The secretary general has warned that the facility must become “purely civilian infrastructure” to ensure the safety of the area
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed support for an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission to visit the Zaporozhye nuclear plant in Russian-controlled territory of Ukraine, but said the trip can happen only if both Moscow and Kiev can agree on terms.
Speaking to reporters in Lviv on Thursday, Guterres said the UN had been in close contact with the IAEA and determined that “we have in Ukraine the logistics and security capacity” to support a mission to Europe’s largest nuclear plant.
He said the visit would happen “from Kiev” and only “provided both Russia and Ukraine agree.”
In recent weeks, Russian forces have accused Ukraine of deliberately shelling the facility on several occasions, while Kiev has accused Russia of attacking the plant. The facility remains under Russian control, though it is operated by Ukrainian personnel.
Guterres, who has previously called to demilitarize the area, insisted that an agreement was “urgently needed” to establish Zaporozhye as a “purely civilian infrastructure” to ensure the plant’s safety.
“Common sense must prevail to avoid any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear plant,” the UN chief said, adding that the facility “must not be used as part of any military operation.”
“We must tell it like it is – any potential damage to [Zaporozhye] is suicide.”
Moscow, which has repeatedly called for an IAEA mission to the plant, has said that calls by the UN to completely demilitarize the area around the facility are unacceptable, citing what it called provocations from Kiev. Demilitarizing the area would make it more vulnerable to Ukrainian nationalist groups, Russian Foreign Ministry Deputy Spokesman Ivan Nechayev said on Thursday.
READ MORE: Russia urges international inspection of shelled nuclear site
The Russian Defense Ministry has warned that Ukraine is planning a provocation at the site on Friday to coincide with Guterres’ visit, in order to accuse Russia of risking nuclear disaster.
Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed support for an IAEA mission to travel to Ukraine, saying it should happen “as soon as possible.”
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