Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces in Zaporozhye could intensify, the agency head has said
Everything must be done to ensure the safety of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), which is located close to the frontline between Russia and Ukraine, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the UN Security Council, Grossi described the situation around the plant as "extremely fragile and dangerous." He added that the military activity in the region "may well increase very considerably in the near future."
"We are fortunate that a nuclear accident has not yet happened," Grossi stated. "We are rolling a dice and if this continues then one day our luck will run out. So we must all do everything in our power to minimize the chance that it does."
Grossi stressed that there "should be no attack of any kind from or against the plant," especially targeting the reactors, spent fuel storage, and personnel. He also said that the nuclear facility should not be used "as storage or a base for heavy weapons," such as tanks and artillery systems. He added that the site must be free of soldiers that "could be used for an attack from the plant."
Grossi's warning came as Kiev is gearing up for its much-touted counteroffensive. Russia's envoy to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said on Tuesday that Moscow would adopt "all necessary measures to increase the nuclear and physical security of the plant." He warned that attacks on the ZNPP and the nearby city of Energodar would be met with "a forceful response."
Nebenzia rejected Kiev's claims that Russia was using the plant as cover for its troops. "There were never any attacks from the territory of the ZNPP. Heavy weapons and ammunition were never stored in the plant," the diplomat said.
Russia took control of the ZNPP last year as part of its military operation in Ukraine that was launched in February 2022. The Zaporozhye Region voted to join Russia after holding a referendum on the matter in September.
Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly accused each other of shelling the plant. Five of its six reactors are shut down. One reactor is currently producing a low level of power to keep the facility operational.
In April, The Times reported that Kiev had unsuccessfully tried to seize the ZNPP in October 2022. The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said last month that it had detained "Ukrainian agents" who were plotting to assassinate a senior official working at the plant. The Ukrainian authorities have denied targeting the plant in any way.