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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Latest in Ukraine: IAEA Chief Presents Principles for Preventing a Nuclear Accident in Ukraine

By Margaret Besheer May 30, 2023

Latest developments:

  • Drone attacks hit Moscow, causing damage to two buildings; Russia blames Ukraine, while U.S. says it is still collecting information on the matter.
  • The United States will provide another $300 million in new military aid for Ukraine in a package that is expected to include munitions for Ukraine's Patriot missile defense system, defense officials tell VOA.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden discussed Sweden's NATO bid with newly reelected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said the world is "fortunate" that a nuclear accident has not yet happened in Ukraine and issued a set of five principles to help ensure the safety and security of Europe's largest nuclear power plant, which is located in the country.

"I see these commitments as essential to avoid the danger of a catastrophic incident," IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told the U.N. Security Council in a briefing Tuesday about the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP).

The five principles include committing to no attack of any kind against or from the plant; not using it as storage or a base for heavy weapons or military personnel; not putting the plant's off-site power supply at risk; protection of all structure, systems and components essential to the safe and secure operation of the ZNPP; and not acting in a way that would undermine these principles.

"What we are doing is giving ourselves a better tool to deal with a very bad situation," the IAEA chief told reporters of the five principles.

The Zaporizhzhia plant, which Russia seized in March 2022, has repeatedly been in the crossfire of shelling. It has lost off-site power seven times and had to rely on emergency diesel generators to prevent a nuclear accident. The last such incident was on May 22.

Grossi called on both Russia, which occupies the plant, and Ukraine, which owns it, to observe the principles. He also called on council members to "unambiguously" support them. He said the IAEA would immediately start monitoring implementation of these principles through its own team at the ZNPP and would "report publicly" on any violations.

Each side has repeatedly accused the other of militarily targeting the plant.

Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow has taken specific steps to protect the most sensitive installations and components of the ZNPP.

"Russia will take the most severe measures to respond to any attacks by Ukraine against the nuclear power plant, its critical infrastructure, including its power lines, as well as the city of Enerhodar that is home to the personnel of the power plant and their families," he told the council.

Ukraine's envoy said his government has never done anything that could lead to a nuclear incident at the facility, saying Kyiv realizes the "catastrophic consequences" that would have for Ukraine and its neighbors.

"To ultimately remove the nuclear stress stemming from the illegal Russian presence at the plant, the troops and weaponry must be withdrawn, the station must be de-occupied and returned under the legitimate, full control of Ukraine," Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said.

He also urged the IAEA chief to expand his five principles to include guarantees of an uninterrupted power supply and a humanitarian corridor to ensure the safe rotation of staff at the power plant.

Grossi told reporters he hopes to return to Ukraine "soon" and would also "expect to be visiting Russia" as part of his diplomacy to engage with both sides.

Drone attacks

Earlier Tuesday, Russia blamed Ukraine for a drone attack on Moscow, as Russian forces carried out their 17th aerial attack this month against the Ukrainian capital.

Russia's Defense Ministry said it either shot down or diverted eight drones that targeted the Moscow area, but Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said the attack damaged two residential buildings and injured two people.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that President Vladimir Putin was briefed on the situation.

Interviewed on the "Breakfast Show" YouTube channel on Tuesday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Kyiv had "nothing directly to do" with the latest drone attacks in on Moscow but was "pleased to watch and predict an increase in the number of attacks."

In Washington, a State Department spokesman said the U.S. was still collecting information on what happened. The spokesman said the U.S. does not support attacks inside Russia but rather is focused on supplying arms to Kyiv to help Ukrainian troops retake territory that Russia captured during its 15-month invasion.

The latest drone attack followed one in early May that Russian officials said targeted the Kremlin. Russia blamed Ukraine for that strike, as well.

Earlier Tuesday, Russia carried out what Ukrainian officials called a "massive attack" targeting Kyiv with more than 20 Iranian-made drones that Ukraine's air defenses destroyed.

Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv's military administration, said debris from Tuesday's attack hit an apartment building and sparked a fire, killing at least one person and injuring three others. He said debris also damaged cars and a house in other parts of the city.

Russian forces have subjected Kyiv to an intensified campaign of attacks ahead of an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive that Kyiv has said will seek to reclaim territory Russia seized in eastern Ukraine since it launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

"Each such terrorist attack brings us and the whole world to an obvious conclusion: Russia wants to follow the path of evil to the end — that is, to its defeat, because evil cannot have any other end but defeat," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Monday. "The world must see that terror is losing."

VOA's Cindy Saine contributed to this report. Some information was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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