Dozens of countries call on Russian forces to leave Ukraine nuclear power plant

Associated Press file
A Russian serviceman guards in an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, on May 1, 2022.

Forty-two countries and the European Union on Monday called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from the Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine, citing nuclear risk.

“It is undeniable that Russia’s invasion and its continued presence at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities significantly raise the risk of nuclear incidents and accidents,” the countries said in a joint statement

“We urge the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw its military forces and all other unauthorised personnel from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, its immediate surroundings, and all of Ukraine.”

The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan and the South Korea are among the nations that signed the statement.

Russia took control of Zaporizhzhia early in the war, and both Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for recent strikes nearby, which Kyiv says have damaged Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

Russian control of the plant is “unacceptable” and “poses a great danger” to international principles of nuclear safety, according to the new statement, which adds that it interferes with oversight from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 

The countries also condemned “Russia’s use of disinformation to try to justify its illegal actions in Ukraine.”

Zaporizhzhia’s regular staff has been working the plant, according to the IAEA, but the Russian forces’ commander there has taken charge. Russian experts have reportedly been brought to the site.

“The presence of Russian military forces at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant prevents the operator and the Ukrainian authorities from fulfilling their nuclear and radiation safety obligations in accordance with international conventions and IAEA safety standards, and prevents the IAEA from fulfilling its safeguards mandate,” the joint statement reads. Russia became a member state of the IAEA in 1957.

Russian withdrawal from Zaporizhzhia, the countries said, will enable the plant operator and the IAEA to resume safe work at the plant and reinforce safeguards. 

The IAEA director warned earlier this month that the situation at Zaporizhzhia was “completely out of control.” The United Nations secretary-general called recent attacks near the plant “suicidal.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called the shelling “Russian nuclear terror” and accused Moscow of nuclear “blackmail.” 

Russia’s occupation at the plant, Zelensky said in a recent address to Ukrainians, “increases the radiation threat to Europe so much that even at the peak moments of the confrontation during the Cold War, this did not happen.”

Zelensky has also pushed the international community to place sanctions on Russia’s nuclear industry and fuel exports. 

“The international community will hold Russia accountable for its aggression, and Russia must bear full responsibility for its unlawful actions in Ukraine,” the countries wrote in Monday’s joint statement.

Tags iaea nuclear power plant russia Russia-Ukraine war russian invasion of ukraine ukraine United Nations zaporzhzhia
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