The UN nuclear watchdog called on Tuesday for a safety zone around the Russian-occupied Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine as the area comes under increased shelling.
In March, Russian forces seized the nuclear power plant, the largest nuclear facility in Europe, and the surrounding area has been subject to repeated attacks, raising fears of a nuclear disaster.
“The current situation is intolerable,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report after it sent inspectors to the plant last week.
“There is an urgent need for interim measures to prevent a nuclear accident… This can be achieved by the immediate establishment of a nuclear safety zone.”
At the UN, Russia stated that it regrets that Ukraine is not accused of the attacks in the report.
“We understand your position as an international regulator, but in the current situation it is very important to call a spade a spade,” said Russian representative Vasyl Nebenzia at the Security Council meeting, where the head of the IAEA, Raphael Grossi, was virtually present.
Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the shelling of the site, which took place again on Tuesday, despite the monitor’s recommendations.
“If provocations by the Kyiv regime continue, there are no guarantees that there will be no serious consequences, and the responsibility for this lies entirely with Kyiv and its Western supporters and all other members of the Security Council,” Nebenzia said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he welcomes the fact that the report notes the Russian military occupation of the plant.
He said that if the proposed security zone is aimed at demilitarizing “the NPP area… then we can support that.”
On Tuesday, Kyiv and Moscow continued to exchange blame for the attacks on the Zaporozhye plant and the city of Energodar, where it is located.
Last week, the IAEA sent a team of 14 people to the site of the explosion. At least two members were required to remain on a permanent basis to ensure the security of the facility.
But on Monday, the last operating reactor was taken offline after shelling caused a fire.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden’s administration said it would be counterproductive to label Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, rejecting calls from Ukraine and lawmakers to take far-reaching measures.
Biden, when asked by a reporter on Monday whether he would blacklist Russia as a terrorist state, said simply, “no,” after months of noncommittal answers from senior officials.
Asked on Tuesday whether a decision had been made, White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said that declaring terrorism “is not the most effective or reliable way” to “hold Russia accountable.”
She said the designation would prevent aid from reaching parts of war-torn Ukraine or prevent aid groups and companies from participating in a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to ship much-needed grain from blocked Ukrainian ports.
Russia buys missiles
Also on Tuesday, a pro-Kremlin official in the Russian-controlled port city of Berdyansk in southern Ukraine was seriously injured in a car bombing, according to Moscow authorities.
In recent months, attacks have killed or wounded several officials appointed by Russian forces in Moscow-controlled areas of Ukraine.
Kyiv has not officially taken responsibility.
Ukraine recently claimed its first successes in a counteroffensive against the Russian army in the south of the country, saying it had retaken several areas and destroyed several facilities.
Russia is buying millions of missiles and artillery shells from North Korea to replenish stocks depleted by months of intense fighting, a US official said on Tuesday.
“This purchase shows that the Russian military continues to suffer from severe supply shortages in Ukraine, due in part to export controls and sanctions,” said a US official on condition of anonymity.
Western sanctions have made it difficult for Moscow to purchase components for the production of replacements, including computer chips.
President Vladimir Putin attended a large-scale military exercise involving China and several Russia-friendly countries on Tuesday, as Moscow seeks to strengthen partnerships in Asia amid Western sanctions.
And the European Commission has outlined new hurdles facing Russian travelers seeking visas to enter the EU, in the latest punitive measures taken in response to Moscow’s incursion.