Ukraine PM says IAEA has dispatched team to ‘secure’ country’s nuclear plants
Nuclear watchdog’s mission will be to record all attempts to ‘externally influence’ sites, Shmygal declares, amid fears of continued Russian shelling around the plants
By AFP Today, 7:00 pm
A Russian serviceman guards in an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, on May 1, 2022. (AP Photo, File)
PARIS — Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said Tuesday that the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA agreed to dispatch permanent teams to the country’s nuclear plants, including the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia plant.
Ukraine’s atomic sites have been a key concern throughout the nearly 10 months since Russia invaded, with attacks around several plants — including Chernobyl — raising fears of a nuclear incident.
“The missions are aimed at securing the plants and recording all attempts to externally influence them, in particular shelling by the Russian aggressor,” Shmygal said following a meeting in Paris with Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The prime minister, who was participating in an international conference on Ukraine, said the IAEA teams would deploy to plants at Zaporizhzhia, Rivne, Khmelnytskyi, Pivdennoukrainska and Chernobyl without specifying a time frame.
He also said he had repeated to Grossi Ukraine’s demand for the “demilitarization” of the Zaporizhzhia plant, describing it as a priority for Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky.
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After the summit, Shmygal praised French President Emmanuel Macron for supporting Ukraine on issues including nuclear security and pulling military from around the Zaporizhzhia plant — Europe’s largest.
“France is very active on this issue,” he said.
The IAEA has already deployed teams to Zaporizhzhia, where Russian troops have seized control of the plant and claimed to have annexed the region into Russia.
“The plant is still in a very precarious situation,” Grossi said ahead of the meeting.
“We have started to explore ways to deepen this protection and above all to reach an agreement which will have to involve the Russian side, obviously, to protect the plant,” Grossi said.
Ukraine last week accused Russian troops of detaining two senior employees at the Zaporizhzhia plant after a “brutal beating.”
Regular Russian shelling in recent months of Ukraine’s energy grid has disrupted the supply of power to and from the plants, adding to electricity outages and concerns over their safety.