VIENNA (Reuters) – Ukraine and Russia are interested in the U.N. atomic watchdog’s proposal that a protection zone be created around the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the watchdog’s chief Rafael Grossi said on Monday, describing it as a ceasefire.
Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for shelling at the site of Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant that has damaged buildings close to its six reactors and risked nuclear catastrophe, including by cutting power lines essential to cooling fuel in the reactors even though they are all shut down.
Grossi has called both for an immediate stop to shelling and a more formal “nuclear safety and security protection zone” around the plant.
“I have seen signs that they are interested in this agreement,” he told a news conference when asked about the progress of talks with Russia and Ukraine on the zone. “What I see is two sides that are engaging with us, that are asking questions, lots of questions.”
Issues being discussed include the radius of the zone and the role of IAEA staff, Grossi said. Two IAEA officials are currently stationed at the plant and form what the agency calls a continuous presence there.
Asked if his proposal was for a ceasefire rather than a removal of all military equipment or personnel, Grossi said what he was suggesting encompassed a ceasefire.
“It includes that. It may include other things,” he said, adding: “Basically it’s a commitment that no military action will include or will imply aiming, of course, at the plant, or a radius that could be affecting its normal operation. This is what we expect.”
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Jon Boyle and Frank Jack Daniel)