Fighting over Ukrainian nuclear power plants raises global concerns

As skirmishes erupted around Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, heated remarks were exchanged Wednesday at a United Nations Environment Program meeting between representatives of warring nations, and a nuclear watchdog group from Ukraine. The UN has warned that the “unprecedented” nature of the fighting could lead to “serious consequences.”

With concerns already at an alarming level over Russian President Vladimir Putin putting his nuclear forces on high alert, a battle waged in Ukraine for Europe’s largest nuclear power plant is heightening anxiety over a possible calamity that would likely make havoc far beyond the borders of the war zone.

In a closing session with representatives of the United Nations Environment Program in Nairobi, delegates had the opportunity to say a final word and a Ukrainian representative took the opportunity to make a strong statement on this happening in his country.

“Barbarians who pretended to be rescuers are attacking our cities right now, destroying infrastructure, killing my fellow citizens and trying to destroy everything,” Andrii Pravendnyk, Ambassador of Ukraine and Permanent Representative to UNEP, told delegates. .

Andrii Pravendnyk said Russian troops were trying to seize the country’s nuclear power plants, adding that “Russia is carrying out genocide against humanity”.

“They say they came to save Ukraine, but they are here to destroy my beautiful country,” said Pravendnyk, who received a standing ovation at the end of his speech.

Dmitry Maximychev, Russian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to UNEP, responded that Ukrainian military forces have been attacking so-called pro-Russian “separatists” in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine for eight years without no protest from the international community.

“The war, which resulted in the death of 12,000 people in the east of the country, killed at the hands of Ukrainian soldiers and neo-Nazi units,” Maximychev told the assembly, espousing claims that the United States United and their Western allies call it false. and were concocted by the Kremlin as an excuse to invade Ukraine.

“You just supported them, distinguished delegates. It was to them you gave your ovation. We did not start this war,” Maximychev said.

Fighting continued Wednesday at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, both sides claimed.

The battle over the Zaporizhzhia power plant prompted the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, to issue a warning about the “unprecedented” nature of this situation.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the IAEA, said he and members of the agency were “seriously concerned” that a military conflict was occurring for the first time at the facilities of a major nuclear program established.

At an emergency meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors, Grossi said an incident affecting nuclear facilities “could have serious consequences, increasing human suffering and causing environmental damage” beyond borders from Ukraine.

He said Russia informed the agency on Tuesday that it had taken control of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, but ABC News was unable to independently confirm the report.

Last week, Russia took control of the Chernobyl power station, now closed and sealed by a containment dome after an infamous disaster in April 1986.

Ukraine’s nuclear regulatory agency SNRIU has requested “immediate assistance” from the IAEA to ensure the safety of Chernobyl and other nuclear facilities, Grossi said. He said the IAEA was evaluating the request.

“Despite the extraordinary circumstances of an armed conflict causing increasing challenges and dangers, Ukrainian nuclear power plants are operating normally,” Grossi said. “But although we may use expressions such as ‘normal operation’ in a technical context, I would like to emphasize that there is nothing normal in the circumstances in which the professionals of the four Ukrainian nuclear power plants manage to maintain the reactors that produce half of Ukrainian electricity working.”

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