Moscow, Oct 11 (EFE).- President Vladimir Putin received the director general of the United Nations’ atomic energy agency on Tuesday for talks on the Zaporizhzia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), which Russian forces seized shortly after invading Ukraine.
In his meeting in Saint Petersburg with Argentine diplomat Rafael Grossi, Putin acknowledged that the situation surrounding Europe’s largest nuclear plant is a matter of concern and expressed a willingness to openly discuss all issues pertaining to its safety and operations.
The head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, meanwhile, stressed the urgency of establishing a safety and security protection zone around the ZNPP, which is located in southeastern Ukraine.
He was quoted as saying in an IAEA statement released after Tuesday’s talks that “the situation in the region around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and elsewhere has become increasingly dangerous, precarious and challenging, with frequent military attacks that can also threaten nuclear safety and security.”
“Now more than ever, during these extremely difficult times, a protection zone must be established around the ZNPP. We can’t afford to lose any more time. The stakes are high. We must do everything in our power to help ensure that a nuclear accident does not happen during this tragic conflict, as it could cause even more hardship and suffering in Ukraine and beyond,” Grossi said.
After meeting last week with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Argentine official said the IAEA regards the ZNPP as “a Ukrainian facility” that belongs to Kyiv-based Energoatom, the Ukrainian state enterprise that operates all four of that country’s nuclear power plants.
Russian forces, however, have controlled the plant since early March, and Putin late last month announced the annexation of four partially occupied regions of eastern and southeastern Ukraine, including Zaporizhzia, where the plant is located.
Ukraine and its Western allies have rejected the annexation move as illegal and said the preceding referendums held in those regions were sham votes with no validity.
Putin told Grossi during the meeting that there was “excessively dangerous politicization of everything related to nuclear activity.”
“We very much hope that, thanks to your efforts, we will be able to reduce all this rhetoric and turn this sphere of our activity and cooperation into a normal state, despite all the turbulence and complex processes that are taking place on the world stage.”
Frequent shelling in the region where the plant is located has created a heightened sense of urgency around the ZNPP, whose six reactors are in cold shutdown but still require power for cooling and other essential nuclear safety and security functions, the IAEA said Sunday. EFE