U.N. Chief Antonio Guterres on Thursday called for military activity around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power complex to end as Moscow and Kyiv blamed each other for a renewed shelling ahead of a U.N. Security Council meeting on the situation.
Russia seized Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in March after invading Ukraine on February 24. The plant is still run by its Ukrainian technicians and Ukraine’s Energoatom said the area was struck five times on Thursday, including near the site where radioactive materials are stored.
Guterres urged the withdrawal of military personnel and equipment and for no more forces or equipment to be deployed. He called for Russia and Ukraine not to target the facilities or surrounding area.
“The facility must not be used as part of any military operation. Instead, urgent agreement is needed at a technical level on a safe perimeter of demilitarization to ensure the safety of the area,” Guterres said in a statement.
The United States supports calls for a demilitarized zone around Zaporizhzhia, a State Department spokesperson said on Thursday.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi is due to brief the 15-member U.N. Security Council on the situation later on Thursday, at the request of Russia.
Grossi posted on Twitter on Sunday: “The IAEA team must go to Zaporizhia just as we did to Chornobyl and South Ukraine earlier in the year. We can put together a safety, security and safeguards mission and deliver the indispensable assistance and impartial assessment that is needed.”
Russia’s Ambassador to International Organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, on Tuesday said that the IAEA was ready to visit Zaporizhzhia in June with Russia’s support.
“Unfortunately at the very last moment the Department of Security of the U.N. Secretariat blocked the mission. We hope that the U.N. Secretary-General will not allow this to happen again,” Ulyanov posted on Twitter.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in response that the United Nations was committed to doing everything possible to get the IAEA technicians to Zaporizhzhia.
“There’s a war going on, and we’re talking about nuclear power plant in the middle of a battlefield. I think we can think of at least two or three pages’ worth of hurdles,” Dujarric told reporters on Thursday.