A “simple protection agreement” can stop the “systematic bombing” of the facility, IAEA head said
The Russia-controlled Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine must become a kind of “sanctuary” in order to protect it from further military attacks, Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on Wednesday.
In an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper, Grossi, stressed that his job is to guarantee the safety of the facility rather than to assign blame for its shelling.
He told the paper that this is why the nuclear watchdog’s report, published earlier this week, consciously avoided the issue. Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier claimed that the IAEA is under pressure from the US and Western European countries and “cannot directly say that the shelling comes from Ukrainian territory.”
Grossi pointed out that Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky had similarly criticized the organization for not reporting on alleged Russian bombing, taking it as an indication that the watchdog is “working well” and not acting as a referee.
“Being a judge, the referee between two contenders, is not my mandate. Indeed, if I did, I would undo my usefulness as a guarantor of the safety of the nuclear power plant,” he said.
The best option, Grossi said, is to get Russia and Ukraine to “agree in principle that the plant should not be attacked” and then come up with a “simple protection agreement” which would turn it into a kind of “sanctuary” zone. Neither side has directly dismissed that idea, Grossi said.
The watchdog chief said it was too early to feel “optimistic” however, but that the proposal is certainly “not impossible” to implement.
He also described the creation of a permanent IAEA mission to the plant as an important achievement and denied suggestions that the presence of just two members of staff was purely “symbolic.” According to Grossi, the specialists constantly monitor the safety of fuels, reactors, control room, emergency systems and are in constant touch with head office.
The UN agency stressed that something “concrete” needed to be done urgently as the continuation of “systematic bombing” of a nuclear plant is an “unthinkable” thing to allow.
Russia previously rejected a proposal by Kiev and its Western allies to withdraw troops providing security around the Zaporozhye facility, saying Ukraine would use the opportunity to seize the plant, which the Russian Defense Ministry claims Kiev tried to do during the IAEA visit.
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