Russia, Ukraine open to IAEA visit after ‘suicidal’ nuclear plant strike


Diplomats raised the alarm on Monday over shelling at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine, calling on Russian and Ukrainian forces to stop fighting and allow United Nations inspectors access to the site.

A series of explosions hit the plant on Friday, causing some damage and partially disconnecting the reactor from Ukraine’s electricity grid – although no radioactive leaks were detected. The Russian military controls the complex, which has six reactors and is the largest in Europe, but Ukrainian personnel still operate the plant.

UN chief Antonio Guterres on Monday called any attack on the nuclear facility “suicide” and demanded that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, be allowed into Zaporizhia.

“Russia should immediately relinquish control over the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant and withdraw military equipment,” Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. on Twitter monday

Over the weekend, IAEA Director Rafael Grossi warned in the statement The firing “raises the very real risk of a nuclear disaster threatening public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond.”

UN watchdog warns of ‘nuclear disaster’ after firing on Zaporizhia plant

Both Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the blasts. Ukraine accuses Russia of using the plant as a shield for artillery and rocket fire, while Russia says Ukraine has launched its own attacks in the area.

Moscow indicated on Monday that it would allow IAEA inspectors access to the site but gave no details on how it would facilitate the visit. Much depends on Ukraine nuclear energy — Its 15 operating reactors, six of them in Zaporizhia, provide half of the country’s electricity, according to the IAEA.

A spokesman for Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oleg Nikolenko, also told The Washington Post that Kyiv supports the United Nations visiting the nuclear site “as soon as possible.”

“We want the watchdog to come to the power plant and check the situation to verify how the nuclear material is being used,” he said. “And we want the agency to produce a report on the nuclear safety violations that Russia is committing in Zaporizhia.”

But experts say the area must first be militarized so monitors can enter safely.

“In the middle of a war zone, the IAEA will need the support of the UN Security Council and they will need military protection,” said John Wolfsthal, former senior director of arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council.

Ukraine was the site of the 1986 nuclear meltdown that sent a radioactive cloud over Europe. During the fighting around Zaporizhia, fears of a disaster at Chernobyl have spread widely.

“Our country has lived through Chernobyl and understandably, every individual and country has a special focus on these issues,” Zaporizhia regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said on state television, adding that “everything is more or less under control.”

But over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the international community to hold Russia accountable for the attack.

“There is no nation in the world that can feel safe when a terrorist state fires at a nuclear plant,” he said. “God forbid it happens. If something irreparable happens, no one will stop the wind from spreading the radioactive contamination.”

Jennifer Hassan, Adam Taylor, Kostian Khudov and John Hudson contributed to this report.

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