The “Group of Seven” welcomes… and Moscow hopes to dispel “misconceptions”
A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency is heading to the Ukrainian nuclear plant of Zaporizhia and is expected to arrive in the coming days, against the backdrop of weeks of strikes at the plant and fears of a major nuclear accident. The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, personally heads this team of at least ten people, to inspect the station occupied by the Russian army on the battlefront in southern Ukraine.
Grossi tweeted: “The IAEA mission is on its way to Zaporizhia. We have to protect the security of Ukraine and the security of the largest station in Europe,” he said, adding that the team would arrive at the site “later this week.” Grossi has been demanding for several months that the agency be allowed to visit the site, stressing the “real danger of a nuclear catastrophe.”
“Group of Seven”
In a statement on Monday, the G7 countries demanded to ensure that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team had “completely free” access to the Zaporizhia plant, noting that it was “extremely concerned” about the risks of a nuclear accident at the plant. “We stress that any attempt by Russia to disconnect the plant from the Ukrainian electricity grid will be unacceptable,” the group said. The countries of the group affirmed that they welcome the imminent visit of the mission, adding in a statement that they are “gravely concerned about the serious threat that the continued control of the Russian armed forces over Ukrainian nuclear facilities poses to the safety and security of these facilities.”
“These actions significantly increase the risk of a nuclear accident or incident and put the people of Ukraine, neighboring countries and the international community at risk,” the group added. .
Moscow: The situation of the station is miserable
In turn, the Kremlin welcomed the visit of the international mission, but called on the international community to “exercise pressure on the Ukrainian side to stop endangering the European continent by bombing the Zaporizhia nuclear plant and its vicinity,” and considered the IAEA mission “necessary.” A senior Russian diplomat said that Moscow hopes that the upcoming visit of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission to the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant will dispel misperceptions about the station’s miserable state.
The Russian Information Agency quoted Mikhail Ulyanov, permanent representative of Russia to international organizations in Vienna, as saying that his country had made strenuous efforts to help the possibility of this visit and understands that the agency wants to leave some of its employees at the station permanently. “We hope that the visit of the IAEA mission to the plant will dispel many speculations about the (alleged) bad situation at the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant,” Ulyanov added. A Russian-appointed official in the Zaporizhia region recently said that Moscow would guarantee the safety of IAEA inspectors.
On Monday morning, the Ukrainian energy company Energoatom indicated on its account on the Telegram application that the Zaporizhia plant “operates with the risk of violating safety rules related to radiation and fire.” The operating company reported that “ten residents were injured” as a result of shelling in the last 24 hours on the city of Energodar, where the station is located. According to Energoatom, four of the 10 injured are employees of the station. The company confirmed that the Russian forces were “preparing for the arrival of the International Atomic Energy Agency mission, by putting pressure on the workers at the station to prevent them from revealing evidence that proves the crimes of the occupier at the station.”
Russian forces took control of the Zaporizhia plant, which includes six of Ukraine’s 15 reactors, in early March, shortly after the start of the Russian invasion on February 24. Kyiv and Moscow exchange accusations of bombing the vicinity of the station near the city of Anergodar on the Dnieper River and of endangering the site. The Ukrainian energy company Energoatom warned Saturday of the risks of radioactive leaks and fires after recording new strikes. In the face of this “dangerous” situation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday urged the UN agency to send a team as soon as possible. Between Thursday and Friday, the plant and its six reactors, each with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts, were “completely” disconnected from the national grid due to damage to the power lines, according to the Kyiv authorities, before they were connected again. The municipality of Zaporizhia announced that since August 23, it has distributed iodine pills to residents within a distance of 50 kilometers around the station, in accordance with the instructions of the Ministry of Health, noting that iodine should not be taken unless there is a warning related to a radioactive leak. Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to visit a team passing “through Ukraine” and not Russia, as he had previously demanded, according to what the French presidency said in the middle of this month, at the conclusion of phone talks between Emmanuel Macron and the Russian President.
Ukrainian missile strike
Russia-appointed officials said on Monday that a Ukrainian missile strike had blown a hole in the roof of a fuel depot at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, RIA news agency reported.
The agency, citing officials, said radiation levels at the nuclear power plant were normal and the situation there was under control.
For its part, the Russian Defense Ministry said that Russian forces had shot down a Ukrainian drone that was trying to attack the Zaporizhia nuclear plant. The ministry added that Russian forces stationed on the roof of one of the station’s buildings shot down the plane on Sunday, noting that there was no major damage and that radiation levels are normal. Both Russia and Ukraine deny for weeks the bombing of the Zaporizhia station, and accuse each other of doing so.
The Kremlin on Monday called on the international community to put “pressure” on Ukrainian forces to ease tension over the Zaporizhia nuclear plant, which Moscow and Kiev accuse each other of bombing. “It is the duty of all countries to put pressure on the Ukrainian side to stop endangering the European continent by bombing the Zaporizhia nuclear plant and its vicinity,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
The most difficult task in history
For his part, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stressed Monday that the mission that the International Atomic Energy Agency is starting at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant is the “most difficult in the history” of the agency because of the battles taking place near the site. “This mission will be the most difficult in the history of the International Atomic Energy Agency because of Russia’s combat activity on the ground, and also because of the blatant way in which Russia is trying to legitimize its presence” in the place, Kuleba said during a visit to Stockholm.
“We expect from the mission clear declarations about the facts of violation of all nuclear safety protocols,” Kuleba said at a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. He repeated Kyiv’s call for the Russian army to leave the site, accusing Moscow of “exposing Ukraine and the entire world to the risk of a nuclear accident.” Kuleba stressed that “Russia should leave. The IAEA and other countries should get them (the Russians) to leave.”
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