Vladimir Putin accepts a visit from the IAEA’s UN nuclear watchdog to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

Putin accepts visit of UN nuclear watchdog to Ukrainian nuclear power plant

Vladimir Putin allowed a team of independent inspectors to visit the factory.

Paris:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed that a team of independent inspectors can travel to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant occupied by Moscow via Ukraine, the French presidency announced on Friday.

The apparent resolution of a dispute over whether inspectors were traveling to the plant via Ukraine or Russia came as a senior US defense official said Ukrainian forces halted the Russian advance.

“You see a complete and utter lack of progress by the Russians on the battlefield,” the official said, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity.

According to French President Emmanuel Macron’s office, Putin had “reconsidered the request” that the International Atomic Energy Agency visit the site across Russia, after the Russian leader himself warned that the fighting there -low could result in a “disaster”.

He said Putin had dropped his request for the IAEA team to travel to the site via Russia, saying it could arrive via Ukraine.

Meanwhile, UN chief Antonio Guterres has urged Muscovite forces occupying the factory in Zaporizhzhia, southern Ukraine, not to disconnect the facility from the grid and risk cutting power. supply to millions of Ukrainians.

An upsurge in fighting around the Russian-controlled nuclear power plant – with both sides blaming each other for the attacks – has raised the specter of a disaster worse than Chernobyl.

The Kremlin said in a statement earlier that Putin and Macron had agreed that officials from the UN’s nuclear watchdog should carry out inspections “as soon as possible” to “assess the real situation on the ground.”

Putin also “stressed that the systematic shelling by the Ukrainian army of the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant creates the danger of a large-scale disaster,” the Kremlin added.

The warning came just a day after Turkish leaders Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Guterres, meeting in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lviv, sounded the alarm over the escalating fighting, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the United Nations to secure the site.

The Turkish leader said: “We are worried. We don’t want another Chernobyl”, referring to the 1986 nuclear disaster, while António Guterres warned that any damage to the plant would amount to “suicide “.

– ‘Man-made disaster’ –

During his visit to the southern port of Odessa on Friday, the UN secretary-general said: “Obviously, the electricity of Zaporizhzhia is Ukrainian electricity. This principle must be fully respected.”

“Naturally, his energy must be used by the Ukrainian people,” he told AFP in separate comments.

His remarks came after Ukrainian energy operator Energoatom alleged Russian troops were planning to “shut down the reactors” at Zaporizhzhia, which is capable of powering four million homes.

On Thursday, Moscow said Kyiv was preparing a “provocation” at the site that would see Russia “blamed for creating a man-made disaster at the plant”.

Kyiv, however, insisted Moscow was planning the provocation and said Russian occupation forces ordered most personnel to stay home on Friday and called in officials from the nuclear agency. Russian state.

The UN chief was visiting Odessa as part of a call to make Ukrainian grain available to poor countries struggling with soaring food prices, after a landmark deal with Russia last month to allow its export.

Earlier, Guterres met with Erdogan – who helped broker the grain deal signed in Istanbul – and Zelensky, saying the United Nations hoped to step up work on the deal before winter.

The deal, the only meaningful agreement between Russia and Ukraine since the invasion of Moscow in February, has so far seen 25 boats carrying some 600,000 tonnes of agricultural products leave three designated ports, Kyiv said.

But during the call with Macron – their first in nearly three months – Putin told the French leader that Russia faced obstacles in exporting its food and fertilizers.

– Export ‘Obstacles’ –

“There are still obstacles to (…) Russian exports that do not help to solve problems related to global food security,” the Kremlin said.

António Guterres is expected to travel to Turkey after Odessa to visit the Joint Coordination Center, the body overseeing the deal.

The agreement between Kyiv and Moscow to clear exit corridors from three Ukrainian ports, including Odessa, has brought some relief to concerns about global food shortages with warring nations among the world’s top producers.

The deal held, but brought little respite along the sprawling front lines in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces have slowly advanced after nearly six months of fighting.

The main tool of Moscow’s forces has been artillery barrages, and recent shelling of the eastern region of Donetsk – which has been partially controlled by Russian proxies since 2014 – has claimed several lives.

The region’s Ukrainian leader, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said on social media on Friday that Russian strikes had killed five people and injured 10 others in three settlements.

Friday morning strikes in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, left one dead and damaged a school and a private business, the region’s chief said. Russian strikes around Kharkiv have killed more than a dozen people in the past two days.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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