kiev by allowing it to continue its “provocations.” The Russian Foreign Ministry urged Guterres to intervene.
The secretary-general then called on “the parties to provide the IAEA mission with immediate, secure and unfettered access to the site” in his Thursday statement.
Guterres warned that military action near any nuclear power plant may result in a serious disaster affecting a large region. The sentiment is shared by Russia, which on Thursday reiterated its warnings about the situation.
“Actions by the Kiev regime could lead to a disaster on a scale that would dwarf the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant,” Russian Foreign Ministry deputy spokesperson Ivan Nechaev said during a news briefing.
The Russian diplomat reiterated calls for an IAEA inspection of the Zaporozhye plant, saying Russia was in favor of one.