Cait Moran
War in Ukraine

Ireland calls for Russia to end 'illegal occupation' of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

Moscow and Kyiv have traded accusations of new shelling near the facility.

LAST UPDATE | Aug 12th 2022, 12:20 PM

IRELAND HAS CALLED for Russia to end its “illegal occupation” of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, as Moscow and Kyiv traded accusations of new shelling near the facility.

A tweet from the account for Ireland’s UN mission said the country was “deeply concerned by situation at the plant & the strong risk of a radiological incident due to military activity at the site.

“This could have devastating consequences.”

Ambassador Cait Moran told the meeting: “If Russia is serious about safety at the Zaporizhzhia power plant, what it needs to do it clear.

“End its illegal occupation of the site, withdraw its troops and ammunitions.”

Moscow and Kyiv yesterday accused each other of new shelling near the plant, a dangerous escalation five months into the war.

Both sides said there were five rocket strikes near a radioactive material storage area at the plant, Europe’s biggest nuclear facility which has been a focus of renewed fighting in recent days.

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog has warned the Security Council – of which Ireland is a member – of the “grave” crisis unfolding at the power plant.

“This is a serious hour, a grave hour,” Rafael Grossi, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told an emergency meeting of the Security Council yesterday.

He said that the agency must urgently be allowed to conduct a mission to Zaporizhzhia.
ukraine-and-russia-accuse-each-other-of-shelling-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-power-plant File photo: A staff member on the premise of the spent-fuel storage at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant ABACA / PA Images ABACA / PA Images / PA Images
In Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Moscow of “nuclear blackmail” as he urged the international community “to react immediately to chase out the occupiers from Zaporizhzhia.”

“Only the Russians’ full withdrawal … would guarantee nuclear safety for all of Europe,” Zelensky said in a video address to the nation.

Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom said later there had been fresh Russian shelling near one of the plant’s six reactors that had caused “extensive smoke” and “several radiation sensors are damaged”.

Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Moscow-installed regional administration, said Ukrainian forces had “once again struck” the plant.

The Ukrainian plant is under the control of Russian troops, and Ukraine has accused Moscow of basing hundreds of soldiers and storing arms there.

‘Cannot wait any longer’
In New York, Security Council members all supported calls for an urgent IAEA mission to Ukraine – but there was no consensus over who was to blame for the attacks and who should be responsible for facilitating the mission.

Bonnie Jenkins, the US State Department’s undersecretary for arms control and international security, said the visit “cannot wait any longer” but added that only a full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine would keep the nuclear plant safe.

“This would allow for Ukraine to restore the impeccable safety, security, and safeguards performance it upheld for decades at the facility.”

But Russia’s UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya put the blame for the attacks around Zaporizhzhia squarely on Ukrainian forces.

“We call on states that support the Kyiv regime to bring their proxies into check to compel them to immediately and once and for all stop attacks on Zaporizhzhia nuclear power to ensure the safe conditions for the conduct of the IAEA mission,” Nebenzya told the Council.

Earlier Thursday Washington also backed calls to establish a demilitarized zone around the plant.

‘State sponsor of terrorism’
The Soviet-era plant in southern Ukraine was captured by Russian troops at the beginning of March – shortly after Moscow launched its invasion of its neighbor – and has remained on the frontline since then.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned Russia could cause an incident “even more catastrophic than Chernobyl” – a reference to the nuclear disaster in then-Soviet Ukraine in 1986.

“Russia has turned the nuclear station into a battlefield,” he said earlier Thursday, addressing a Ukraine donors conference in Copenhagen by video link.

He called for stronger sanctions against Russia, saying it was a “terrorist state” – on the same day that Latvian MPs adopted a resolution calling Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism”.

The statement said Russia’s actions in Ukraine constituted “targeted genocide against the Ukrainian people.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hailed it as a “timely move” and urged other countries to follow suit, while Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called it “xenophobia”.

Latvia has also urged all EU countries to ban tourist visas for Russian citizens and said the measure should be extended to Belarusians because of the Belarusian regime’s support for the invasion.

© AFP 2022

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