The Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe (Image courtesy: Twitter/@RussiaUN)
Asserting that the earlier cancellation of a mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) "played in the hands of the Kyiv regime and its Western sponsors", Russia has said that it is ready to host the agency's representatives at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) as soon as possible – "maybe even before the end of August".
Both Russia and Ukraine have been accusing each other of using heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems against the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe which is currently controlled by the Russian forces.
After calling the situation at the ZNPP "extremely alarming" and "fraught with the risk of a man-made disaster" – the scope of which, it said, would be comparable to that of the Chernobyl tragedy – Vassily Nebenzia, Russia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, has said that Ukraine's "most atrocious and reckless actions" will have implications far beyond its borders.
Making a statement at a United Nations Security Council briefing on the Zaporozhye NPP, Nebenzia warned that if the attacks of the Ukrainian armed forces are not stopped then not just Kyiv, Zaporozhye, Kharkov, Poltava, Kherson, Odessa, Nikolaev, Kirovograd, and Vinnitsa regions of Ukraine, but also the territories of the Donetsk and Lugansk, and adjacent territories of Russia and Belarus, as well as Moldova, Bulgaria and Romania will be exposed to risks of radioactive contamination.
#Nebenzia: #Russia does not use civilian infrastructure, to say nothing of #nuclear facilities, for military purposes. This is the tactic of Ukrainian armed forces who set up combat positions in the vicinity of civilian objects and use civilians as a human shield. pic.twitter.com/KZTB0jsB0w
— Russia at the United Nations (@RussiaUN) August 12, 2022
"And this is the most optimistic outcome that experts can predict, whereas the real scale of a nuclear disaster at the Zaporozhye power plant is hard to even imagine. In such case, the entire responsibility for that will befall Kyiv's Western sponsors," the Russian diplomat said in New York.
Moscow insists that on June 3, Russia and the leadership of the IAEA Secretariat had agreed on the route and schedule of an IAEA international mission to the ZNPP with IAEA Director-General Grossi planning to lead the touring party with experts from a number of states. The mission, it said, was supposed to address purely technical tasks, which would let the IAEA meet its mandate, namely – assess the situation at nuclear plant and do the physical inventory as stipulated by the Safeguards Agreement.
"We engaged closely with the agency to solve a multitude of complicated issues to make this arrangement, which is far not easy in current circumstances. However at the very last moment, the Department of Safety and Security of the UN Secretariat turned on the red light, which undermined the trip. The Kyiv authorities were quick to use this development in order to intensify their provocations and shelling of the ZNPP," Nebenzia said in his statement.
He added that Moscow is still ready to render "maximum assistance" in resolving all related practical issues but cannot give any guarantees that the mission will take place as the ZNPP has been targetted for several days in a row despite the UN Secretary-General calling any attacks on nuclear facilities suicidal.
"It is unacceptable that the IAEA mission should take place against the backdrop of incessant shelling of the power plant and the city of Energodar by Ukrainian armed forces. Kyiv must stop the shelling now and guarantee that it is not going to put the lives and health of international personnel at risk," he added.
Ukraine, on the other hand, has once again called for freeing Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant from the Russian occupation immediately.
"This is a global interest, not just a Ukrainian need. We emphasise this at all levels – from the UN Security Council to contacts between states. Only the complete withdrawal of Russians from the territory of the Zaporizhzhia NPP and the restoration of Ukraine's full control over the situation around the plant will guarantee the restoration of nuclear safety for all of Europe," country's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had said during his daily video address on Thursday.