Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Scorns Notion That Kyiv Would Risk ‘Nuclear Catastrophe’ on Its Own Soil

Patrick Goodenough | August 24, 2022 | 5:50am EDT
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A Russian soldier outside the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station on May. (Photo by Andrey Borodulin / AFP via Getty Images)
A Russian soldier outside the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station on May. (Photo by Andrey Borodulin / AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Diplomats from Ukraine and Russia exchanged accusations on Tuesday of military actions threatening a potential disaster at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, a facility in southern Ukraine that has been occupied by Russian troops for nearly six months.

Kyiv’s envoy suggested it was ludicrous to think his government would risk causing a nuclear catastrophe in its own territory by shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station.

“Russian narratives about Ukrainian shelling of the station do not stand up to scrutiny,” Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

“Nobody who is at least conscious can imagine that Ukraine would target a nuclear power plant at tremendous risk of nuclear catastrophe on its own territory,” he said. “Such a catastrophe would lead to numerous deaths and pollution for many years to come.”

Kyslytsya pointed out that Ukraine was home to Chernobyl, where in 1986 the worst disaster in the history of nuclear power generation affected the lives and health of many thousands of people, and cost Ukraine more than 1,000 square miles of territory, when it was compelled to establish an exclusion zone around the damaged plant.

About 350 miles to the southeast of Chernobyl, Russian forces seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in March, one week into the invasion of Ukraine that enters its seventh month on Wednesday. It continues to be operated by Ukrainian technicians, under Russian control, and each side accuses the other’s armed forces of shelling the facility.

At the start of Tuesday’s meeting Rosemary DiCarlo, U.N. undersecretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, warned again about the grievous risks involved.

“We must be clear that any potential damage to the plant, or any other nuclear facilities in Ukraine, leading to a possible nuclear incident, would have catastrophic consequences, not only for the immediate vicinity, but for the region and beyond,” she said.

“The issue at hand today is not some abstract political debate,” U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills told the council. “And this is not some far-off problem. As we speak, Ukraine, neighboring states, the entire international community are living under the threat of a nuclear catastrophe. And people are, understandably, terrified”

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia charged that Ukraine’s forces were the ones responsible for shelling the plant – and accused Kyiv’s Western supporters of acquiescing in that behavior.

“The fact that the Kyiv regime continues with attacks on the station is a direct consequence of criminal acquiescence on the part of its Western patrons,” he said, speaking through a U.N. interpreter.

Nebenzia said the last time the Security Council met to discuss the issue, “not a single Western delegation had the courage to condemn the shelling of the station by the Ukrainian armed forces” or to urge the Ukrainian government to desist.

Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya, left, and Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, top right, during Tuesday’s Security Council session to discuss the situation at Ukaine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power station. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya, left, and Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, top right, during Tuesday’s Security Council session to discuss the situation at Ukaine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power station. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has for months been seeking access to Zaporizhzhia to assess the situation and carry out security and safeguards activities. DiCarlo voiced the hope that a visit by the nuclear watchdog could take place very soon.

“In close contact with the IAEA, the U.N. has assessed that we have the logistics and security capacity in Ukraine to support any IAEA mission to the plant, from Kyiv, provided Ukraine and Russia agree,” she said.

“We once again urge the parties to provide the IAEA mission with immediate, secure, and unfettered access to the site.”

Both Kyslytsya and Nebenzia expressed support for the planned visit.

Kyslytsya also said Ukraine would like to see the IAEA mission “bolstered by incorporating military and political components,” and that IAEA staff should be permanently stationed at the plant, “until competent Ukrainian authorities regain full control over these nuclear facilities.”

Russian troops should withdraw and the area be demilitarized.

“As soon as Russia withdraws its troops from the facility – on which they simply have no right to be – this threat of a nuclear disaster will disappear,” he said.

Backing calls for the area around the plant to be demilitarized, Mills said that doing so “would allow for the Ukrainian personnel – who are currently being held under duress – to operate the facility, complete a damage assessment, and restore the facility’s impeccable safety, security, and safeguards performance.”


See also:
Russian Shelling Sparks Fire at Europe’s Largest Nuclear Power Plant; Zelensky: ‘Europe Needs to Wake Up’ (Mar. 4, 2022)

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