The UN’s atomic watchdog called Tuesday for a security zone to be set up around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is occupied by Russia, as the area was hit by fresh shelling.
Russian troops seized control of the plant — Europe’s biggest atomic facility — in March and there have been repeated attacks in the vicinity, sparking fears of a nuclear disaster.
“The current situation is untenable,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report after it sent inspectors to the plant last week.
“There is an urgent need for interim measures to prevent a nuclear accident… This can be achieved by the immediate establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone.”
At the United Nations, Russia said it regretted that the report did not blame Ukraine for the attacks.
“We do understand your position as an international regulator, but in the current situation it’s very important to call things by their name,” Russian envoy Vassily Nebenzia told a Security Council session attended virtually by IAEA head Rafael Grossi.
Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for shelling of the site, which took place again Tuesday despite the watchdog’s recommendations.
“If the provocations by the Kyiv regime continue, there is no guarantee that there won’t be serious consequences, and the responsibility for that lies fully with Kyiv and its Western backers and all other members of Security Council,” Nebenzia said.
Western powers voiced dismay at his remarks, saying the fundamental issue was Russia’s invasion of and occupation of the plant.
“Despite Russia’s song and dance here today to avoid acknowledging responsibility for its actions, Russia has no right to expose the world to unnecessary risk and the possibility of the nuclear catastrophe,” senior US diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis told the UN session.
Kyiv and Moscow continued to trade blame Tuesday for attacks on the Zaporizhzhia plant, and on the city of Energodar where it is situated.
“There are explosions in Energodar city, provocations continue, there are shellings by the occupants,” the city’s mayor Dmytro Orlov wrote on social media — urging residents to take to shelters.
The accusation came hours after the Russian side accused Ukraine of shelling around the plant and in Energodar.
“Kyiv continues its provocations at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in order to create a threat of a man-made disaster,” the Russian defence ministry said in its daily briefing.
Radiation levels around the plant are normal, according to the ministry.
The IAEA sent a 14-person team to the site last week. At least two members were to remain on a permanent basis to ensure the facility’s safety.
But on Monday, the last working reactor was disconnected from the grid after shelling caused a fire.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk Tuesday called for a humanitarian corridor to be established for civilians wanting to leave the area.
And the Ukrainian parliamentary commissioner for human rights, Dmytro Lubinets, criticised the IAEA’s report for failing to focus on staff safety and Russia’s “murder, torture (and) illegal arrest” of plant employees.
– Russia buying rockets –
Separately on Tuesday, a pro-Kremlin official in the Russian-controlled port city of Berdyansk in southern Ukraine was “seriously” injured in a car blast, according to Moscow-installed authorities.
In the past months, several officials installed by Russian forces in Moscow-controlled territories in Ukraine have been killed or wounded in attacks.
Kyiv has not formally claimed responsibility.
Ukraine has recently claimed its first gains in a counter-offensive against the Russian army in the south, saying it has recaptured several areas and destroyed multiple targets.
A US official said Tuesday that Russia is buying millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea to replenish stocks depleted by months of intense fighting.
“This purchase indicates that the Russian military continues to suffer from severe supply shortages in Ukraine, due in part to export controls and sanctions,” the US official said, on grounds of anonymity.
Western sanctions have made it harder for Moscow to acquire components to manufacture replacements, including computer chips.
President Vladimir Putin attended large-scale military exercises Tuesday involving China and several Russia-friendly countries, as Moscow seeks to strengthen partnerships in Asia in the face of Western sanctions.
And the European Commission laid out the new hurdles facing Russian travellers seeking EU entry visas, in the latest punitive measures taken in response to Moscow’s invasion.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)