Volunteers remove rubble from a house in Chernihiv, Ukraine, August 19, 2022 (AFP/Sergei CHUSAVKOV)
Vladimir Putin on Friday accepted that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was sending a mission to Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, and said he feared the bombings could end up causing a “wide-spread disaster”.
At the same time, during a visit to Ukraine, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Russia not to cut off the power plant, which its army has been manning since early March and which has become a target in recent weeks, of strikes involving Moscow and Kyiv blame each other.
Earlier in the day, Ukrainian power plant operator Energoatom said it feared such a scenario, saying the Russian military was searching for supplies for diesel generators that would be activated after the reactors were shut down and had restricted personnel access to the facilities.
“Of course, the electricity from Zaporizhia is Ukrainian electricity (…) this principle must be fully observed,” emphasized Mr. Guterres on the sidelines of a trip to Odessa, the most important Ukrainian port on the Black Sea, after having been there the previous day in Lviv in the western Ukraine.
– An IAEA mission “as soon as possible” –
“The systematic bombing (…) of the territory of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant creates the danger of a large-scale disaster that could lead to radioactive contamination of large areas,” the Russian President warned on Friday before a telephone conversation with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron .
Map of Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine (AFP/)
In this regard, MM. Putin and Macron stressed “the importance of sending a mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency to the nuclear power plant as soon as possible, which will be able to assess the situation on the ground,” the Kremlin said, stressing , that “ The Russian side has confirmed its readiness to provide all necessary assistance to the inspectors of the IAEA.
The Russian head of state has also accepted that the latter will go “through Ukraine” and not through Russia, which he had previously requested, the French presidency said.
In a statement, International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi welcomed “recent statements showing that Ukraine and Russia support the IAEA’s goal of deploying a mission to Zaporizhia.
This organization “is in active consultation with all parties” to send a team “as soon as possible” that Mr. Grossi “will lead himself,” according to the text broadcast in the evening.
“In this extremely volatile and fragile situation, it is of crucial importance that no further measures are taken that (…) could further endanger one of the largest nuclear power plants in the world,” emphasized the head of the IAEA.
“The restoration of total security” on this page “can begin after the mission has started its work,” commented Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the evening.
A diplomat told AFP the same day that Westerners are more concerned about maintaining water cooling in nuclear reactors than about exposure to a shot because they are designed to “withstand the worst.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on August 18, 2022 (Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev)
The day before, in Lviv, where he met Mr Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the United Nations Secretary-General assessed that “any potential harm in Zaporijia would be suicide” and urged “demilitarizing the plant”. .
On Friday, it was the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, who called on the Russians to “pull out” of this side and “immediately return full control to its rightful owner, Ukraine.”
– New stop of gas deliveries-
Mr. Guterres’ visit was marked by another topic worrying the planet: Ukrainian grain exports.
Ukrainian soldiers on the front line in the Donetsk region on August 19, 2022 (AFP / ANATOLII STEPANOV)
They stalled after the Russian invasion, which raised the specter of a global food crisis, and picked up again after a deal between Moscow and Kyiv in July.
Mr Guterres is expected in Istanbul on Saturday to visit the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) responsible for overseeing this international agreement to allow grain exports from Ukraine, an agreement “of which Turkey is a key element”, he says.
Russia, which in return is demanding the lifting of restrictions on its own foreign sales of agricultural products and fertilizers hit by Western sanctions, for its part deplores “the remaining obstacles” – to use the terms Mr Putin used on Friday – in this one Area.
File photo dated November 8, 2011 showing a Nord Stream gas pipeline near Lubmin in Germany (AFP/John MACDOUGALL)
Allegations, which France also immediately rejected, judged that Moscow had “a desire to use this issue politically”.
At the same time, the giant Gazprom warned that supplies of Russian gas to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline would be cut off for “maintenance reasons” from March 31, where Russia is accused of energy extortion.
– “Heavy Debuff” –
Referring to military operations in Ukraine, the Pentagon, which on Friday announced a new $775 million tranche of military aid to that country, noted a “complete lack of progress on the battlefield” by Russian troops.
A burning factory in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on August 19, 2022 (AFP/SERGEY BOBOK)
“We have not seen any recapture of territory” by Ukrainian forces, “but we have seen a significant weakening of Russian positions in several places,” a US Defense Department official said.
In eastern Ukraine, however, Russian bombings continued on Friday, killing at least five people and wounding ten in several locations in Donetsk region, one of the two provinces of Donbass, an industrial area that is Moscow’s top strategic target.
Kharkiv (northeast), Ukraine’s second largest city, was also the subject of fresh strikes that killed 15 people.
And more than 21,000 people were evacuated from the occupied territories in 10 days, including more than 9,000 from the Zaporizhia region and more than 8,000 from the Kherson region, announced Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.