Conflicts & War

US, Russia spar at UN over fire at Ukrainian nuke plant

United Nations, Mar 4 (EFE).- The United States denounced Russia during Friday’s emergency session of the United Nations Security Council following a fire at an Ukrainian nuclear plant seized by Russian forces.

News of the blaze caused by shelling at the Zaporizhzhia facility in southeastern Ukraine sparked alarm around the world late Thursday.

Representatives of a number of the 15 countries on the Security Council said the incident raised the specter of a nuclear accident on the scale of the 1986 meltdown at the Chernobyl plant in what was then Soviet Ukraine.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Raphael Grossi, said that there was no increase in radiation levels as a result of the fire at a training center several hundred meters away from the six reactors.

“No security or safety systems have been compromised near the reactors themselves” and the Zaporizhzhia plant is operating normally, he told the Council by video-link, “but in fact there is nothing normal about this.”

Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate said Friday that while the complex was under Russian control, officials remained in touch with the Ukrainian plant managers.

“Russia’s attack last night put Europe’s largest nuclear power plant at grave risk. It was incredibly reckless and dangerous. And it threatened the safety of civilians across Russia, Ukraine and Europe,” US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.

She also called for steps to secure all of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, including Chernobyl, which has been under the joint custody of Ukrainian and Russian force since the early hours of Moscow’s offensive against its neighbor.

The envoys of France and the United Kingdom voiced similar sentiments, while Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya demanded that the Russian forces withdraw from the Zaporizhzhia plant.

Speaking for Russia, Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said that Russian troops and Ukrainian operators were cooperating to ensure the security and normal operation of the plant.

He denounced “lies about how Russian troops attacked the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant” and blamed the shelling on a Ukrainian “sabotage group” that attacked the Russian forces who seized the facility on Monday.

In a related development, French President Emmanuel Macron said that his government was in consultations with allies on the security of Ukraine’s nuclear plants.

“France, together with its main partners, will propose in the coming hours concrete measures based on the technical criteria of the IAEA in order to ensure the protection and safety of Ukraine’s five main nuclear facilities,” his office said in a statement.

“Russia and Ukraine should, on this basis, come to an agreement and together ensure the implementation of the fundamental principles for maintaining the safety and protection of nuclear installations in the current circumstances,” the statement said. EFE mvs-ac/dr

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