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UN: End Military Activity at Nuke Plant08/12 06:02

   The U.N. nuclear chief warned Thursday that "very alarming" military 
activity at Europe's largest nuclear plant in southeastern Ukraine could lead 
to dangerous consequences for the region and called for an end to attacks at 
the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia facility.

   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N. nuclear chief warned Thursday that "very 
alarming" military activity at Europe's largest nuclear plant in southeastern 
Ukraine could lead to dangerous consequences for the region and called for an 
end to attacks at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia facility.

   Rafael Grossi urged Russia and Ukraine, who blame each other for the attacks 
at the plant, to immediately allow nuclear experts to assess damage and 
evaluate safety and security at the sprawling nuclear complex where the 
situation "has been deteriorating very rapidly."

   He pointed to shelling and several explosions at Zaporizhzhia last Friday 
that forced the shutdown of the electrical power transformer and two backup 
transformers, forcing the shutdown of one nuclear reactor.

   Last week, Grossi said in an Associated Press interview that the situation 
at Zaporizhzhia was "completely out of control."

   On Thursday, he demanded a halt to military actions "that have even the 
smallest potential to jeopardize nuclear safety" at such an important 
installation. While a preliminary assessment by experts found "no immediate 
threat to nuclear safety" at the plant from the shelling and military actions, 
"this could change at any moment," he warned.

   Grossi's appeal echoed U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' call earlier 
Thursday for an end to all military activity around the Zaporizhzhia plant, 
warning that any damage could lead to "catastrophic consequences" in the 
vicinity, the region and beyond.

   Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, gave a 
virtual briefing to the U.N. Security Council at a meeting called by Russia to 
discuss what Moscow claims were Ukrainian attacks on the plant.

   While the plant is controlled by Russia, its Ukrainian staff continues to 
run the nuclear operations. It is in Enerhodar, a city seized by Russian troops 
in early March soon after they invaded Ukraine.

   Grossi said statements received from Russia and Ukraine "are frequently 
contradicted" and the IAEA can't corroborate important facts unless its experts 
visit Zaporizhzhia.

   Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council that "Kyiv's criminal 
attacks on nuclear infrastructure are pushing the world to the brink of nuclear 
catastrophe."

   He accused Ukrainian armed forces in recent days of repeatedly using heavy 
artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems to shell the Zaporizhzhia plant, 
including on Thursday.

   "The background radiation at the nuclear power plant at the moment is within 
limits, but if the strikes continue it is only a question of time," Nebenzia 
warned. "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."

   Ukraine's U.N. ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, accused Russia of using 
"elaborate plans of deceit, sabotage and cover-ups" to stage the shelling at 
Zaporizhzhia, including on Thursday, which poses "an unprecedented threat to 
nuclear security for Ukraine, to Europe and the world as a whole."

   The Ukrainian state company operating the plant, Enerhoatom, said there was 
renewed Russian shelling of the Zaporizhzhia facility and nearby buildings 
Thursday.

   "Five (hits) were recorded near the plant management's office -- right next 
to the welding site and the storage facility for radiation sources," Enerhoatom 
said in a post on its official Telegram channel. "The grass caught fire over a 
small area, but fortunately, no one was hurt."

   Ukraine's ambassador told the council the only way to remove the nuclear 
threats is by withdrawing Russian troops and returning the plant to Ukraine's 
control.

   Nebenzia said Russia supported an IAEA visit in June to Zaporizhzhia, which 
was given "a red light" at the last minute by U.N. security experts. Moscow is 
ready to provide "all possible assistance" to resolve any issues for a visit 
"even before the end of August," he said.

   Yevhen Balytskyy, the Kremlin-installed temporary head of the Zaporizhzhia 
region, said Thursday that the Russia-backed administration there stood ready 
to ensure the safety and security of any IAEA delegation sent to investigate 
conditions. He said in an interview on Russian state TV that the Kremlin-backed 
authorities had prepared armored vehicles for the international envoys.

   Kyslytsya blamed Russia's "unjustified conditions" for the delay in getting 
IAEA experts to Zaporizhzhia, and said Ukraine stands ready to provide "all 
necessary assistance" to facilitate the nuclear team's travels through 
Ukrainian-controlled territory, which is just five miles from the plant across 
the Dnieper River.

   Bonnie Jenkins, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control, called the 
situation at Zaporizhzhia "another tragic result" of Russia's invasion of 
Ukraine. She said the solution is straightforward: Russia should immediately 
withdraw its forces from Ukraine so Ukrainians can to restore "the impeccable 
safety, security, and safeguards performance it upheld for decades at the 
facility."

   At the end of the council meeting, Grossi said there was "a common 
denominator" among the 15 members: "Everybody agrees that nuclear safety and 
security must be preserved. ... And everybody believes that this mission must 
take place."

   "So, it's no longer a matter of if, it's only a matter of when," the U.N. 
nuclear chief said. "The when must be as soon as possible."

   Guterres appealed in a statement "for common sense and reason" to avoid any 
actions "that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the 
nuclear plant," and for the withdrawal of all military personnel and equipment.

   The Russian capture of Zaporizhzhia renewed fears that reactors at the 
largest of Ukraine's four nuclear plants could be damaged, setting off another 
emergency like the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the world's worst nuclear disaster. 
That happened about 110 kilometers (65 miles) north of the capital Kyiv.

   Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told defense leaders at a conference 
in Copenhagen on Thursday that the consequences of a radiation accident at 
Zaporizhzhia "could be even more catastrophic than Chernobyl, and essentially 
the same as the use of nuclear weapons by Russia, but without a nuclear strike."

   "If the Soviet authorities tried to hide the Chernobyl disaster and its full 
consequences, Russian authorities are much more cynical and dangerous," he 
said. "They are doing everything themselves to maximize the risk of a nuclear 
disaster, and lie to the whole world that someone else is allegedly to blame."

 
 
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