United Nations, Aug 1 (EFE).- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday accused Russia of using Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which has been under the control of Moscow’s invasion forces since March, as a military base from which to launch attacks.
“Russia is now using the plant as a military base to fire at Ukrainians who know that they can’t and won’t shoot back because they might accidentally strike a nuclear reactor or highly radioactive waste in storage,” Blinken said in a speech before the United Nations, where he is representing Washington at the opening of a conference to review the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
He went on to say that Russia’s behavior raises the concept of using human shields to an “entirely different and horrific level.”
Blinken said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, besides being a serious violation of international law, is a direct attack on the nuclear non-proliferation system since it runs counter to the security guarantees Moscow had given to Kyiv in 1994 in exchange for Ukraine’s giving up the nuclear arsenal it inherited from the defunct Soviet Union.
Blinken said that Russia’s move sends the “worst possible message” to those nations who are thinking about whether they need nuclear weapons for their own defense.
The top US diplomat also criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for playing the Kremlin’s nuclear weapons card to dissuade other nations from involving themselves in the Ukraine conflict.
He said that since Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russia has “engaged in reckless, dangerous nuclear saber-rattling.”
“(Russia’s) actions are also directly contrary to the assurances it provided to Ukraine in 1994 in the so-called Budapest Memorandum,” Blinken said, adding that these were “Assurances of Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence that were vital to giving Ukraine the confidence to give up the nuclear weapons it inherited when the Soviet Union dissolved and that were left on its territory.”
He noted that the US – which, with Russia, is one of the world’s two nations with the most nuclear weapons – remains committed to reducing its own arsenal and ensuring that weapons of this kind are never used again, after the US used them twice against Japan to bring World War II to a close.
In that regard, he emphasized the agreement that after just two weeks in office US President Joe Biden concluded with Putin to extend until 2026 the New START treaty and the US leader’s willingness to negotiate as soon as possible a new text to replace that treaty, which limits the number of strategic nuclear weapons the two countries may possess.
Blinken said that the conference to review the NPT comes at a key moment, among other things because of the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program and as Washington is trying to negotiate with Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear pact, from which former President Donald Trump withdrew the US.
As he emphasized, reestablishing that pact “remains the best outcome for the United States, for Iran, for the world.”