Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) has denounced a meeting on efforts to inspect Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as a waste of time due to Russian “lies.”
Concerns about a potential radioactive incident at the Russian-occupied plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, have recently escalated while Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of shelling near the plant. During a Tuesday Security Council meeting on a potential plant inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which Russia called for, Ukrainian U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya accused Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of spreading “fictitious soundbites.”
Nebenzia said that the “nuclear safety situation” at Zaporizhzhia had recently “deteriorated” before accusing the Ukrainian military of launching multiple attacks that damaged the plant this month, including at least one strike that allegedly used U.S.-supplied howitzers. The Russian ambassador accused Ukraine’s Western allies of “criminal acquiescence” for not condemning the alleged attacks.
“The armed forces of Ukraine continue basically every day shell the territory of the NPP [nuclear power plant] every day,” Nebenzia claimed. “This creates a real risk of a radiation accident with catastrophic consequences for the entire European continent … the fact that the Kyiv regime continues with attacks on the station is a direct result of criminal acquiescence on the part of its Western patrons.”
Kyslytsya accused Russia of “turning the issue of nuclear safety at the facility into a farce” and “a circus,” while downplaying “the significance of the threats it has created and [diverting] attention from the urgent issue of demilitarization and de-occupation of the station.”
“I wish we had been gathered here by Russia to hear the only thing that the entire world wants to hear,” said Kyslytsya. “And that is a statement that Russia demilitarizes Zaporizhzhia NPP [nuclear power plant], withdraws its troops and hands it over to the government of Ukraine. Instead, we wasted more than one hour to listen to a slew of fictitious soundbites.”
“Russian narratives about Ukrainian shelling of the station do not stand up to scrutiny,” he added. “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. Such a catastrophe would lead to numerous deaths and pollution for many years to come.”
Kyslytsya went on to say that Russia was “putting all of us on the brink of a nuclear disaster” and urged the IAEA to inspect the plant “in strict compliance with the national legislation of Ukraine and with full respect of its international obligations.”
Ukrainian staff have continued to operate the Zaporizhzhia plant during the Russian occupation. Kyslytsya argued that Russia was lying about Ukrainian shelling and attempting to control a potential IAEA inspection for “propaganda purposes” and because a fair inspection would “record flagrant violations of norms and requirements for nuclear safety.”
“The occupiers have trained some of the hostages in what they should say and what they shouldn’t show to the IAEA,” Kyslytsya said. “That is why it is really important to conduct the mission in a way that would allow the international community to see the real situation and not a Russian theatrical show.”
Shelling at the Zaporizhzhia plant, which is about 300 miles away from the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, has continued amid fears of a new catastrophe and negotiations on a potential inspection. A video shared online Tuesday allegedly shows one of the plant’s workers killed in a Russian attack.
Newsweek has reached out to the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations for comment.