Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Russia backs UN atomic watchdog chief Rafael Grossi’s idea of a trilateral meeting with Ukraine on ensuring the safety of nuclear facilities there during Russia’s invasion but not at Chernobyl as Grossi wants, Moscow’s envoy to the watchdog said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the first time war has raged in a country with such an advanced and established nuclear power programme, the International Atomic Energy Agency has said.

The country has four operational nuclear power plants, including Europe’s largest by capacity, at Zaporizhzhia near Crimea.

A building close to but separate from the reactors at Zaporizhzhia caught fire last week after what Grossi said appeared to be a Russian military projectile hit it. Russia blamed Ukrainian saboteurs. Russian forces now control the plant, with Ukrainian staff working under their orders.

The fire was extinguished and the reactors undamaged but the incident highlighted the potentially catastrophic consequences if a nuclear plant were hit.

Grossi proposed the three-way at Chernobyl, where Russia has seized a radioactive waste facility near the defunct power plant where the world’s worst nuclear accident happened in 1986. The aim is to ensure the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities.

“Russia supported Grossi’s idea regarding a trilateral meeting and we expect that the Ukrainians will also be cooperative,” Russia’s IAEA ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov told reporters on Monday.

“I believe Chernobyl is not the best place for such a meeting. There are numerous capitals in the world.”

Grossi said on Sunday he was “extremely concerned” after Ukraine said Russian forces had switched off some mobile networks and the internet at Zaporizhzhia, making communication with the outside harder, and communication with Chernobyl was now only possible by email.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy backed the idea of a meeting, according to a French readout on Sunday of a conversation between him and French President Emmanuel Macron, who supports the Chernobyl plan.

“We are ready any moment. I believe everything depends on the Ukrainian side,” Ulyanov said.


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