The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Director General Rafael Grossi will brief the UN Security Council on his proposals for safeguarding Ukraine’s Zaporizhia NPP (ZNPP) on 30 May. “Grossi is planning to brief the UN Security Council on the nuclear safety and security situation” during a meeting chaired by Switzerland, according to a statement sent by the Agency to AFP.

Grossi has said he is seeking to secure agreement on a set of principles to protect ZNPP during the armed conflict, covering also the availability and security of external power supplies at all times. According to American and European diplomats, Grossi’s plan consists of five principles: a ban on the deployment of heavy military equipment and military personnel at nuclear power plants, a ban on shooting from the territory and towards the power plant, ensuring security, protecting all external power lines, and monitoring compliance with these principles.

Since Russia took control of ZNPP in March 2022, the Russian national guard has been protecting the station and in October, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree formally transferring ZNPP to Russian jurisdiction under nuclear utility Rosenergoatom (part of Rosatom). A Russian Federal State Unitary Enterprise. Zaporizhia NPP was established by Rosenergoatom to operate the plant. However, Ukrainian nuclear utility Energoatom still claims ownership of the plant. Reports by Russian military analysts suggest that retaking control of ZNPP is one of the objectives of the coming Ukrainian offensive.

AFP said a senior European diplomat reacted cautiously when asked about the prospects of securing a last-minute agreement that both parties could sign on to ahead of Kyiv’s possible counter-offensive.

It looks “unlikely at the moment” that Russia and Ukraine will agree to the principles outlined in the proposal, the diplomat told AFP. Earlier, both Russia and China said they supported Grossi’s proposals.

In the run up to the meeting, however, Ukraine’s military intelligence alleged, without offering evidence, that Russia was planning a “large-scale provocation” at the plant with the aim of disrupting the counter-offensive. A statement released by the intelligence directorate of Ukraine’s Defence Ministry said Russian forces would strike ZNPP and then report a radioactive leak in order to trigger an international probe that would pause the hostilities and give the Russian forces the respite they need to regroup ahead of the counter-offensive.

The Ukraine directorate added that, in order to make that happen, Russia had “disrupted the rotation of personnel of the permanent monitoring mission” of the IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency that was scheduled for 27 May. The IAEA said in an emailed response to the AP that it did not have any immediate comment on the allegations.

However, the day before, Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Main Council of the (Russian) Zaporozhye regional administration alleged that it is Ukraine that is planning a provocation against ZNPP. He told Tass that the Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, under the leadership of the British special services, was planning some action. He added that Ukrainian military action was also preventing the scheduled rotation of IAEA experts to the plant using artillery and US-supplied HIMARS rockets to attack Vasilyevka, the point where the experts have to cross the front line from Ukrainian to Russian-held territory.

According to Rogov, initially Kiev asked to postpone the rotation from 25 to 26 May, but then disrupted the arrival of the mission, which includes three IAEA inspectors from Argentina, Ireland and Morocco. The Ukrainian armed forces were ordered "to subject the city of Vasylivka, through which the mission's usual route runs, to a massive bombardment with heavy weapons," Rogov alleged. He said the purpose of the provocation is to stop the work of the IAEA mission at the station.

Rogov told Ria Novosti that Ukrainian troops are preparing an operation in which they will fire and try to capture ZNPP. “The Kiev regime is now raising the temperature and stakes around the Zaporizhia NPP. Ukrainian militants are preparing an operation to bombard and cross the Dnieper River to land troops and seize the plant, simultaneously spreading a false narrative in advance through their information platforms and materials in the Western media that Russia will be responsible for a possible nuclear catastrophe.” It should be recalled that there have been three previous attacks by Ukrainian forces to seize ZNPP by landing troops in boats. One attempted in October was reported in detail by the London Times in April.

Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev confirmed during the Nevsky International Environmental Congress on 25 May that the IAEA is at the final stage of developing a plan to ensure the safety of ZNPP. He added that the Russian side supports the agency's actions and trusts them. According to him, there is a constant exchange of views, noting that the IAEA mission is always present on the territory of the power plant.

Date: Tuesday, 30 May 2023
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