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Ukraine: Urgent agreement needed to end fighting around Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, addresses UN Security Council meeting on Threats to International Peace and Security.
UN Photo/Manuel Elías
Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, addresses UN Security Council meeting on Threats to International Peace and Security.

Ukraine: Urgent agreement needed to end fighting around Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Peace and Security

Agreement is urgently needed to reestablish the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in Ukraine as purely civilian infrastructure and prevent a potentially “catastrophic” disaster amid the ongoing conflict, UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo told the Security Council on Tuesday. 

Recent weeks have seen an escalation in shelling in and around Europe’s largest nuclear facility. 

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The Council meeting was requested by Russia, whose forces have occupied the plant since March, or shortly after the start of the war, while Ukrainian personnel continue to carry out their on-site operations. 

‘Suicidal’ threat 

Ms. DiCarlo reiterated the UN’s ongoing grave concern over the dangerous situation, recalling the Secretary-General’s appeals for common sense, reason and restraint, as well as dialogue. 

“At this moment, it is imperative that we receive the expressed commitment of the parties to stop any military activities around the plant and to enable its continued safe and secure operations. To paraphrase the Secretary-General’s blunt warning, any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicidal,” she said

All military personnel and equipment must be withdrawn from the plant, and there should be no further deployment of forces or equipment to the site.

"The facility must not be used as part of any military operation, and  an agreement on a safe perimeter of demilitarization to ensure the safety of the area should be reached," she said.

The UN has again called for the parties to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with immediate, secure, and unfettered access to the nuclear plant. 

Preparations for IAEA mission 

IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi on Tuesday renewed his request to send a mission to carry out essential safety, security and safeguard activities at the site. 

Ms. DiCarlo reported that preparations are proceeding, and the agency is in active consultation with all sides so the mission can be dispatched as soon as possible. 

“We welcome Ukraine and Russia’s recent statements indicating support for the IAEA’s aim to send a mission to the plant, which would be IAEA’s first to that site since the start of the war,” she said. 

The UN has also assessed that it has the logistics and security capacity in Ukraine to support any IAEA mission from Kyiv, provided Ukraine and Russia agree. 

“We must be clear that any potential damage to the plant, or any other nuclear facilities in Ukraine, leading to a possible nuclear incident would have catastrophic consequences, not only for the immediate vicinity, but for the region and beyond,” said Ms. DiCarlo. 

“Similarly, any damage leading to the plant being cut from the Ukrainian power grid would have catastrophic humanitarian implications, particularly with winter approaching. As the Secretary-General has made clear, the electricity produced at the Zaporizhzhia plant belongs to Ukraine.” 

Russia: ‘Healthy’ atmosphere at plant

In his deliberation, Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya listed incidents of alleged Ukrainian shelling at the plant this month, accusing the country of “nuclear blackmail”.

“The fact that the Kyiv regime continues with attacks on this station is a direct consequence of criminal acquiescence on the part of its western patrons,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

Furthermore, any potential disaster at the nuclear plant has so far been avoided “only because there's smooth joint work between the workers of the station, fire squads, emergency people and the Russian military who are helping them every way they can,” he added.  “And this shows that there is a healthy working atmosphere at the station, and no one is oppressing anyone there.”

Support for IAEA mission

Regarding the IAEA, Mr. Nebenzya said Russia has supported efforts towards a mission to the plant “from day one” and had already agreed for a mission to take place in June.

“We expect that the IAEA trip mission will take place in the very near future and the agency experts will confirm the real situation at the station,” he said.

The Ambassador concluded his remarks by addressing the car bombing in Moscow on Saturday which killed Darya Dugina, a political commentator and the daughter of a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Russian authorities are investigating the incident, he said, “and preliminary conclusions are that this monstrous crime was organized by the Ukrainian special services.”

He urged the Council and the UN leadership, in his words, “to condemn yet another crime by the Kyiv regime.”

Ukraine refutes shelling claims

Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsy dismissed Russia’s claims that his country is shelling its own nuclear facility.

“Nobody who is at least conscious can imagine that Ukraine would target a nuclear power plant at tremendous risk of nuclear catastrophe and on its own territory,” he said.

Mr. Kyslytsy informed the Council that Ukraine’s Foreign Minister has responded to the IAEA regarding the mission.  

The proposal for the itinerary is in compliance with national legislation “and in general might be accepted”, he said.  However, further arrangements have to be made based on security conditions, communication of detailed route plans, and other logistical aspects.

Permanent IAEA presence

“We continue to believe that the mission’s effectiveness can be bolstered by incorporating military and political components backed by UN expertise,” he said.

“Considering the scale of the current challenges and threats, we also urged the IAEA to consider a permanent presence of its experts at the ZNPP until the competent Ukrainian authorities regain full control over this nuclear facility.”

The Ambassador underlined the importance of the mission taking place at the request of Ukraine.

“The occupiers have trained some of the hostages in what they should say and what they shouldn't show to the IAEA. That is why it is really important to conduct the mission in a way that would allow the international community to see the real situation and not a Russian theatrical show.”