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Ukrainian officials voiced support for deploying United Nations peacekeeper troops to establish a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant Wednesday.
Ukraine’s support for the move comes one day after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned of a potentially “catastrophic” disaster at the plant. The IAEA deployed a team to Ukraine to inspect the facility last week. IAEA general director Rafael Grossi called for a demilitarized zone around the station.
“The first important safety pillar that exists in any nuclear facility is not to violate its physical integrity,” Grossi said Tuesday. “And unfortunately…this has happened. This happened and this continues to happen. The physical attack, wittingly or unwittingly – the hits that this facility has received and that I could personally see and assess together with my experts – is simply unacceptable.”
“We are playing with fire and something very, very catastrophic could take place,” he added.
Ukraine and Russia each blame the other for the shelling at the facility, which is still ongoing.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov withheld judgment on the IAEA’s report Tuesday, saying he needed “clarifications” from Grossi.
“There is a need to get additional clarifications because the report contains a number of issues,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters. “I will not list them, but we requested these clarifications from the IAEA Director General.”
Russia’s military took over the power plant in the opening weeks of its invasion. Last week they accused Ukraine of attempting to install spies at the facility ahead of the UN visit.
Russia claims Ukrainian operatives posed as journalists to attempt to enter the plant, Vladimir Rogov, a Moscow-appointed regional official, told Russian state-owned media outlet RIA.