UN thanks Russia for keeping nuclear team safe
The UN is appreciates Russia’s efforts to safeguard the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team that came to inspect the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, on Thursday.
That's according to the secretary-general’s chief spokesman, who was speaking after the Russian Defense Ministry said it was “bewildered” at the lack of reaction to an alleged Ukrainian attempt to seize the facility by force.
“We are glad that the Russian Federation did what it needed to do to keep our inspectors safe,” Stephane Dujarric told reporters at a briefing in New York, when asked about Moscow’s comments.
“As with any UN mission, it is the responsibility of those who control a certain area to keep the UN staff safe,” he added, also thanking the “security people” and “drivers” for the “tremendous job” of getting the IAEA team safely in and out of the Zaporozhye NPP.
The mission, led by IAEA director Rafael Grossi, was delayed at a Ukrainian checkpoint on Thursday morning. It eventually made its way to Russian-controlled Energodar and toured the facility for several hours, before heading back to Ukrainian-controlled territory.
Right before their visit, however, Ukrainian artillery targeted the city of Energodar and the Zaporozhye NPP itself, while a group of commandos crossed the Kakhovka Reservoir by boat and attempted to storm the facility, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Both the initial assault group and the reinforcements that followed were wiped out by the National Guard and combat helicopters, the Russian military said. Their goal, according to Moscow, was to seize the Russian-held power plant and use the IAEA staff as “human shields” to maintain control over the facility.
Energodar and the Zaporozhye NPP have been under Russian control since early March. In August, the nuclear site was targeted by regular artillery and drone attacks, which Moscow and Kiev blamed on each other. Ukrainian officials also claimed that the Russian military was using the plant as a military base, stationing heavy weapons there. Moscow denied the accusations, saying that it only had lightly armed guards defending the facility.
Moscow has called for an IAEA visit to Zaporozhye, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, since June – but Ukraine’s insistence that the mission must travel through Kiev to uphold Ukrainian sovereignty contributed to delaying the mission until this week.